The Ohio State University Buckeyes’ football head coach, Urban Meyer, is under scrutiny after being accused of knowing about the abusive behaviors of assistant coach, Zach Smith. Smith was fired for a string of domestic violence allegations against his ex-wife. This episode has once again brought up the concept of coaches being held accountable.
This isn’t the first time accountability has been brought up in football. Ray Rice, Michael Vick and countless others have assaulted, used and boozed their way into the news — attracting negative attention to themselves and their teams.
The real concern, however, was whether or not they were disciplined for their actions. Rice was suspended for the rest of the season and the Baltimore Ravens voided his contract. Vick was suspended indefinitely and was released from the Atlanta Falcons (though the Philadelphia Eagles signed him later that year). Even Johnny Manziel caused more trouble than he was worth for the Cleveland Browns and was dropped from the team.
While the coaches are not committing the offenses, it is their responsibility to run their teams respectively. With that being said, there is a difference between college and professional football. While professional football coaches play multiple roles in the lives of their players, college football coaches fall under the obligation to serve not only as a coach and friend, but as a mentor and positive influence to their student athletes.
Anyone who was part of any high school extracurricular activities, especially sports, learned that representation of your school team, or organization was of utmost importance. For example, drug and alcohol use or failing grades could get you suspended or even expelled. But the worst act of irresponsibility and scandal is a coach, teacher or leader who puts the well-being of their students at risk.
If Meyer did indeed know of Smith’s abusive behavior, it would have been in his and his team’s best interest to report it. Protecting Smith would not only put his students and team in jeopardy, but condone acts of domestic violence, setting a dangerous example for students, athletes and coaches. While Meyer’s investigation is still pending, the conversation about accountability of coaches and players continues to be a subject of heated debate.