Chris Spielman: Ohio State bigger than Urban Meyer

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Chris Spielman

Allen Park — The Ohio State football program is suddenly flush with turmoil after coach Urban Meyer was placed on administrative leave this week while the school investigates how much the coach knew about domestic violence accusations levied against former assistant coach Zach Smith.

Chris Spielman, a two-time All-American for the Buckeyes in the 1980s, and current NFL analyst for Fox Sports, emphasized the seriousness of the issue while also preaching the importance of patience with the fact-finding process.   

“Well, you know, everybody around here and everybody that will see this, understands the seriousness of domestic violence and there's nobody that's a proponent of that,” said Spielman, who played for the Detroit Lions from 1988-95. “I know what you know. I don't know what Urban knew and when he knew it. I have no idea. I do think Ohio State had no choice to put him on paid administrative leave, until they can sort this out.

“I know Urban and Shelley Meyer are great people and they do a lot for the community,” Spielman said. “I think Urban needs to and deserves to be heard when it's the appropriate time.”

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Smith was fired in July after former ESPN reporter Brett McMurphy reported a civil protection order had been filed against the assistant coach. At Big Ten Media Day, Meyer denied knowledge of Smith’s previously alleged incidents of abuse by accuser Courtney Smith. On Wednesday, McMurphy revealed detailed text messages that he said occurred between Courtney Smith and Meyer’s wife, and wives of assistant coaches.

Spielman declined to speculate on what should happen if it turns out Meyer was aware of the allegations, but said the football program is bigger than its coach.

“The Ohio State program, as a whole, is bigger than any one individual,” Spielman said. “That's not my words, that's coach Meyer's words. That's everybody's words that's a part of that university. You can say the same going down 94 west. Michigan's program is bigger than any one individual. It has to be that way and will always be that way.”

Meyer has compiled a 73-8 record in six seasons at Ohio State, winning two conference championships and the 2014 national championship.

Spielman likes rule changes

There's plenty of consternation about the league's new rule to penalize any player 15 yards if they lower their head to initiate and make contact with their helmet against an opponent, but Spielman favors the change. 

While he acknowledges some of the rule's flaws, primarily the ability of an infraction away from the play potentially negating a big gain, the Detroit Lions all-time leading tackler said enforcing better fundamentals can help players avoid flags and injuries. 

"It's very possible for a human being to go through a football game and not get a flag if you keep three things in mind: Eyes up, head up and wrap up," Spielman said. "If your eyes are up, you're never ducking your head. I'll never say you'll never get injured, but your risk for injury goes down significantly because of the position of your head. You'll never miss a tackle and the game will be better for it, it will be safer. So I'm a proponent of the rule, I just think it needs to start be coached whenever a kid steps on a football field."