The decision has been made. The Ohio State’s Board of Trustees’ announced that head football coach Urban Meyer will be suspended for three games and docked six weeks pay, and athletics director Gene Smith suspended for a little more than two weeks. After further review …
You can’t handle the truth — The word “truth” doesn’t have the same definition at Ohio State as what appears in Merriam-Webster. University President Michael V. Drake said that the university values the truth. He said that the independent team that investigated Meyer’s handling of alleged domestic abuser and former assistant coach Zach Smith, sought the truth. Let’s remember that this is a case that Meyer admitted to lying (but the committee essentially said he didn’t mean to). Maybe use a different word.
The invisible victim — The Ohio State case was about a domestic violence case. Zach Smith’s ex-wife Courtney Smith told reporter Brett McMurphy about incidents of choking, threats and defying restraining orders. In the press conference that explained the suspensions, Courtney’s name was not uttered by any of the administrators. It wasn’t until a reporter asked about her late in the presser was her name even mentioned. There were apologies to “Buckeye Nation” and thanks to supporters. Remorse for what happened to Courtney Smith? Crickets. In fact, when asked if he had any message for Courtney Smith, Meyer said, “I’m sorry we’re in this situation.”
No empathy, no public-relations value — If Ohio State’s administration received PR counsel before the press conference, it was completely ignored. Common sense was completely ignored. There was no heart or empathy in any of the comments. The entire event was tone-deaf.
After further review — Ohio State administrators that participated in the press conference did more harm than good. At this point, however, if you represent an institution of higher education and won’t address the reason why you’re in crisis, any amount of public relations counseling may well go to waste. You can’t force empathy, but you can say something that sounds like you respect in this case, the victim and her family. There was none of that.