The crowd in the loading dock of the Longaberger Alumni House began as just a handful of media members.
When members of the Meyer family that arrived — first Ohio State football head coach Urban Meyer around 10 a.m. and later his wife Shelley around 2:30 p.m. — the crowd grew larger.
As the day waned and the uncertainty around the Board of Trustees meeting deciding the fate of the Buckeyes’ head coach grew, the fans started to fill in. It started with a few , led by “Tennessee Jeff” Hamms, the organizer of the “Save Urban” rally sitting with two others in lawn chairs.
Eventually, the crowd around the Meyers’ cars grew to nearly 50 people consisting of freshmen, sophomores, juniors, seniors and other non-students alike. The freshmen waved their new iPads displaying messages like “Free Urban” and chanting “Urban Meyer.” One fan in a lawn chair blasted a band version of “Hang on Sloopy.”
For the press members — now completely outnumbered by the fans — and the remainder of the spectators, this was the product of a wave of uncertainty that continued to grow with every new development that happened throughout the day.
When Ohio State announced a Board of Trustees meeting would convene on Wednesday morning to discuss personnel matters, it appeared the end of the Meyer investigation was in sight.
After nearly a minute in public session, the board went into executive session to privately discuss the results of the investigation and decide the fate of Meyer as head coach.
Over 12 hours passed since the board meeting convened, but the board eventually decided to suspend Meyer without pay through Sept. 2 as well as the first three games of the season. Athletic Director Gene Smith was suspended as well from Aug. 31 until Sept. 16.
Members of the press became restless. Twitter was rampant with questions and speculation about what was going on behind closed doors.
However, Washington Post reporter Chuck Culpepper said this has not been dissimilar to other stories that have received national attention. He likened it to when a horse underwent surgery at the Belmont Stakes and there was no word on the progress.
“We were waiting all day to see how the horse would be coming out of surgery, this is of course vastly different from that,” Culpepper said. “But I think with most of them, when there’s a brand involved, they exercise real caution and they don’t share a lot.”
Culpepper said when he arrived in Columbus on Tuesday from his home in New York, he expected to be in the city a while. He booked his hotel for the whole week, and believed when he arrived at the meeting in the morning a decision would not be made until later in the week.
But about an hour after the board went into executive session, Meyer arrived. Then, a podium, four chairs and a backdrop were spotted being set up in the Grand Lounge where the public session took place.
At this point, Culpepper said he began to believe an announcement would be made Wednesday.
“When they started putting the chairs and when Meyer got here, I thought there might be a fast wrap-up,” he said. “And then it’s all been guessing since then.”
Instead, the media and fans were kept largely in the dark. The only thing members of Ohio State’s communications team would tell the press were that there was still uncertainty whether an announcement would be made on Wednesday.
Speculation as to what might happen was fueled by the departure of vice chair Abigail Wexner, the arrival of Meyer’s wife Shelley, comments made by board member Clark Kellogg about reading his book during a break and the board’s decision to order pizza for the press.
Sporting News reporter Bill Bender said that with an investigation that has captured the national spotlight, there was additional pressure by Ohio State and President Michael Drake to ensure a correct decision was made. Any ruling on the results could set a precedent for future cases and would certainly draw the ire of some fans regardless of the outcome.
“Urban Meyer even said as much, this is more than one person, this is about an entire community, and I’m sure they will get criticized no matter what, probably, by somebody,” Bender said. “But that shouldn’t matter; the most important part is that they get to the facts of what happened and make sure they make the proper decision.”
Ultimately, Bender said the confusion today could have been avoided if the problem had been addressed earlier. Meyer exacerbated the story when he did not answer truthfully at Big Ten Media Days.
Bender called the chaotic final days of the investigation “a fitting finish” for something that would not have faced as much drama if Meyer had addressed the allegations truthfully from the beginning.
“I think it’s a lesson for athletic departments in general to make sure you have all of your bases covered between players, coaches and training staff,” Bender said. “If you even look at Maryland, they all have to be on the same page. Had you told me we’d be here at Big Ten Media Days on July 24, I would have said no way.”