Hours after Ohio State coach Urban Meyer was placed on paid administrative leave, Jay Paterno wrote an impassioned plea on his website to withhold judgment and let due process play out.
Paterno, who worked under his father for 16 years as an assistant coach at Penn State, blamed both the media and social media for being in “the outrage spiral descent.” Meyer’s job is now on the line after allegations — texts, interviews and photos — surfaced showing he might have been aware of the domestic violence accusations against former receivers coach Zach Smith but simply ignored them.
“I am a Penn Stater but I am an American first,” Jay Paterno wrote. “As Penn Staters, we’ve seen the forces of innuendo, implication and allegation damage the lives and careers of good innocent people. We should demand something more in America.”
Of course, Paterno is referring to the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal and the fact his father was fired in the face of mounting outside pressure. What exactly Joe Paterno knew and when about Sandusky remains a matter of some debate, although then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary testified he alerted Paterno of an incident in either 2001 or 2002.
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The accusations against Meyer run somewhat parallel. At issue is what Meyer knew and when. The three-time national champ said last week at Big Ten media days that he was unaware of the two domestic violence incidents against Smith in 2015 and, if he had known, said he would have fired the assistant.
“No matter what is proven about these allegations against the former wide receiver coach at Ohio State, this much is beyond doubt: Urban Meyer did not commit a crime, he did not witness, nor did he cover up any crimes,” Jay Paterno wrote. “He hasn’t even been accused of one but yet there will be voices unjustly calling for his job.”
Paterno later added, “We should wait for facts. We should drive a stake in the ground to defend due process. We should shed our implicit bias against people we dislike being accused. ... And for those who need a refresher course: Published allegations do NOT automatically equal facts.”
What is known about Meyer: Text messages obtained by college football reporter Brett McMurphy show Meyer’s wife, also an Ohio State employee, was aware of the abuse — as were multiple other coaches’ wives. One wife, Lindsey Voltolini, married to one of Meyer’s most loyal staff members, texted that Urban was aware of the incidents.
Smith was never convicted. But his ex-wife, Courtney, said two of Meyers’ friends — Hiram de Fries and Earle Bruce — asked her to drop the 2009 charges. And, last month, Smith violated a domestic violence civil protection order, which became public and led to his firing.
But nothing has directly connected Meyer to knowledge of the 2015 incidents, at least not yet. And Paterno preached patience for those opposing fans “giddy with ... excitement” of Meyer’s troubles and “breathless in anticipation” of him being fired.
“Here’s hoping that patience rules the day in Columbus, that common sense and due process can stand up to the flood tide of manufactured outrage,” he wrote.