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Sorry, Not Sorry

by on August 27, 2018 4:45 AM

When I watched the video of Ohio State football coach apologizing for his handling of domestic violence allegations against a recently terminated assistant coach, I was reminded of a phrase that is popular among young people.

The online Urban Dictionary describes the slang phrase “Sorry, not sorry” as one that is typically used when one doesn’t really care if his or her behavior upsets someone else. In other words, the person may say they are sorry but they really don’t care.

If you watch the video of Meyer apologizing for not taking action earlier and for his “poor job” of answering media questions in July, you will see a man who is saying at least some of the right words but doesn’t seem all that contrite. His Twitter follow up in which he finally remembered to mention the name of the alleged victim in the case only added fuel to the fire.

Sorry, not sorry.

The story goes that this assistant coach, Zach Smith, was trouble and people knew about it. Bad decisions both on and off campus, including allegations of physically abusing his wife, Courtney Smith. He was arrested in 2009, when Courtney was two months pregnant, for aggravated battery, though charges were never filed because of insufficient evidence. Courtney Smith filed another police report alleging domestic abuse in 2015, though again charges were not filed. She later granted a restraining order.

Text messages from 2015 reportedly show Courtney Smith had discussed the abuse allegations with Meyer’s wife, who expressed concern. When asked about the assistant coach’s behavior at Big Ten media day, Urban Meyer said he was aware of the 2009 incident, when Smith was on his staff at Florida, and reported it to his bosses, but denied knowing anything about the 2015 incident until the night before. It all went downhill after that.

It’s far from the first time Meyer’s teams have encountered serious legal trouble. During his six-year tenure at the University of Florida, where he won two national championships, more than 30 players were arrested on a variety of charges including aggravated assault, stalking and strangulation -- some of those crimes against women. And in many cases, the punishments seemed lacking, with allegations that star players received preferential treatment.

Wins. Titles. Crimes against women. Sorry, not sorry. As a husband and father of daughters, how does one look away?

Thankfully, Ohio State’s internal investigation found some evidence of wrongdoing and suspended Meyer from being on the field for three games this season although he’ll still have an opportunity to continue to work with the team during those weeks. Ohio State’s athletic director was also reprimanded and suspended for about two weeks without pay.  

Three games and he still gets to work with the team. Wow. It sounds like the administration at OSU is Sorry, not sorry, too.

There were rumors in November 2011 that Meyer had met with a realtor in State College and was in line to come out of his “retirement” to succeed Penn State Coach Joe Paterno.

I am definitely not sorry that was just a rumor.

In the days since Paterno did tell his superiors about the alleged crimes of a then former assistant coach, we have seen the vilification of a coach, a university and a community like no other. Sanctions. Millions of dollars. Changes in building access. Mandatory reporting for all university employees. Since that time Nittany Nation has put our nose to the grindstone, worked to make sure that nothing like this will ever happen again in our community and have served as a role model for other university communities.  We hired coaches who, through character and standards of excellence, set expectations for behaviors both on the field and off the field. The successes of both Bill O’Brien and James Franklin came under daunting circumstances from which our community is still recovering. The Grand Experiment continues. The culture of excellence that is Penn State is and has been evident both on and off the field.

Character and wins are not mutually exclusive terms.

Not doing the right thing when faced with the conduct of a member of his team. Three-game suspension.  Lackluster apology. Sorry, not sorry.


Patty Kleban is an instructor at Penn State, mother of three and a community volunteer. She is a Penn State Alumna. Readers of State College Magazine voted her Best Writer of 2010 and 2012. She and her family live in Patton Township. Her views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State.
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