Coaches can no longer hide truth in today's world
According to Care.com, the going rate for babysitter pay in Columbus is $14 an hour, which makes Urban Meyer the richest nanny in the city. The Ohio State football coach collects a jaw-dropping $868 per hour — 24 hours a day, 365 days a year — to watch the Buckeyes.
That buys Meyer a lot of Kraft macaroni-and-cheese dinners. It also buys him plenty of headaches. But don’t feel sorry for him. He asked for it.
Given the latest will-he-stay-or-go debate dominating Ohio State fan discussions since Meyer was placed on paid administrative leave last Wednesday, there exists a sentiment among Buckeye Nation that it is not Meyer’s job either to be omniscient caretaker or be judge and jury with the personal lives of his coaches and players. He is paid to coach. And win. The rest is none of his — or our — business.
To which I say, think again. With huge increases in salary comes added responsibility. With societal expectations to conform to cultural norms — thanks in no small part to social media — college coaches are required to know every who, what and where of their programs. And though it frustrates many coaches, there is no more clinging to secrecy and hiding behind closed doors. Transparency is the new reality. Don’t just tell the truth when asked — provide the truth unprompted.
It wasn’t always that way. I caught up with Bobby Bowden on Wednesday, and the former Florida State coach spoke of how things have changed — how the old way of doing things like Woody Hayes and Bear Bryant did is no longer accepted.
“Back in Woody’s day, which was the beginning of my days, it was like, ‘None of your business,’ ” Bowden said of pulling back the curtain on the program. “Now, it’s out in the open before you even find out about it.”
Bowden’s words lacked lament. He is 88 but remains sharp enough to know that nothing stays the same. Coaches who try to control their environment and rebuff outsiders, and in doing so fail to adjust to the times, risk termination when the inevitable off-field controversy arrives.
“A lot of coaches still have that old-school philosophy,” Bowden said. “My advice is to be careful.”
Has Meyer been careful enough? That is what the six-person committee heading the investigation of him hopes to determine within the next week or so. For those insisting Meyer not be held accountable for the actions of Zach Smith, the former assistant coach who was fired on July 23 amid allegations of continuing domestic abuses, I would remind that everything affecting football comes under the purview of the head coach.
Is that fair? Doesn’t matter. It’s how things work today. Get with the program or get out of the program. Bowden got out before the cultural sea change occurred.
“Across the board, a coach now has to be so much more aware of what is going on around him,” he said. “It used to be, ‘Well, this is my business. Don’t worry about it.’ I got out before this all blossomed.”
But not before controversy caught up with him and the Seminoles by way of shoe scandals, unsavory agents and the program’s own lack of vigilance.
“You always had fires to put out, because you’re dealing with 125 boys who are not all the same, and there always are one or two who are going to try you out,” he said. “The way we felt about it was we had 125 babies we had to watch. But you can’t watch them all.”
Maybe not, but that’s the current expectation. The buck stops with the top Buckeye babysitter. No wiggle room. No falling asleep on the couch.