On Wednesday, a day after Ohio State announced the “creation of a central office for responding to sexual- and gender-based harassment, violence and other forms of discrimination and harassment,” the university’s board of trustees met to respond to a real-life case of sexual- and gender-based harassment, violence and other forms of discrimination and harassment.
How’d they do?
“What’s clear is that (football coach) Urban Meyer and the OSU staff know nothing about domestic violence and the behavior of batterers,” said Nancy Neylon, executive director of the Ohio Domestic Violence Network.
“There was no affirmative stance against domestic violence,” Neylon said. “They were sorry for Buckeye Nation, whoever they are. To me, it was a little bit bizarre and it was a little bit lost.”
Meyer admittedly lied about what he knew about an alleged incident of domestic violence involving fired receivers coach Zach Smith. The board nudged a three-game suspension at him.
Meyer apologized to Buckeye Nation.
Athletic director Gene Smith, like Meyer, was well aware of a potentially dangerous situation and said nothing about it. The board gave him a 16-day suspension.
Smith expressed his “sincere apologies for the situation that we have before us.”
>> Read more: Complete coverage at buckeyextra.com/urbanmeyer
A throng of 40 or so local and national media milled about the university all day, waiting for the board’s decision. Lori Schmidt, a radio reporter for WXZX (105.7), was one of the few women in this crowd.
“I went to the restroom and ran into a (female colleague),” Schmidt said. “I asked her how she was doing and she said, ‘Great! I’ve never seen a women’s restroom more empty. I could hang out here 10 minutes putting on my makeup, if I wanted to. I should cover sports more often.’ ”
The ensuing news conference lasted 34 minutes, 39 seconds. Eight men were called upon to ask questions. In the 33rd minute, one of the men asked about Courtney Smith.
Greg Amante (ESPN): “What message do you have for Courtney Smith?”
Meyer (winner of three national titles): “Well, I have a message for everyone involved in this. I’m sorry we’re in this situation. And, um … I’m just sorry we’re in this situation.”
The woman who kept calling police because she felt threatened, and may have been abused, by the receivers coach? The woman who ultimately forced the great state university to fire one of the finest recruiters in the Big Ten? The woman who is the reason Meyer can’t coach against Oregon State or TCU — or Rutgers?
Courtney Smith. That is her name.
Amid Buckeye Nation, there are whispers that she’s crazy. Her ex-husband, the ex-receivers coach and erstwhile recruiting director, has done many things that should not be printed in a family newspaper.
Courtney? The ex-wife? She’s just vindictive.
Buckeye Nation nods knowingly.
Neylon shakes her head. She has spent her entire adult life studying domestic-violence issues, sharing what she has learned and helping victims.
Neylon: “Simply saying, ‘He said he didn’t do it,’ leads me to believe that they don’t understand the kind of power and control a batterer has over a victim, the kind of manipulation they use to deny their behavior. And if you don’t understand that, you stop believing anybody.”
Neylon has seen this too many times. Victims are traumatized. They finally speak out. They are told not to cause trouble. The cycle of violence continues.
“To me, having a ‘Respect Women’ poster in your hallway isn’t doing anything,” Neylon said. “I think Urban Meyer missed an opportunity to apologize to the victim. Basically, he apologized, but neither he nor Ohio State recognized the need to move forward, to get out in front of the situation, to let victims know, ‘We will believe you, we will take care of you, we will get help to you.’ Instead, the message now is, ‘Don’t tell us because nothing’s going to happen.’ ”
Apparently, it is school policy.