Everybody makes mistakes.
There’s wisdom in that old saying, and a way for Ohio State coach Urban Meyer to win the press conference that announces the outcome of OSU’s investigation into his handling of a domestic violence incident involving fired assistant coach Zach Smith.
Once this entire matter is concluded, Meyer is the only person with the capability to surprise us with his comments.
You know OSU President Michael Drake is going to sound like an academic.
You know Jo Ann Davidson, the chair of the special investigative committee, will handle questions with the aplomb of the politician.
You know Mary Jo White, the head of the law firm which headed the inquiry, will use her skills as an accomplished lawyer to adeptly respond to whatever she is asked.
And you know Athletic Director Gene Smith is going to sound like both a politician and a lawyer, because that’s allowed him to survive in his job this long.
But it’s Meyer, and only Meyer, who has the capacity to show us a different person than we know and thus disarm his critics.
The anti-Meyer faction probably expects a cold, calculating, carefully-worded defense of the answers given in Chicago on July 24 to what he knew about an Oct. 2015 incident involving Smith and his ex-wife, Courtney.
Meyer’s prepared statement released on Aug. 3, two days after OSU placed him on paid administrative leave, said he was “inadequately prepared” to answer those questions and that he “failed” to be “completely accurate.”
Why parse words now?
Just say what an objective listener knows, that Meyer wasn’t truthful when he denied ever having a conversation about the Smith matter, or knowing anything about it.
I’ve heard some of Meyer’s defenders position his Chicago answers as a narrow response to original reporting of the Smith matter resulting in a felonious assault arrest.
Trouble is, Meyer wasn’t asked that question in Chicago.
He was asked an assortment of questions about Smith in three different press conferences, including why did he fire Smith, did he know about the 2015 incident, and did he regret how he acted continuing to employ Smith?
America is a forgiving society, and while it’s hard to envision Meyer’s critics embracing him with the same ardor as Buckeye Nation, it’s also a no-win situation for critics to pound on someone for a mistake they admit openly, honestly and contritely.
So, instead of parsing words, instead of pleading a case he cannot win by blaming the listener for not fully understanding what he actually meant, Meyer can confound his critics by not engaging in a battle in which his own words will be used against him.
It’s his choice how he proceeds.
The path of least resistance is to admit he’s human, he makes mistakes, he made one in Chicago, it’s one he’s truly sorry for, one he’ll endeavor never to make again, and one that will help him be a better leader, having suffered a severe penalty.
Or, Meyer can decide to split syllables, debate nuance and blame others for perceived vendettas and agendas that left him the victim of unjust accusations.
One choice affords him a chance to leave all this behind and move forward.
One seems certain to fan the flames of criticism, which could fester into a distraction for his program and additional stress on himself.
Time will tell which avenue he chooses.
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