On Urban Meyer and DJ Durkin - Thank You Christine Brennan

On Urban Meyer and DJ Durkin - Thank You Christine Brennan

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On Urban Meyer and DJ Durkin - Thank You Christine Brennan

Veteran journalist – voice of reason – Christine Brennan offers perspective on the current controversial crises at Ohio State and Maryland.  

Contact @crowleysullivan

It’s all gotten out of control.

And it’s the fault of everyone.

Including guys like me who have made a living in the world of sports media for decades now.

I got into sports media more than twenty years ago because I love sports.

Specifically, I love what sports shows us when it comes to the human spirit.

That – my soapbox reference to the “human spirit” – applies to teams, schools, players, coaches, fans, and, yes, the people who cover sports for a living.

“Sports” is a never-ending examination of who we are, what makes us different, what makes us alike, and how we all get into the ring and duke it out with one another over “stuff” that, in the grand scheme of things, doesn’t really matter a whole lot.

Did I shed a tear when the Cubs finally won the World Series?

Ask my wife and kids.

But those tears weren’t because I was happy for guys like Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Ben Zobrist (although I certainly was).

Those tears were because the whole thing struck me to my core as I considered my family, my friends, the countless laughs and wonderful moments spent in Wrigley Field at all ages, the time I first walked into Wrigley Field with my dad on Opening Day as a second grade worshipper of Dave Kingman, and as a dad who now has passed along the traditions of the Cubs experience to my own family.

Ah – but that “worship” of Dave Kingman?

In retrospect, I cut myself some slack since I was 8 years old and didn’t really understand that Dave Kingman’s strikeouts were what made my dad laugh whenever I spoke about how Kingman was probably the best ball player of all time.

Cut to 2018 and the ways in which everything has changed.

In 1978, college football coaches were, for the most part, seen as football coaches.

There certainly were transcendent figures – Bear Bryant, Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, Barry Switzer, Tom Osborne, Joe Paterno, and others.

Even that short list right there – while those were transcendent figures, it’s not really debatable now that every one of those men had a flaw or two.

And that’s perfectly fine.

As a matter of fact, we should celebrate that.

We hold these coaches up on such pedestals – and, much of that is, in fact, due to the insane proliferation of the media exposure that turns these men into flawless action heroes.

But, at what point do the men themselves need to look in the mirror and recognize that when kids die in their care, perhaps the entire landscape needs to take a good, long look in the mirror?

One of the awful shames of the tragedy of Jordan McNair’s death is that he’s not the first person to die while in the care of a collegiate football program – just ask the leaders at Notre Dame or Northwestern,

I was standing right next to Brett McMurphy – one of the most respected and accomplished veterans of sports journalism there is – when Urban Meyer said to the gathering of reporters in front of him that he didn’t know anything at all about Zach Smith’s domestic abuse allegations in 2015.

Urban Meyer actually doubled down on his position when he said, “I don’t know who would make up a story like that…”

For the Buckeyes who want to rant and rail at Brett McMurphy or ESPN or Christine Brennan – go right ahead and do that, just as long as you are able to know that you’re hypocrites since you’d be screaming your heads off if this was all happening in Ann Arbor or East Lansing.

And speaking of East Lansing – I’ve written extensively about all of the horrible crimes that took place on Michigan State’s campus over the twenty years when Larry Nassar perpetrated the worst series of sexual assaults on a college campus in American history.

I called into question the way the leaders of Michigan State have handled and are handling all of it.

Good friends of mine and Michigan State supporters alike have been less than supportive of my thoughts that, to me, are pretty basic and rational.

Crowley Sullivan: Michigan State, You Broke My Heart

https://spartanswire.com/2018/04/10/tom-izzo-must-address-rape-and-sexual-assault-allegations/

https://spartanswire.com/2018/03/28/izzo-has-not-addressed-sexual-assault-allegations-properly-he-needs-to/

And there is still a very loud, extremely disappointing silence from Tom Izzo in the aftermath of what so many want to complain about regarding ESPN’s reporting.

Mark Dantonio would probably be the first person to say that he’s no hero.

And to Dantonio’s credit, he’s worked hard to address – both externally and internally – the very real issues of sexual assault in his program.

Dantonio has a long way to go – but at least he’s stood up in front of everyone and addressed it.

Tom Izzo has not.

To the Izzo apologists – sorry, that’s just a fact.

Christine Brennan puts it all pretty plainly and candidly in her piece today – I’ve included it below.

She’ll receive plenty of criticism from the people who can’t see the forest through the trees.

I grew up in an Irish Catholic environment, full of Mass-goers and head-bowers.

I’m proud of the faith and spirit that upbringing instilled in me and I’m proud of the way my wife and I are instilling that same faith and spirit in our kids.

But the never-ending revelations of the way in which the Catholic Church’s leadership demonstrates criminal fraudulence is simply undeniable.

So many of the people that helped me become the person I am today have their own knee-jerk reactions to any news of criminal sexual assault in the Catholic Church – they scoff at it all and whine about how it’s the media with an ax to grind and “they” (“the media”) are just trying to attack something for the purposes of selling newspapers.

I feel sorry for those people.

And, the truth is, those people aren’t all that much different from the people who will scream and yell at Christine Brennan for her poignant commentary on the current situations that boil down to the character of guys that are football coaches.

Thank you, Christine Brennan.

Her column is here –

Urban Meyer, DJ Durkin have failed as football coaches and human beings

SportsPulse: University of Maryland officials held a news conference on Tuesday in which they took responsibility for the death of Jordan McNair. USA TODAY

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As college football season approaches, Urban Meyer and D.J. Durkin are dangling by a thread. One coach far more famous than the other, both irreparably weakened, they are destined to be viewed more as villain than hero as time passes, the power and platform they thought was always going to be theirs disappearing by the day even if they survive and keep their jobs – which they should not.

If they practiced what they preached, Ohio State’s Meyer and Maryland’s Durkin would already be gone. They wouldn’t have waited for investigators to tell them what they already know: that they failed miserably as teachers of student-athletes and representatives of their university. If they paid attention to their own mighty locker-room bluster about team and family and molding young men in their image, they would have acknowledged their failures and quit by now.

But Meyer and Durkin are not the kind of good men they are trying to teach their players to be. They are lawyered-up opportunists seemingly incapable of shame. If they survive, and Meyer at least just might, we should never forget that.

Ohio State football: What we know about Urban Meyer investigation

Maryland football: What we know about investigation into culture of DJ Durkin’s program

Meyer harbored on his staff an assistant coach, Zach Smith, who physically abused his wife, Courtney Smith. Meyer said he knew about a 2009 incident when he was head coach at Florida and Zach Smith was one of his assistants in which Smith was arrested for aggravated battery against Courtney, who was pregnant at the time. A few years later, Meyer became head coach at Ohio State and brought Smith with him.

In 2014, the Ray Rice scandal turned domestic violence into a national conversation, but Meyer still didn’t get rid of Smith. In 2015, police twice went to Smith’s home to investigate reports of domestic abuse. Again, Smith remained on Meyer’s staff.

Meyer finally fired Smith this summer, nine years after first learning about his abuse of his wife. He then belligerently lied about it to the news media and millions of football fans before finally being caught by journalist Brett McMurphy and forced to tell the truth, or, hopefully, at least a little bit of it.

What Meyer did was bad. What Durkin didn’t do was worse.

He failed to help a 19-year-old student who was in such physical distress at a May 29 practice Durkin was in charge of that the young man, Jordan McNair, died two weeks later.

Of course Durkin knows what he and his staff did and didn’t do to help McNair. He has known for 2½ months. Yet it wasn’t until Aug. 10 that the public found out how terribly he and his staff had erred.

How did we find out? Did Durkin come clean? Of course he did not. It took more journalists to tell us, this time from ESPN.

When we hear of the self-serving failures of Meyer and Durkin, whose reflex was to defend their programs and their quest for bowl games and championships rather than look out for the human beings in their midst, it’s natural to wonder where else trouble might be lurking. Every college football program? Most? Some? A few?

Will Muschamp, South Carolina’s football coach, might have given us a clue the other day when he was asked about Durkin, one of his former assistant coaches, and what’s going on at Maryland.

Did Muschamp immediately express sadness and concern for a dead teenager? No, it took him 48 hours to do that. His initial instinct was to attack ESPN, calling its use of some anonymous sources “gutless,” and saying, ridiculously, that there is “no credibility in anonymous sources.” Hmmm. Watergate, anyone?

What in the world is wrong with these football coaches, and with us for allowing them to be this way? Meyer and Durkin didn’t just fail as coaches and leaders of young men, they failed as human beings.

Durkin likely won’t survive, and shouldn’t, but Meyer might. If he does, what an interesting situation that will present. Meyer, as sanctimonious a man as exists in college football, has never hesitated to suspend his players for actions as varied as public urination and drunk driving. He also hasn’t hesitated to speak out about the transgressions of other coaches.

So, what would that Urban Meyer say about this Urban Meyer?

He’d probably call him a fraud.

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