Ohio State fans are rallying to show their support for Urban Meyer both online and on the ground in Columbus as the head coach remains on administrative leave pending the results of an ongoing investigation.
More than 23,000 people have signed a digital petition as of Monday morning to keep Meyer from being "wrongfully fired" in the wake of the coach admitting he failed to disclose what he knew and when he knew about allegations that a former assistant physically abused his ex-wife. Fans of Meyer are also planning a demonstration of support outside the campus football stadium.
"This will be a brief rally. Nothing but positive words for our coach," Jeff Hamms, the event's organizer, said in a Facebook post Sunday night. "That's all this is about. This has nothing to do with any of the domestic violence situation with [our ex-] coach. This is simply to lift up Urban Meyer. That's it."
Ohio State placed Meyer on paid administrative leave last week after Courtney Smith, the ex-wife of former Buckeyes coach Zach Smith, told college football reporter Brett McMurphy that Meyer knew about a domestic abuse incident in 2015 and did not act. A week before Courtney Smith's interview, Meyer told reporters that he was unaware of any issues the Smiths had in 2015 and "never had a conversation" about the alleged incident.
Meyer backtracked Friday in a written statement in which he said he followed proper protocol in reporting the 2015 incident. He apologized and said he was "not adequately prepared to discuss these sensitive personnel issues with the media" when he denied any knowledge of the 2015 incident. Meyer's statement was released while Zach Smith was in the middle of an interview with ESPN. Smith told ESPN that Meyer pulled him out of a practice in October 2015 to ask about the incident.
Smith said he would be heartbroken if Meyer lost his job because of the way he has handled this situation.
"If the pressure builds on this to the point where Urban Meyer would lose his job, that's a crime on everyone else," Smith said. "That's not a crime on him. He did nothing wrong. He didn't know about half of the allegations or most of the allegations that are being thrown out like there is some serial abuser here. The ones he knew about, he handled the perfect way."
Not everyone in Columbus has thrown their unconditional support behind Meyer in the past week. Some fans have said they want to hear more information before making up their minds about whether they would be happy if Meyer remained as the head of the Buckeyes' program.
"I think it's bigger than football. It's bigger than Urban Meyer," said Aghiad Daboul, a sophomore at Ohio State. "It's about the university and the name of the university as a whole. ... If letting go of Urban Meyer is the best thing for the university, and if he truly turned a blind eye to that, then yes, I think he should go."
Hamms, who organized the rally, said the feedback he's received has been 95 percent positive. He said he has received some pushback and at least one person has asked him not to hold the rally.
The rally Monday night will take place outside Ohio Stadium.