COLUMBUS, Ohio — A quickly-organized rally to support embattled Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer drew praise, criticism and defense all at once Monday.
The rally was attended by well more than 100 Buckeye faithful, with signs supporting Meyer and bashing the journalists who unveiled previously unknown domestic abuse allegations against Meyer’s assistant coach Zach Smith. Meyer fired his assistant a week-and-a-half ago, but is now on paid administrative leave from the football team.
The leave will likely last at least two more weeks, as a University-organized team of investigators goes over Meyer’s handling of the domestic violence situation, including whether the coach properly reported that his assistant was facing the allegations.
The man organizing Monday night’s rally, Jeff Hamms, said he had no comment on the domestic violence situation — only remaining supportive of the coach.
“This is strictly about wanting our head coach back — sure, it’s nice that he wins 90% of his games, but you know what: he’s a good man,” Hamms said. “They will find out that he had followed protocol. We’re not in denial.”
Others in the Central Ohio Community were not so sure about the motives of a rally that’s being held while the coach is still under investigation.
“I consider myself a big Urban Meyer fan — but in light of what’s going on recently, you’re kind of dismayed, kind of disappointed,” said Harry Yeprem, a Buckeye fan of 52 years. “I think a lot of people are blinded by their fandom.”
Local sports radio host Scott Grady, known as “The Buckeye Hater” on his 105.7 The Zone weekend sports show, says OSU fans are making a mistake that could come back to bite them in the future.
“You could actually come off as sympathetic to somebody who knew about domestic violence (and didn’t report it),” Grady said, recalling similar rallies at Baylor and Penn State that preceded the firing of revered head coaches. “If you’re going to hold a rally, let’s wait till (Meyer) has been cleared of all wrongdoing.”
Monday’s rally lasted for about 20 minutes. It was approved by The Ohio State University according to Jeff Hamms, and University Police secured the perimeter.
There were no counter-protesters present at the event.