Urban Meyer keeping Ohio State job shows winning is everything

In college football, it’s good to have a .901 winning percentage and a recent national championship ring.

When you have a .901 winning percentage and a recent national championship ring, it can empower a man. It can excuse a lot of other stuff. It can enable a man to keep his job despite significant scandal and embarrassment within his program. It can help a man get a pass for keeping a seriously troubled employee on his staff — an employee accused multiple times of beating his wife, an employee whose behavior prompted the big winner’s own wife to text these three words: “He scares me.”

A .901 winning percentage and a recent national championship ring can entitle a man to tell bald-faced lies when asked whether he knew about that employee allegedly beating his wife. It can provide him the wiggle room to walk back those statements, when proven false, with a vague sentence or two. It can earn him a completely free pass from a fan base that generally thinks lying to the media – and by extension the public – is not only acceptable, but laudable.

A .901 winning percentage and a recent championship ring can embolden a man to vigorously combat a suspension that a great many people view as lenient. It can lead a man to attend a board of trustees meeting for hours, arguing his case, when the rational response would be to say “I accept your findings, thanks for not firing me,” and leave the premises in 60 seconds. It can lead a man down the path to delusional entitlement.

And it can create one of the more odd and awkward scenes in the perpetually weird world of college athletics — fans joining reporters to keep vigil outside a campus building where the big winner and the trustees were meeting. A meeting that began at 9 a.m. went into closed session at 9:02 and then dragged into the night almost 12 hours later, with a guest appearance being made by the big winner’s wife.

A marathon showdown of sorts was not expected to be part of this.

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer was suspended three games on Wednesday. (AP)

The resolution of this investigation was never going to please everyone, which made it an arduous task. But the failure to conclude it in an orderly fashion was a bad look for all involved. Even without knowing the details of what happened in the meeting room, the board comes off looking indecisive and the coach comes off looking like hubris personified.

Compare the power that comes with a .901 winning percentage and a recent national championship ring with that of a less successful coach at the same institution. Say, the college basketball coach, who had a .733 winning percentage and no national championship rings. That coach was abruptly pushed out 14 months ago. He had some health issues, but no known scandal befouling his program.

The largely successful basketball coach had to go. The wildly successful football coach had to stay.

That’s the reality at Ohio State, which retained Urban Meyer but relinquished its reputation in the process. Moving on from this entire tawdry spectacle won’t be easy.

A school that grandiosely refers to itself as THE Ohio State University will be called THE Sex Toy University on rival campuses this fall. Or worse.

That’s the Zach Smith legacy. That’s what the Buckeyes get for having him on staff as long as they did. You employ a bum, you take your lumps.

But, hey, they kept the guy who is undefeated against Michigan while the coach at Ohio State. Who upset almighty Alabama. Who won it all in 2014.

And although the Buckeyes have one of the largest and loudest lunatic fan fringes, which contributes to the school’s “Winning Is Everything” rep, let’s be honest: Several other universities would do the same if their coach had a .901 winning percentage and a recent national championship ring. Louisville kept Rick Pitino through its own assistant coach scandal, when Andre McGee paid strippers and hookers to entertain recruits and players in a campus dorm. It wasn’t until the next scandal hit that Pitino finally had to go.

There will be no shortage of rationalizations and justifications and explanations for why Urban Meyer deserved to keep his job. But if the final analysis is going to be an honest one, it should start with this overarching fact:

He has a .901 winning percentage and a recent national championship ring.

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