Urban Meyer's leave may become permanent at Ohio State as ethics must take precedence over football

Call it whatever you want -- a resignation, a firing, even the end of a career -- everything now seems to be on the table for Urban Meyer.

In a startling 12-hour period, a separation between Ohio State and one of the best coaches of this age is a sudden, jolting possibility. The school placed Meyer on paid administrative leave Wednesday after a report surfaced alleging his prior knowledge about long-term domestic abuse allegations against former wide receivers coach Zach Smith.

The ex-wife of that coach, Courtney Smith, said she believes Meyer knew of the abuse as recently as 2015. She said she described it to Meyer's wife Shelley, also an instructor at Ohio State University's College of Nursing, three years ago.

Are the what-ifs of Meyer's career arc even the headline here? It is crass at this moment to be reminded that Meyer -- at the prime coaching age of 54 -- seems to be the only living coach in the same orbit as Nick Saban. With three national championships, age alone would give Meyer a chance to catch the great Alabama coach and his six titles.

There is the ongoing issue of who replaces Meyer in the short (acting coach Ryan Day, the offensive coordinator) and possibly long term. (Las Vegas did not waste time posting odds about Meyer's potential ouster and replacement.)

What about the health of O-H-I-O football and another championship run for the Buckeyes?

Please.

Shame on anyone who has football at the top of their thoughts as this tragedy plays out.

Veteran college football reporter Brett McMurphy shined another bright light on the menace of domestic abuse by staying on top of this story as Meyer denied knowledge of the incident and went so far as to question the reporter's professionalism at the 2018 Big Ten Media Days last month.

There is a brave woman named Courtney who has put a compelling face on the scourge.

That's the takeaway in the moment. This is no Jane Doe in a court document. This is a woman who willingly and bravely came forward. Take a look at the pictures of her injuries that she allowed McMurphy to post on Facebook. Read her frantic texts. Watch her on-camera interview.

This is a woman who's had enough. You can almost hear the silent cheers of other victims who could not muster the will to go that public.

We are told there are factors that keep abused women from coming forward -- financial considerations, family, the ongoing hope a marriage can be saved.

Whether Courtney Smith was motivated by Meyer's comments at Big Ten Media Days isn't quite known.

"I know nothing about it," Meyer said last week of the 2015 incident.

It would appear implausible that Meyer was unaware of the 2015 incident considering Courtney Smith stated that every coach's wife on the team was aware and Shelley, who Meyer has referred to as his confident and an integral part of the program, referred to Zach Smith in a text message as someone who "scares me."

"I told Shelley. I sent her some pictures. I spoke to her on the phone. She said she was going to have to tell Urban," Courtney Smith said during an interview with Stadium. "I said, 'That's fine. You should tell Urban. You can't have someone like this coaching young men.'"

Her subsequent detailing of the alleged abuse is destined to change her life -- and those of countless others -- in a positive way.

I saw it in the eyes of my friend, Brenda Tracy, when she told her story. Tracy, who was raped by four men in her apartment near Oregon State in 1998, speaks against sexual abuse to college teams across the country.

Courtney Smith is now an inspiration, not just a frightened, battered wife hoping for a way out. Those victims no doubt will flood her inbox. They will write her letters. They will find her. They need her.

Whether Meyer gets his job back seems to pale in comparison. I've covered him since that magic 2004 season at Utah. He was always forthcoming. His offensive schemes have changed the game.

Meyer had off-field issues at Florida that have been chronicled. He admirably beat back ailments that caused him to quit at Florida and reinvent himself soon thereafter at Ohio State.

It's no surprise he is the game's third-winningest active coach, but it's suddenly easier to imagine not only a separation between Meyer and Ohio State but Meyer and college football.

We must presume innocence, of course. But if the school's investigation finds that Meyer indeed knew of Zach Smith's alleged long-term abuse and didn't act upon it himself before last week when he fired Smith, it must be considered that his career as a major-college coach could be over.

What self-respecting athletic director or president could look at his wife and tell her he was considering hiring Meyer?

We must consider that possibility. But we also must consider what provoked Courtney Smith to come out so forcefully.

There will be the Neanderthals who wring their hands over the impact on recruiting or the Big Ten race.

It is curious to note that Ohio State is familiar in this space. The opening for Meyer, then an ESPN analyst, came about only because Jim Tressel resigned under pressure in 2011 for his role in the infamous Tatoogate scandal.

But that was a crime against the NCAA rulebook that Tressel fumbled into what looks like the end of his coaching career.

This is a question of ethics, perhaps ignoring the alleged battering of a spouse.

In each of these college scandals, there always seems to be an underlying willingness to protect the football brand and everything that comes with it -- prestige, power, salary, championship banners.

I'm not saying any of that happened here, but the same questions seem to hopscotch from one scandal to another.

For those wielding that prestige and power: What did they know, and when did they know it?

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Dennis Dodd has covered college football for CBS Sports since it was CBS SportsLine in 1998. He is one of only seven media members to attend all 16 BCS title games and has chronicled conference realignment... Full Bio

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