Just as the college football season is kicking into high gear, and the college basketball season looms on the not-so-distant horizon, the conversations taking place have more to do with what’s going on off the field, or basketball court, than what’s happening on it.
We’ve got the Urban Meyer situation with Ohio State football, the death of a student-athlete at Maryland, and the hopefully resolving scandal in college basketball that involves a number of coaches; most notably the now-unemployed Rick Patino. These are the headline grabbers, but there are others in less popular sports. The NFL’s issue with players kneeling during the National Anthem is small change compared to all of this.
Urban Meyer’s head is on the public opinion chopping block because he kept an Ohio State legacy assistant coach on his staff even though he and Ohio State’s athletic director, Gene Smith, knew this guy had been accused of domestic abuse. The university’s investigation turned up even more dirt on him.
Meyer and Smith got suspensions. Meyer’s will end after his Buckeyes play a talented TCU team on September 15; a game Ohio State could lose even if Meyer were on sidelines. He’ll return when the Bucks host Tulane on Sept. 22, and just in time for a big game with Penn State the week after.
Some say Meyer only got a slap on the wrist and all but a coach of rival stature would’ve been fired. That may be the case. Still, it would be interesting to hear what Michigan fans would have to say if this happened to Jim Harbaugh or how Alabama fans would react if it was Nick Sabin.
Things are actually more serious in Maryland. Offensive lineman Jordan McNair, age 19, died in June two weeks after suffering heat exhaustion during a team workout. An investigation turned up abusive tactics toward players by head coach DJ Durkin and strength and conditioning coach Rick Court. Durkin is on administrative leave and will likely be terminated while Court resigned. The university publicly accepted responsibility for McNair’s death.
On the basketball front, former Louisville coach Rick Patino is releasing this month a memoir on his firing a year ago over his involvement in a pay-for-play scandal that took down a number of fellow coaches at various levels. In response, the NCAA is allowing players to hire certified agents if they declare for the draft. When the season gets under way later this fall, this will become a huge topic of discussion, perhaps controversial.
Fans, meanwhile just want to see players play. But this year, thanks to the aforementioned scandals, it will be hard to tune in to a game without them being part of the conversation, and therefore part of the punishment.