They fool us.
We attach so much importance to winning, and heap so much adulation on successful coaches, that we believe they are supermen who can do no wrong.
And they fool themselves.
They become so sure of themselves, and their mission, that they believe they can do no wrong.
It’s always about the good of the program. They protect people they shouldn’t protect. They bend rules. They look the other way.
And no one dares to tell them they’re wrong—not even the people closest to them—family members and trusted staffers.
And then they cross a line. They cover up ugly facts to protect players and coaches. They tell themselves it's for the good of the almighty program. And that they’re doing it to help someone they believe in, to help him get back on the right path.
And then it’s too late.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
If the original sin doesn’t get them, the coverup—the lying—does.
This is no time to rank the depths of Urban Meyer’s misdeeds against the falls from grace of others.
We don’t know yet exactly how Ohio State will handle this—although it’s difficult to fathom a scenario where Meyer continues to be the Buckeyes coach.
Is Meyer’s scandal, allegedly failing to deal with repeated acts of domestic violence by an assistant coach, worse than the one that brought down his predecessor, Jim Tressel, who failed to address players peddling memorabilia for tattoos?
Does it matter?
If Meyer is dismissed, the irony is that his attempt to protect one misguided assistant will wind up having a massive ripple impact on myriad other coaches and staffers, on a talented roster of athletes, on millions of distraught Buckeye fans.
We saw the tragic results of the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State, a blot that set back the school's coaches, players and fans in the harshest of ways.
Not only were there devastating sanctions. Unspeakable as Sandusky's actions were, it was wrenching to see a coach as revered as Joe Paterno dragged down in such a colossal way.
Before he became a doddering coach destroyed by scandal, Paterno had been the model for what a college football coach should be.
He was sharp, witty, worldly. He turned out players who knew there was more to life than football.
We used to sit with him on Friday nights—yes, he even got along with the media. He would really chat with us, and no topics were barred.
And then unspeakable things happened on his watch.
And before former ESPN reporter Brett McMurphy revealed the hell an assistant coach's wife endured, Meyer enjoyed one of the best reputations in the college football coaching world. He was in the discussion for ``second only to Nick Saban.'' He had restored the Buckeyes to the glory days known under Woody Hayes, who ironically fell on his own sword.
Meyer’s current difficulties are an entirely different matter than those of Paterno or Hayes. What’s not different is that head coaches are responsible for things that happen on their watch.
Not everything. But many things. They need to have trusted eyes and ears around them. And once they get a whiff of a problem, they need to make good decisions.
How can Meyer have Zero Tolerance for domestic abuse among his players, and take a paternal view of violence against women by an assistant coach?
The short answer is: He can't.
And yet these things happen because we put our winning coaches on such a high pedestal that they start believing they are as perfect as we tell them they are.
The truth is, they aren't.[/membership]