At the late hour that the decision was made by Ohio State University to suspend football coach Urban Meyer and athletic director Gene Smith, only a handful of people were inside the Ohio Union to watch the announcement.
But the few students who were there were glued to their electronic devices waiting for an announcement.
>>Read more: Ohio State suspends Urban Meyer and Gene Smith
"I’ve been tracking it pretty religiously all evening," said Ohio State graduate Brandon Rohrig. “I feel like we’re waiting for the billows of white smoke, like the announcement of a new pope.”
In the end, Meyer was suspended without pay through Sept. 2 and for three games (Oregon State and Rutgers at home; Texas Christian University on the road), and Smith will be suspended without pay from Aug. 31 to Sept. 16. Meyer had been on paid administrative leave since Aug. 1 while the university investigated his handling of domestic-violence allegations against former assistant coach Zach Smith.
Rohrig, 27, earned an undergraduate degree in math and a master's degree in education from Ohio State. He's a football fan, too, and he was streaming the Wednesday night news conference on his iPad.
“I think Urban made a judgment error by keeping Zach on the staff for that long. Zach probably should’ve been fired a while ago," Rohrig said. “We, as a society, have a judgment problem. We’re quick to hold superiors more accountable than perpetrators. We’re quick to point fingers at those in charge and ask what they should’ve done, rather than those who did the deed.”
Rohrig said he thinks many students didn't want Meyer fired.
>>Read more: Get complete coverage at BuckeyeXtra.com/UrbanMeyer
"But obviously, we’re all a bit biased toward our football program," he said.
During Wednesday's meeting, the board weighed Meyer's response to allegations of domestic abuse against former assistant coach Smith by his now-ex-wife, Courtney Smith. An investigation into Meyer's handling of the matter, led by former Securities and Exchange Commission Chairwoman Mary Jo White, ended Sunday after a two-week probe.
The investigation found that Meyer and Smith did not condone nor cover up any possible domestic violence by Zach Smith, but "failed to take sufficient management action relating to Zach Smith’s misconduct and retained an assistant coach who was not performing as an appropriate role model for OSU student-athletes."
Investigators said they do not believe Meyer intentionally lied when, at Big Ten media day in July, he said he did not know about a report of domestic violence involving Zach Smith in 2015.
Kyle Milliron, 19, an Ohio State freshman nursing major, was at a movie night in the Oval on Wednesday night when his brother texted him, telling him the news about Meyer was about to break. He ran into the Union and found Rohrig on his iPad.
"I think it’s just what the school had to do. It’s tough, but I understand why," Milliron said. He also said Zach Smith should have been fired a while ago.
"At least he’ll be back for Penn State," Milliron said of Meyer's return for the Nittany Lions game Sept. 29 at Beaver Stadium.
Students were texting one another all day to keep up-to-date on developments with Meyer. Several students said they didn't want to share their opinions about the university's decision because it has been a polarizing topic. A very few hadn't heard the news.
At Plaza Mexican Grill on High Street, a group of students were enjoying the nice weather on the patio — and talking about Meyer.
Tyler Stauffer, a 22-year-old senior majoring in logistics management, said he thought the punishment was fair.
"They had to do something about it. They couldn't just not react," he said. Stauffer expected Smith would be fired.
Abram Ramirez, 23, is a sophomore majoring in health and rehabilitation science. He felt the university was in a tough situation and would face backlash no matter what it decided.
The students were surprised that the deliberations and discussion carried on so long. He heard students complaining about it most of the day.
On the Oval, freshman engineering major Amanda Jensen said there should be more of a focus on preventing domestic violence.
“It’s not talked about enough, domestic abuse, if (Zach Smith) was violent toward his family he could have been violent toward the students," she said.
"The university needs to think of the moral repercussions of all of it," she said. "They need to make this a place where students are going to feel safe."
James Dobrozsi, also a freshman engineering student, was at first upset about the decision to suspend Meyer. But, after listening to Jensen, he had a change of heart.
"I didn't like that decision," he said, "but I think it's good publicity for the university."