Urban Meyer’s suspension is the latest missed opportunity for NCAA

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In what seems like an alarming commonality in college football, another high-profile coach has been under fire for his handling of a domestic violence case. Ohio State head football coach Urban Meyer, one of the most decorated coaches in NCAA history, has been suspended for the first three games of the 2018 season.

After a two-week investigation by Ohio State’s Board of Trustees, the board ruled that Meyer had knowledge of a 2015 abuse case involving ex-wide receivers coach Zach Smith against his then-wife Courtney Smith. Though Meyer fired Smith on July 23 after an Ohio judge declared Smith an imminent threat to his ex-wife, the board decided to investigate Meyer’s initial failure to report the incident.

Now, the three-time national championship game winner is facing punishment for a crime that one of his assistants committed because he chose to keep Smith employed for more than three years despite having knowledge of the events that occurred. In addition to the 2015 incident in question, Smith was also accused of throwing his then-pregnant wife against a wall in 2009, resulting in an arrest for aggravated battery, but no formal charges.

This event marks a trend in college football that has seen several student-athletes and coaches nationwide be accused of sexual assault, domestic violence and other incidents that have warranted firings and suspensions.

What does this mean for Meyer? For one, his margin for error is almost zero at this point. The public opinion on him has taken a major hit over the past few weeks, and many thought he deserved a much longer suspension, or even the loss of his job. The NCAA, which faces constant scrutiny for its handling of various violations, has been known to throw around suspensions of more than four games to players who have sold team apparel or signed autographs to make some extra cash — see Todd Gurley — while more serious crimes often see less harsh penalties.

Meyer has since issued a public apology to Courtney Smith to express his regret for not acting on the situation when he had the chance. While in hindsight he explained that he could have done more, Meyer still claims that he followed proper procedure in reporting such events. Other variables are still being investigated, including accusations that Meyer deleted text messages regarding the situation and another claim that he deals with memory-loss problems.

In the case of the Ohio State football team, the suspension should not have too much of an effect on its annual push toward the playoffs. Meyer will be suspended for games against Oregon State, Rutgers and Texas Christian, during which Ohio State has named offensive coordinator Ryan Day as the acting head coach. With the NFL-caliber talent that the Buckeyes have year in and year out, the first two games should be won with relative ease, even without Meyer.

The away game against TCU will be the Buckeyes’ toughest test, as the Horned Frogs enter the preseason ranked No. 16. Though Meyer will not be on the sidelines that game, he is allowed to coach the team in practice leading up to the showdown.

Football as a whole has received tons of backlash recently for its handling of domestic violence and assault cases. With the high-profile nature of big-program head coaches, the NCAA needs to do a better job of not just enforcing strict punishments, but also actively preventing these situations before they happen whenever possible.

Shailin Singh is an assistant sports editor. Contact him at [email protected].