Stacy Elliott hasn’t yet spoken with Urban Meyer since the Ohio State football coach was placed on paid administrative leave last Wednesday, but Elliott wanted Meyer to hear his message on Monday evening.
Elliott, the father of former Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott, was among the roughly 200 to 250 people who gathered in the north rotunda outside Ohio Stadium on Monday for a rally in support of Meyer. And while the rally was led by a 49-year-old Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, resident named Jeff Hamms, aka “Tennessee Jeff,” it was Stacy Elliott – wearing a scarlet Ohio State jersey with his son’s last name and No. 15 on it – whose presence became front and center once Hamms concluded his speech.
Speaking with reporters at the conclusion of the rally, Elliott said he was “devastated” when he heard last week that Ohio State was investigating Meyer – potentially putting his job as the Buckeyes’ coach on the line – because he did not feel that was fair to Meyer.
“I’ve been sick ever since I heard about it,” Elliott said. “Urban Meyer is one of the best things that ever happened to this university … I love Urban Meyer. He’s a man of integrity. I know this.”
Elliott, who has the nickname “Ambassador” and actually spent time working for Meyer as a football program assistant after his son concluded his Ohio State career, described his relationship with Meyer as “a relationship that brothers would have.” He remains grateful to Meyer for the impact that the coach had on his son, who helped lead Ohio State to a national championship in 2014 and was the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year in 2015 before being selected with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft by the Dallas Cowboys, with who he is now entering his third season.
“He took our son, who was a boy, and he trained him, and he carried on what we raised him,” Elliott said. “The principles, the morals, the standards of him becoming a man.”
Meyer said last year – when Ezekiel Elliott was under investigation from the NFL for domestic violence accusations, which ultimately led to a six-game suspension after the league determined that Ezekiel violated its personal conduct policy – that he had a strong relationship with the Elliott family.
“I love Zeke,” Meyer said during an August 2017 interview with SiriusXM Radio. “He’s family for me. We had Thanksgiving together for three years straight that he was here, and I’m very close with his mom and dad and his sisters.”
Ohio State is currently investigating what Meyer knew about and how he handled domestic abuse allegations that were made against former wide receivers coach Zach Smith in 2015. But while Stacy Elliott said he does not condone violence against women, he also said he does not believe Meyer – who said in a statement Friday that he followed proper reporting protocols after learning of the allegations against Smith in 2015 – did anything wrong.
“Anybody who abuses a woman is not right, first and foremost. I would never, and I know Urban Meyer would never, condone a woman being abused. So those who abuse women to need stop right now,” Elliott said, stopping for emphasis between each of the final three words and drawing cheers from the crowd of supporters behind him. “But the truth of the matter based on what we all know, he handled the situation according to how his job required him to. So to hold him in this situation, where he’s got to deal with his emotions not being with his boys and representing this university with the utmost integrity, is wrong.”
“Urban Meyer is one of the best things that ever happened to this university.”– Stacy Elliott
Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension from the NFL last season came after the league determined that Ezekiel violated its personal conduct policy by using physical force to cause injuries to his former girlfriend in July 2016, even though the Columbus prosecutor’s office declined to file charges against him. His initial suspension was followed by a lengthy appeals process, through which Ezekiel repeatedly maintained his innocence, before the suspension was finally enforced.
That experience appeared to shape Stacy Elliott’s response when he was asked about Meyer’s decision to keep Smith on his staff until two weeks ago.
“He handled it accordingly,” Elliott said of Meyer. “Listen, when you’re in the spotlight, there are a lot of people who come out of the woodwork and try to accuse you of things you didn’t do. When I say that, I say that from a position of not giving anybody a free pass for abusing women. But this is the reality. The Elliotts, my family, we’re living this. People come out of the woodwork when you’re in the spotlight, and they make up accusations, and when you’re a just man, you have to ride it out and figure out what is right and what is wrong, but (Meyer) followed the rules of The Ohio State University.”
Even if assumed that Meyer told the truth about reporting through the proper channels what he knew about the allegations against Smith in 2015, there’s still the question of why he said was unaware of the allegations at Big Ten Media Days on July 24. But although it wasn’t hard to predict that Meyer would be asked about the 2015 allegations on that day, one day after he fired Smith, Elliott said he believed Meyer was caught off-guard by the questions.
“If you know Urban Meyer, he has narrow vision,” Elliott said. “He never went to that press conference expecting to deal with something that happened three years ago. Sometimes, I can be in the Woody and Urban will walk right past me when he’s got things on his mind. So it’s not abnormal if you know Urban Meyer.”
Ultimately, Elliott said he believes that Meyer will be reinstated – one of the many comments he made during his interview with the media that drew cheers from the crowd surrounding him – and he believes that any other decision by Ohio State would be a mistake.
“This man is dedicated to the development of young football players,” Elliott said. “This is bigger than football. It’s bigger than X’s and O’s. This is serious. This man has sacrificed his family for the development of athletes. He has taken his family to environments that y’all just don’t know.”
Elliott said he hasn’t called Meyer over the past week because he felt it would be best not to bother Meyer during what he imagines is a emotional time for the coach.
“I’ve been wanting to call Urban. I said, ‘Nah, I’m going to leave him alone,’ because I know he is,” Elliott said. “He’s a man who wears his emotions on his shoulders, and I’m sure he’s dealing with a lot of emotion, because he loves the young men over there.”
When asked whether he would call Meyer later, though, Elliott said he would, then proceeded to speak as if he was talking to Meyer in that very moment.
“You’re damn right I’m going to call him,” Elliott said. “I’m calling him right now. ‘Don’t worry Coach, God is with you!’”