In less than a month, Urban Liar will be back on the job.
Never mind the deceiving, the conniving, the covering up.
Coach Liar (you might know him as Meyer, but let’s stick to a more suitable moniker) will return to the Ohio State sideline not much poorer for his troubles, with nothing to stop him from reclaiming his swagger before the leaves change colors.
Such is the state of college athletics.
Coach Liar is really the perfect symbol for the scoundrels and grifters who make it such a cesspool.
Of course, he had no business keeping his job as the Buckeyes football coach, not after he spent the better part of the past decade hiding, denying, ignoring and justifying the horrific behavior of assistant coach Zach Smith.
Now, if Coach Liar had pawned off a pair of pricey Jordans, or taken a little money for selling the signature of his very own name, or gotten a sweet deal on some tattoos, he surely would’ve faced the wrath of the Barney Fifes over at the NCAA. Then again, he isn’t likely to stoop to such levels since he actually gets paid to do his job.
The first of those aforementioned offenses got a bunch of North Carolina football players suspended for up to four games this season. The second happened back in 2014, resulting in a four-game suspension for former Georgia running back Todd Gurley. But Tattoogate is what takes the hypocrisy to a whole new level, especially since it also involved Ohio State.
Star quarterback Terrelle Pryor and four of his teammates had to sit out the first five games of the 2011 season for, among other things, receiving discounts on the ink jobs they got from a local parlor.
That’s right. In the world of college athletes, cut-rate tattoos are a more serious offense — two games more serious, to be exact — than a head coach looking the other way when faced with at least two allegations of an assistant beating up his wife, not to mention a whole range of disturbing acts that should’ve cost Smith his job.
To recap, there was an arrest for drunken driving, a recruiting trip to the strip club, failing to pay bills on time, showing up late for work or not at all, having an extramarital affair with a school secretary, checking into drug rehab and taking sexually-explicit photos of himself at the White House during a team visit.
Employee of the Year, Smith was not.
Still, Coach Liar saw no reason to dole out a pink slip until about a month ago when it was inconveniently revealed on social media that Smith was accused of violating a protective order taken out by his now ex-wife. Also coming to light was Courtney Smith saying she was abused by Zach in 2015 — allegations that she had shared with Coach Liar’s wife, Shelley.
But The Ohio State University, leaving no doubt that winning championships trumps all of Coach Liar’s failings as a supposed leader of young men, decided that a worthy punishment would be to sit out the first three games of the season, thereby allowing him to return in plenty of time to lead the Buckeyes to another Big Ten title.
Coach Liar also was ordered to forfeit six weeks in salary, which we figure will cost him roughly $876,000. Ol’ Urban should be able to absorb the financial blow without much scrimping since he’ll still collect more than $6.7 million this year.
“The suspensions are tough, but I fully accept them,” said Coach Liar, sounding very much like a guy who knows he got away with the crime.
While Zach Smith was never charged and has denied any wrongdoing, Shelley was so concerned about how he would respond to finally being fired that she sent this text to her husband: “He drinks a lot and I am not sure how stable he will be. Afraid he will do something dangerous. It’s obvious he has anger/rage issues already.”
What was Coach Liar’s response to such an alarming message?
He didn’t even bother getting back to his wife, much less take any steps to help ensure Courtney Smith’s safety.
And Coach Liar certainly didn’t have to fret at all about the MIAs over at the NCAA because they’re too busy trying to root out any side hustles attempted by those indentured servants they call student-athletes.
He did have to respond when asked at Big Ten Media Days whether he knew about the 2015 allegations. True to form, he breezed right past the truth and went with the flat-out lie. Furthermore, he may have taken steps to wipe out any text messages older than a year from his cellphone, just to cover his tracks a little more.
Not wanting to cook its golden goose, Ohio State looked at that overwhelming body of evidence and decided three games on the sideline was a fitting punishment. If Bernie Madoff had faced these guys, he would’ve been judged a petty thief.
In fairness, Coach Liar and Ohio State are simply playing an end game that works so well in college athletics.
Call it the Three A’s:
Admit (to mistakes in judgment).
Apologize (profusely, if possible).
Accept (a slap on the wrist that causes no real damage).
Then, tell everyone it’s time to move on.
“We have a valuable lesson that we’ve learned,” said athletic director Gene Smith, who also received a laughingly brief suspension. “We’re going to move forward. And we’re going to be stronger for it.”
They know it won’t be long before we’re moving on to the next scandal.
They know college athletics is nothing more that lather, rinse, repeat.
Just make sure to leave all the dirt.
Paul Newberry is a sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry(at)ap.org or at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paul%20newberry