The series of decisions that will determine whether Urban Meyer remains the Head Coach of Ohio State’s football team will not be made by administrators and lawyers but will have long-term PR implications for the university, its football program, college athletics overall and Meyer himself.
Meyer, now on “paid administrative leave,” tried getting in front of the situation with a long attempt at a self-serving statement, circumventing his employer’s communications channels via his own Twitter account.
The primary crux of his current situation is his denial at the recent Big Ten Conference media days, where he flatly denied knowledge of a 2015 incident involving his longtime assistant coach, whom he had just fired for a series of reported domestic violence incidents.
As someone who, over 20 years, has prepared high-profile individuals for media interviews and press conferences, including within the business of sports, one line in that statement stands out as completely incredulous. “My intention was not to say anything inaccurate or misleading. However, I was not adequately prepared to discuss these sensitive personnel issues with the media, and I apologize for the way I handled those questions.”
Those of us who have covered news and sports and/or worked behind-the-scenes on the “other side” know what an executive-type looks like when unprepared. This was not it. It’s not like he stumbled his way through the answer to the question. His answer was defiant and definitive. “There was nothing, I don’t know who creates a story like that.”
He all but dubbed it “Fake News.”
It’s extremely hard to believe that a head coach, at this level, with so much experience in front of cameras and virtually unlimited communications resources, could fire a longtime assistant coach and not be prepared to answer questions at an annual gathering with the sole purpose of media access, it if he wanted.
No matter which, if any, colors you wear on Fall Saturdays, don’t fall for that hollow excuse.
For those on the PR staffs of the football program, the athletic department and the university itself, with challenging days behind them and perhaps the most difficult days of their careers ahead, may the lawyers and administrators create a scenario for PR where credibility comes first.