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It’s time for college football to change

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Football is possibly America’s most violent sport, on and off the field. Players and coaches alike are constantly becoming involved in issues such as domestic violence,drug abuse, gun violence and sexual assault.

This time, Ohio State University head football coach Urban Meyer cycling through the media sparking the conversation of toxic masculinity in the sport.

Meyer was placed on administrative leave in early August pending an investigation into the firing and
failure to report domestic violence accusations against former wide receivers coach Zach Smith. Smith had reportedly been fired in July of 2019 following growing knowledge of a 2015 domestic violence incident between Smith and his then-wife Courtney Smith.

Meyer’s suspension then followed. This was due to the fact that many believed he had knowledge of Zach Smith’s behavior and had not properly reported it. However, this was not the first time Meyer had known of domestic violence accusations involving Zach Smith, which Meyer himself confirmed during the Big Ten Conference media days at the end of July.

Zach Smith had been one of Meyer’s assistants during his days at the helm of the University of Florida’s football program, Smith was at one point arrested by Gainsville police for aggravated battery on a pregnant victim, according to a report on SBNATION.com. An incident, which, according to Meyer’s comments on Big 10 Conference media days, he had knowledge of when he hired Zach Smith at Ohio State.

Zach Smith, however, is not the first discipline problem hovering around Meyer. From 2007-09, Meyer coached former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez who was arrested in 2016 on multiple counts of homicide which was supposedly related to gang violence.

According to a report in the Orlando Sentinel, Hernandez’s issues were largely ignored at Florida including a 2007 shooting that injured two people. But, Meyer is not the only coach struggling with these issues.

For many, this harkens back to the firing of long time Penn State head coach Joe Paterno. Paterno was fired after reportedly covering up rape and sexual assault allegations against former assistant Jerry Sandusky. Paterno was one of the oldest and most revered coaches in college football. He had coached at Penn State as an assistant and as the head coach from 1950-2011. As head coach he won two National Championships, three Big Ten Conference Championships and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2007, however none of this was enough to save Paterno when the allegations came out.

Many are even calling for the firing of Meyer now.

“Everyone affiliated with Ohio State University, from university president Michael Drake to athletic director Gene Smith to the common Buckeyes fan, should be absolutely terrified of what comes next,” BleacherReports’ Matt Hayes said in a recent article pertaining to the scandal.

But it should be more than Buckeye fans and administrators worried about what this means for their football team. Every football fan should be concerned. Children look up to these players, coaches are shaping the minds and futures of these young men and then turning around and abusing women.

Or even worse, hiding these abuses and demeaning the voices of these brave women willing to come forward.

Football players at all levels and all over the country are being accused of violence and not facing consequences. Whether it was former Florida State quarter-back and Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston being allowed to play in games despite open rape investigations against him that he was forced to settle out of court. Or former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, who only received a two-game suspension for actual confirmed and filmed assault.

How are children supposed to have a reliable role model in players, when Winston is being accused of rape and superstars such as Johnny Manzel are threatening to kill women in fits of rage?

Now, thanks to issues like those caused by Meyer and Paterno, how can a parent feel comfortable sending their sons to these coaches who are supposed to lead and mold them when they are continually facing these scandals?

Sports are supposed to be a refuge for everyone. For many children regardless of race, sex or orientation they can go out play on the field meet friends and escape from some of the harder realities of life. How can the NFL sponsor initiatives like the Play 60 program with constant issues of domestic violence and abuse.

How can you feel comfortable when National Championship winning coaches like Paterno who was probably the closest thing football had to a patriarch hiding the molestation of children? Meyer ignored a player’s issue until it ended in Hernandez committing suicide in a jail cell.

Finally, in a world moving forward and attempting to add diversity how do women feel comfortable working in this culture. How can a woman as a reporter not feel threatened having to confront these coaches when they will beat the women they are married to? How can a trainer feel comfortable being alone with a suspected rapist?

The question facing football at all levels is clear: How do we move past this? The answer is zero tolerance. Do not create an environment where abusers make millions of dollars. Do not treat these grown men like they are children who don’t understand their actions. Do not allow these coaches to build environments that condone or ignore these issues. It’s time to remember they are figures in the public eye with a duty to the children who buy their jerseys, pay for the tickets to see them and spend hours following their stats.

It’s time to move past a day where the only thing that changed about football is the play calling. The world is no longer a boys club and the streets are no longer your locker room.

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It’s time for college football to change