Ohio State football's loss to Purdue on Saturday wasn't great for the rising concern over Urban Meyer's future with the Buckeyes.
Meyer began the year with a suspension, stemming from his handling of the Zach Smith situation which came to a head just before Big Ten media days. Meyer's been back for a few weeks now, but the team didn't take a giant leap forward with he, rather than offensive coordinator Ryan Day, running things.
Part of that is definitely due to a step up in opposition. Still, any time a top five team loses like Ohio State did at Purdue, it will raise questions.
Paul Finebaum has stuck with the prediction that Meyer will be out at Ohio State at season's end. He hasn't wavered on that since the beginning of the season.
Now, other reports seem to back up the idea.
On Monday, FootballScoop reported there is "friction" between Meyer and other parts of the Ohio State football program and athletic department.
The past few weeks industry sources have mentioned to FootballScoop issues at Ohio State between the football staff and athletics leadership as well as within the program itself. Multiple times, the term “friction” has been used to describe issues between Urban Meyer and Gene Smith (and their respective key lieutenants). Within the football program itself, it has been said there is a tension that hasn’t been present in previous years.
Purdue’s beat down of the Buckeyes brought considerable additional attention on the program and has many talking about the issues within the program.
Paul Finebaum joined Outside The Lines today to discuss the Urban Meyer issues at Ohio State, and he expanded on his thoughts that the national championship-winning coach will be out.
247Sports transcribed some of Finebaum's comments:
“'It’s interesting that the team seemed to be reacting better when Urban Meyer was not a part of the team as opposed to when he came back,' Finebaum said Tuesday during an appearance on Outside the Lines. 'He just looks lost to me on the sideline. He looks disconnected, disjointed. And we’re talking about one of the best coaches in modern football history and it’s sad to watch. In many ways, he probably should have been let go at the time. Why Ohio State sold its soul to let him come back -- I’m not sure, well I guess I am sure. It’s all about winning. It’s all about trying to get a national championship that I don’t think they’re going to get right now.'
"Finebaum went with the argument that the three-game suspension he received fueled the growing friction. Suspended three games for his handling of the Smith family domestic violence situation, Meyer did not take the punishment well in Finebaum’s opinion.
"'That was so easy to read on his face that day,' Finebaum said. 'Listen, he’s tried to clean it up several times with the statement that he ended up deleting and apologizing for again. Ultimately, a month ago, the sitdown with Tom Rinaldi revealed Urban Meyer’s character. He can’t deal with the reality of someone telling him what to do. In that interview, he still couldn’t deal with Courtney Smith. He did not want to acknowledge that he had been wrong and she had been abused. He didn’t know how to say, ‘I’m sorry.’”
More, from Finebaum on Outside The Lines, speaking to host Kate Fagan:
"I'm hearing a lot of whispers that this will be Urban Meyer's final season in Columbus, and you go back to August with the controversy over Zach Smith, you talk about Gene Smith, the tension between them—you saw it at that press conference. You also know by now that a member of the Board of Trustees wanted more severe punishment and wound up resigning.
"That was before the season started, and of course Urban missed the first couple games, and since he's been back Ohio State had won until Saturday night, coming from behind to beat Penn State, but they have not looked good. Urban Meyer's demeanor on the sidelines has been curious. He's complained several times of headaches. And having covered Urban Meyer at the University of Florida, Kate, this looks like a re-run, this looks like déjà vu. Urban Meyer walked away down there when the pressure got too much, and I believe he'll do the same thing at the end of the season here."
Based on all of this, Finebaum's initial prediction may have been prophetic.
Ohio State is one of the top programs in all of college football. If any team can bounce back from the abrupt departure of a coach like Meyer, the Buckeyes are on the shortlist. Still, just a few months ago, no one thought this is how things would end for Meyer in Columbus.
That all being said, there is plenty more football to be played this year, and OSU remains in the College Football Playoff picture. For better or worse, wins on the gridiron can solve a lot of problems in the eyes of the Ohio State community.