Bock’s Score: A NCAA Learning Experience

This can’t be what Walter Byers had in mind.

The man who built the NCAA into a collegiate sports monolith as its first executive director would shudder at what goes on around his old hangout these days.

There is a time bomb ticking underneath college basketball, which is licking its wounds over the latest recruiting scandal and has the FBI looking into its operation. The mess has already taken down Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino at Louisville and who knows how many other big names will follow.

This came after the NCAA decided to let North Carolina walk when charges of academic fraud buzzed around the athletic department while the basketball team proudly hoisted the national championship trophy.

Then we have Michigan State University which employed Kathie Klages as a gymnastics coach for 27 years. For much of that time, Coach Klages was aware of the shenanigans of Dr. Larry Nasser, who sexually abused athletes for decades and is now serving a life sentence for those activities. It seems Coach Klages lied to the authorities about Dr. Nasser’s hobby and was accused of covering it up, even to her own student-athletes.

Not nice.

The most outrageous stunt of all, however, may have been carried off by the administration at Ohio State University. Presented with compelling evidence that football coach Urban Meyer looked the other way over abuse charges against one of his assistants, the university punished Meyer with a three-game suspension.

Three games?

Meyer should have been fired. He knew that assistant Zach Smith had assaulted his pregnant wife in 2009 and that police came to Smith’s house twice in 2015 on similar calls. He never moved on the assistant, who had come with Meyer from Florida and after all was the grandson of former Ohio State coach Earle Bruce. When the heat was turned up, last month, Meyer finally fired Smith and then blatantly lied about the affair at Big Ten Media Days to promote Ohio State football.

We wouldn’t want to damage the image of the Buckeyes and the neat marching band with the honorary band member who gets to dot the I in Ohio. Football Saturdays are too big a deal in Columbus to mess with the recipe and Urban Meyer is a major part of that recipe. Maybe Meyer can dot the I during his suspension.

So he sits for three games and will be back on the sidelines in plenty of time to guide the Buckeyes through the bulk of the season and into a bowl game when the university will line its pockets with cash.

Meyer recognized how ugly the whole thing looked, especially his seemingly casual approach at a news conference and decided a couple of days later to apologize to Courtney Smith, the abused ex-wife of his ex-assistant.

The irony here is that Meyer has been a passionate advocate for cleaning up college sports. He just neglected to do it in his own backyard.

Meyer called the whole affair a learning experience. Maybe he can add it in an appendix to the Ohio State playbook in a section called common sense.

About the Author

Hal Bock

Hal Bock is a contributor with NY Sports Day. He has covered sports for 40 years at The Associated Press including 30 World Series, 30 Super Bowls and 11 Olympics. He is the author of 14 books including most recently The Last Chicago Cubs Dynasty and Banned Baseball's Blacklist of All-Stars and Also-Rans. He has written scores of magazine articles and served as Journalist In Residence at Long Island University's Brooklyn campus where he also served on the selection committee for the George Polk Awards.

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