A great deal has been lost in the aftermath of Urban Meyer’s three-game slap on the helmet at Ohio State, but frankly, most of that has been branding. The notion that this was about anything other than defending a man who helps keep the accounting department churning was long ago abandoned.
There is no philosophical point to be hammered here. Urban Meyer stands for Urban Meyer, and his success as a football coach has allowed him to generate great wads of money and the support of people who enjoy great wads of money. It was true at Utah, it was more true at Florida and it is starkly so now. He is no ascetic, no monk. He is powerful, he has powerful people behind him, and they voted their stock. Pure power politics.
And that's what Wednesday's danse macabre was about -- the folks who operate and defend the school's money-making wing (as opposed to the school, which is students and teachers and workers and the communities that it nourishes) voted for the money, and the guy they think can best keep that spigot open full.
In the aftermath, the people who run Ohio State have let the image-making slip and shown the operation for what it has always been – a factory. They just decided not to bother hiding it behind the veneer of “loftier goals.” The loftier goals are (a) win the national championship, (b) beat Michigan, and (c) count the money accurately.
And so, ultimately, does Meyer. He is stained as Woody Hayes was, but he can clearly live with the stain because he did so little to either clean it or even explain it away credibly. His defense for Zach Smith’s litany of violence and revolting behavior was, in the end, “Yeah, so? We fired him . . . eventually.”
Was Meyer supposed to resign? Not a chance. Nobody of power ever goes willingly; that has to come with a shove. But the vehemence with which he resisted that shove speaks to what was important in the end. His entire posture – to lie, then shift blame to others, and finally to say, “Go on, I dare you” spoke to what Urban Meyer believes to his core: That the job of Urban Meyer is Urban Meyer.
And he has gambled that that is good enough when he goes into homes and pleads for the services of high school football players. It probably is, to be honest. Ohio State offers a lot for parents and prospective students alike – winning, a quality education for those granted the time to pursue it, an experience that can stay a lifetime.
But it doesn’t offer the myth of propriety any more. Urban Meyer was a myth to those who wanted him to be one until he couldn’t be one any more, and when that ended, he had to reveal himself as what he actually is – a guy in perpetual defense of his prerogatives as a powerful man.
Like, and this must be understood clearly, so many powerful people. Eventually the power is the most important product, and the power is what people root for most.
So while the hand-wringing from Wednesday’s massive failure to make Urban Meyer and the people who run Ohio State not look like the cynics they are is still fresh, note this: This is their natural posture, uncluttered by niceties and politeness. They did the raw calculus of power, and as it often does now, it comes out raw and ruthless. That’s what this was -- without worrying so much about the imagery.
And Urban Meyer? He is what he has always been – with Urban Meyer, of Urban Meyer, for Urban Meyer. Ohio State’s corporate arm just decided he was still worth the trouble.