Now that we have a bit of distance from the explosive findings of the independent investigation over the Ohio State athletic department’s handling of domestic violence accusations against Zach Smith, a few questions have arisen about how the university and the football program will handle the logistics of head coach Urban Meyer’s odd, on-again-off-again suspension.
Meyer will remain separated from the football team completely until Sept. 3, two days after the season opener against Oregon State. From there, he will be able to coach during the week, but will apparently be suspended for the games against Rutgers and TCU.
However, there needs to be some clarity on this, and a couple other questions, about how the program will operate over the next few weeks.
When will Meyer’s suspension start?
In the announcement from OSU president Michael V. Drake last night, he said that Meyer would be suspended for games between Sept. 2 and Sept. 16. However, we didn’t get many details on how that will work.
For example, will Meyer be allowed to travel with his team, and work with them during pregame, before having to exit the sideline before kickoff? Or, will Meyer’s contact with the team have to end at the stroke of midnight as Friday turns to Saturday?
Will he then be able to rejoin the team as soon as the contest ends, or will he have to wait until they go over film on Sunday morning?
Obviously there is a major difference between the two options, and while I am on record saying that the Buckeyes should fare just fine against the Beavers, Scarlet Knights, and Horned Frogs, it is obviously preferable from a football standpoint to have one of the greatest coaches in college football history as involved as possible, especially early in the season.
Will the media blackout around the team be lifted?
As soon as Meyer’s paid administrative leave was announced earlier this month, the media was informed that they would not be allowed to have any access to fall practices— save two short exceptions— and they would have zero opportunities to interview players or coaches.
While far less important than the investigation that was actually being conducted, the nearly complete blackout likely saved players and coaches from some annoyances. However, it most impacted fans, who— instead of being able to supplement the Zach Smith scandal tabloid fodder with actual, honest-to-goodness football talk— were forced to focus almost exclusively on the nasty news surrounding the whole sorted affair.
Now that the investigation is done, and the team is nine days from opening the season, it remains to be seen if media access will return to something approaching normal.
I think it would behoove everyone involved (the university, players, coaches, media, fans) if there was some loosening of the restrictions. Perhaps allow media to only view practices through the weekend, and then once game week begins, give them opportunities to talk to interim head coach Ryan Day and some mixture of coordinators Greg Schiano, Kevin Wilson, and Alex Grinch.
I am also of the opinion that the coaching staff should select a handful of veteran players to be open to the media. By this point in their careers, Parris Campbell, Dre’Mont Jones, and Isaiah Prince (all of whom handled themselves well at Big Ten Media Days less than 24 hours after Zach Smith’s firing) would be more than capable of fielding the press’ questions tactfully and intelligently.
As of now, the program has yet to announce this season’s captains, but this would be a great time do that... and then make them available to the media.
Who will replace Meyer on the sideline?
It is believed that Tim Hinton, the football team’s Executive Director for Football Relations and Special Assistant to the Head Coach, will take Meyer’s place on the sideline during games, as he has done during his suspension thus far.
Hinton was a graduate assistant at Ohio State in the mid-1980s with Meyer, and has since coached at a number of high schools and colleges, including Ohio, Cincinnati, and Notre Dame. He primarily has worked with running backs and tight ends during his career. For the Buckeyes, he coached TEs and full backs from 2012-15, before moving into his current role.
While Hinton is more than qualified to handle game day responsibilities, you do have to be somewhat concerned about whether or not the constant bouncing back and forth between coaches will impact the players until things get back to normal mid-September.
Hopefully if/when the media is allowed to talk to members of the program again, we will figure all of that out.