Ohio State and Alabama are completely different and yet very similar at the same time. They play in different conferences in different parts of the country, but they both have two of the greatest coaches of all time. With a combined NINE national championships between the two, Urban Meyer and Nick Saban have built modern day dynasties at Ohio State and Alabama.
However, this past week saw more drama at the two programs than these teams have seen in many years. The first week of August is usually consumed with back-to-school celebrations, but in the world of College Football, the nation has been transfixed on the situations brewing in Columbus and Tuscaloosa. Both teams have their issues to face, and they also find themselves in murky waters going forward.
In addressing the elephants in the room (no pun intended), it’s important to analyze both situations independently, so here we go.
In mid July at B1G Media Days Urban Meyer was asked nine questions about a domestic violence situation involving his WRs Coach Zach Smith and Smith’s wife Courtney. At the time Meyer stated, “I know nothing; never had a conversation about that; who would create a story like that and if I knew I would have made a change.”
Fast forward to Wednesday July 31.
Former ESPN College Football analyst Brett McMurphy released a bombshell piece citing Meyer’s knowledge of Smith’s violent past and how the head coach had done nothing about it. McMurphy provided screenshots of text message conversations between Courtney, Zach, and even Urban’s wife Shelley Meyer. McMurphy also had pictures of Courtney’s bruises she had saved as evidence. All the evidence pointed to Urban having extensive knowledge of the situation and simply doing nothing about it.
Later on the 31st, Meyer was put on paid administrative leave by Ohio State and Offensive Coordinator Ryan Day was made acting head coach. The following day Urban released a statement and cited he knew of domestic violence issues involving Smith back in 2015 and reported it to his superiors. Obviously, nothing became of this reporting and business went on as usual at Ohio State.
So, what happens now?
In situations like these, it never gets better for those who knew something and said nothing. Urban Meyer has been “put on paid administrative leave” for now, but his tenure at Ohio State looks to be done. When he stated his superiors’ knowledge of the situation, that was just a pass-the-buck statement by Meyer trying to vindicate his ability to do nothing. Even so, it should not be a surprise if Athletic Director Gene Smith also gets fired by the powers that be at Ohio State in the near future.
While we, as the public, may never know all of the details, it’s safe to say that Meyer’s character has been fully exposed, and the coverup of this situation may be the worst part.
On Saturday August 4 Alabama held a scrimmage/practice inside Bryant Denny Stadium. After the practice Jalen Hurts fielded questions for about five minutes from local reporters. The glaring question was in regards to the QB battle between him and sophomore Tua Tagovailoa.
Hurts never explicitly said, “I’m not the starter. Tua is.” He did, however, say something that carried a little more weigh. He told reporters, “The coaches never said anything to me,” impling Saban and his assistants made their decision and didn’t tell Hurts.
This is the first situation in recent memory where Saban and his staff have come across as not being transparent in communicating with players. Granted, there is only one side to the story now, and hopefully Saban’s side will be heard sooner rather than later, but right now it seems as though Jalen Hurts is not the starting QB anymore and no one ever told him so.
To put it in perspective, Jalen Hurts is 27-2 as a starting QB at Alabama. He struggled late in the season last year against Auburn and in the first half of the National Championship Game against Georgia. Hurts also had a lackluster spring game back in April.
However, Tua Tagovailoa brought the Tide back to win the National Championship and appeared in some games throughout the season, mostly when Alabama had a huge late game lead. His experience is vastly limited compared to Hurts, but his recent success has propelled him to potentially be the Tide’s starter under center.
No matter who is the starter for Alabama on September 1, the Tide have two solid options at QB. The sketchy part is how the coaching staff may have already decided who the starter will be without discussing it with the guy who’s won 27 out of 29 games in two years.
As this situation unfolds more, it will be very important to get Saban’s side of it all. It will also be important to see Hurts does decide to transfer if he’s not made the starter.
For now, the center of college football’s focus is on two campuses that are 625 miles apart going through two different situations. Both situations are very different but impact so many people involved. At this point, hopefully the truth will prevail overall, and hopefully justice and peace will be brought to those who need it.