Besides Nick Saban, would any SEC coach have survived this ugly Urban Meyer mess?
There was a question that I kept coming back to as we got more details about Urban Meyer’s mess.
I was asked this question on multiple occasions and I really didn’t flesh it out in perhaps the way that I should have.
Who else in college football could have survived what Meyer just went through?
And by “went through,” my intent is not to label this like Meyer is the victim; clearly he failed to see who the actual victim was in all of this (it wasn’t “Buckeye Nation”). What Meyer “went through” was being put on administrative leave while an “independent” investigation team examined the extent to which Meyer lied and withheld information about domestic violence allegations against ex-Ohio State assistant coach Zach Smith.
I came away from reading the 23-page report about the investigation team’s findings wondering the same thing that others probably were. How in the world did Meyer keep his job?
So with that in mind, let’s hypothetically tackle the follow-up question from before, but let’s narrow it to just the SEC.
Who else in the SEC could have survived what Meyer went through?
In a perfect world, no coach could have survived that (in a perfect world, Smith wouldn’t have been who he was).
I was one of many who advocated for Meyer to be fired for blatantly lying (not “deliberately” lying as Mary Jo White said) about his knowledge of Smith’s 2015 domestic violence allegation. I doubled down on that after seeing the investigative team’s report, wherein it was found that after McMurphy’s explosive report, Meyer immediately asked about deleting text messages that were over a year old … and then turned over his phone to the investigative team the following day without a text that was older a year old.
As sick as it is to say that any coach would survive that, I do believe Nick Saban is the other obvious one. Not that it should matter, but 5 titles in 9 years after Alabama’s rough times early in the 21st century would have an impact on administration, much like it did at Ohio State.
If you thought that was a “mob” of people outside of Ohio Stadium at the support rally for Meyer, multiply that by 100 for what you’d see protesting any punishment against Saban.
So all things equal, let’s say that Saban could survive.
There wouldn’t be much of a reason for administration to fight for coaches at programs like like Kentucky, Mizzou or Vanderbilt. Unlike Ohio State, which can shake off the negative PR with a Playoff run, those programs wouldn’t want to take that on.
I tend to think that there are a handful of SEC programs who would’ve treated a similar situation like Florida did with Jim McElwain last year when he faked death threats. Perhaps we’d see that at LSU with Ed Orgeron or at Auburn with Gus Malzahn. There are enough fans who are already skeptical about their long-term futures that a scandal like this would only add to the opposition.
Where it gets tricky is with guys like Kirby Smart and Will Muschamp. Both are coming off Year 2 seasons in which they exceeded expectations. Meyer caught such heat for Smith because he was his longest-tenured staff member at Ohio State. Meyer had 7 years to rid himself of Smith’s baggage and instead decided to cover up for him. Oh, and Smith was on Meyer’s Florida staff.
I’m not sure Smart and Muschamp would catch the same kind of heat as Meyer, simply for the fact that the cover-up wouldn’t be quite as long. But as promising as both of them are, it’s not like either of them have anywhere near Meyer’s résumé. We all know that played a part in this.
Obviously Saban is the only coach with Meyer’s credentials in the SEC. But there’s one other situation that would be intriguing to watch. Given the fact that first-year coaches haven’t accomplished anything at their new school, that’d be an easy call to fire them. Ohio State had cause to fire Meyer. They’d have cause to fire any first-year coach.
Jimbo Fisher, however, would be a fascinating case study.
Texas A&M athletic director Scott Woodward gave Fisher a guaranteed $75 million contract. Admittedly, Woodward had zero leverage in those negotiations. It would get awfully sticky to see him defend Fisher in a Meyer-like situation. As I said with Muschamp and Smart, it’s not like Fisher would be guilty of covering up for a staff member who had been there for 7 years.
It would have to be him covering for someone like Tim Brewster, who is entering his sixth season on Fisher’s staff dating back to his days at Florida State. And even in that wildly hypothetical scenario, it would take people who have invested a lot of money into the Fisher era to fire the $75 million man.
As wrong as it is morally speaking, I could see a scenario in which Fisher survives.
Meyer’s mess was an all-too-familiar reminder that money talks in college football. More specifically, winning talks in college football.
It’s strange to think that Meyer has already been at Ohio State as long as any non-Saban coach has been in the SEC. None of those non-Saban SEC coaches have rings at their current schools. Only Malzahn and Smart even have conference titles.
I’d like to say that shouldn’t matter. But after what we just saw unfold in Columbus, it’s clear that résumés are capable of trumping morality.