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Sports Authority

Karnes: OSU controversy affects us all

| Friday, August 31, 2018

As we prepare to say goodbye to summer, a sweet consolation prize rounds the corner: college football season.

The buzz surrounding a team’s most recent in-practice victories, new additions and coaching moments grows. While this holds true from campus to campus, some teams have recently been the target of a more consistent national commentary — this is where the Ohio State University football team currently lies.

The recent controversy over Urban Meyer’s position as head coach has created dialogue on the OSU campus and beyond. On Sunday, the generally esteemed coach received the news that due to the way he allegedly mishandled the domestic assault allegations made against previous assistant coach Zach Smith, he will be suspended from coaching the Ohio State football program for the first three games of the season.

Regardless of one’s personal football fandom, many have taken the liberty of expressing their feelings toward Meyer and his role in the Smith situation. Should Meyer be held accountable for his potential knowledge of Smith’s inappropriate actions? While this has been a hot topic since Meyer was placed on paid administrative leave Aug. 1, it is the temperament within the OSU community which has the most dimension.

An issue of this depth and sensitivity causes an unavoidable rift in any campus culture. More than 200 people came together on Aug. 6 for a rally in support of Meyer, waving signs with captions such as “We Stand with Urban” and “Me too! I support Urban Meyer.” While their OSU gear and team spirit had the potential to bring the university and associated fans together, the support clashes with a discomfort spread across campus as a result of what many believe was Meyer’s failure to uphold the expected values of an Ohio State community member.

Some fans have expressed concern that Meyer decided to put football above all else, creating a toxic environment on campus. Rivaling the support for Meyer, this significant distaste for Meyer’s silent knowledge of the scandal is also widespread. Inherently, this split in opinion divides the Ohio State community on and off campus.

In today’s Sports Authority, I do not attempt to tell you what you should believe in terms of the controversy surrounding Smith and Meyer; rather, I point out the threat situations such as these pose in terms of the community mindset.

College football season should be a time to embrace the pre-season buzz and elevate the on-campus excitement as the first game nears. The actions taken by coaches and athletes alike, such as those in the situation of Smith and Meyer, threaten the relative innocence and optimism at the beginning of the season. While friendly rivalries fuel the popular athletic dialogue, this rivalry of opinion has built a partition in the fan base and student body.

By no means do I suggest that an issue of this capacity should be ignored, yet it is crucial to consider how this situation reveals the impact college football has on a campus as a whole. This recent conversation suggests that it is time for coaches, players and all involved parties take further responsibility for their actions — if not for the team itself, than for the group who falls under the collective title of “fan.”

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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