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Ohio State's Tom Herman name-drop stokes fire for potential rivalry as Urban Meyer scandal drama rages on

Columnist
Yahoo Sports

Ohio State isn’t usually very interested in confirming things, certainly not when it comes to its vaunted football program. No one in college football is. Half of these places treat depth charts like nuclear secrets.

Part of the Buckeyes’ current scandal that has left coach Urban Meyer suspended for the first three games of the season includes four members of the athletic department, including the boss, athletic director Gene Smith, completely ignoring an open-records request for Meyer’s emails and text messages that, by law, are public record. They didn’t care.

It continues with a discussion between Meyer and a staffer about how to delete text messages from Meyer’s phone that were over a year old. When investigators eventually got said phone, there were no text messages more than a year old. Perhaps it was a coincidence.

There are also text messages between Meyer and his agent the day after Meyer was initially suspended that featured the agent telling Meyer he was sending two women over to Meyer’s home (“Laura and Colleen”) and “they anticipate that they will need 4 hours with your phone.”

Four hours to do what? Maybe they wanted to play Fortnite on it.

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Pretty much the university’s only comments on the scandal and Meyer’s suspension came at a news conference it staged before the release of a 23-page investigative report. By holding the report until after, the school protected Meyer and Gene Smith from significant questions.

As a way of safeguarding the institution, not confirming much of anything is probably the smart play here. Crisis management is what it is.

Yet Tuesday evening the school broke its silence on providing further details about the Meyer investigation.

It confirmed at least one thing, telling the Columbus Dispatch the identity of a second assistant coach who went to a Miami strip club in 2014 with Zach Smith, who has been repeatedly accused of assaulting his ex-wife, Courtney.

That assistant coach?

Then-Buckeye offensive coordinator Tom Herman, who just happens to be the current head coach of the University of Texas.

Do Ohio State’s Urban Meyer and Texas’ Tom Herman have a budding rivalry? (Getty)

Oh boy, now here’s some spice for college football in what may be the best budding rivalry/feud in years. This is the good stuff.

Herman was previously accused of leaking Zach Smith’s background to reporter Brett McMurphy, who initially broke the story. The motive was supposedly that he was upset that Ohio State beat the Longhorns for a recruit out of Austin. McMurphy, Herman and Herman’s wife (who was close with Zach Smith’s wife) denied the report.

That was kind of fun. Everyone loves a who-done-it and the suggestion that Herman, who was Meyer’s right-hand man when the Buckeyes won the 2014 national championship, was now backstabbing his former boss was a delicious bit of preseason drama.

Even if it might not be true.

Well, with Ohio State speaking Herman’s name now it makes it clear that people in Columbus still believe Herman was the leaker, no matter the denials out of UT.

The fact is, of all things, what the school decided to expound upon and clear up from its questionable and question-filled investigative report says it all.

Snitches get stitches. Or strippers. Or something.

Make no mistake, the actual strip-club visit is pointless and may have been initially included in the report only because it’s titillating enough that Ohio State knew it would distract fans and media from the far more germane and troubling issues that were mostly buried.

Of all the things Zach Smith did, this was nothing. For Tom Herman, it may have been even less.

Still, Ohio State wanted the world to know that “in connection with an out-of-town recruiting trip to Florida, Zach Smith ran up a significant bill at a local strip club along with another OSU football coach and one or more high school coaches … according to an iPhone screen-capture of a checking account statement dated May 8, 2014, Zach Smith spent approximately $600 of his personal funds at a Miami strip club.”

So Zach Smith spent $600 of his own money at a strip club? So? It’s not like Nevin Shapiro was there. Besides, Zach Smith not expensing the tab might be the most ethical act that dirtbag has accomplished over the past decade. Oh, another coach was there? What’s the point?

The presence of some local high school coaches could possibly be an NCAA violation if they didn’t pay their own way, but good luck proving that. College recruiters taking middle men out to gentlemen’s clubs is the oldest recruiting tactic in the book.

The confirmation that Herman was there (which was already the rumor) was just straight salt, a savage bit of aggressiveness designed to give him some possible embarrassment and probably a meeting with the UT compliance department.

For the rest of us, this was a wonderfully aggressive play by OSU.

Tom Herman helped Cardale Jones go from third-string to national championship quarterback in three quick games. He then hugged Meyer and went off to be a head coach. It all seemed so happy and perfect back then. Now this.

For college football, this part is great. You need rivalries. You need bad blood, even if it’s just perceived. You need intrigue and mystery and the potential that everyone is trying to knee cap each other. You need the absurdity of a university communications office acting like a rivals.com message-board poster.

You need Ohio State messin’ with Texas and hopefully the two meeting up somewhere, somehow. (They are scheduled to play in 2025 and 2026, but that’s way too far off.)

It all makes the sport more entertaining, because what’s more fun than a bunch of rich football coaches beefing over a strip-club visit?

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