A right and wrong way to handle domestic abuse

 Orlando sports writer Mike Bianchi is someone who changed his mind just a year ago about former Husker football coach Tom Osborne, believing for decades that he was a win-at-all-cost coach when he kept junior running back Lawrence Phillips on the team after he beat up an ex-girlfriend in the early morning hours on Sept. 10, 1995.
Biahchi, like so many others, assumed Osborne did so just to win another championship.
And like that episode years ago, the news that Ohio State head football coach Urban Meyer had been put on administrative leave hit the college football world like a ton of bricks.
When I first heard about the Buckeye coach, I immediately sent out a few texts, asking friends and family if they had seen the reports, too.
But wasn’t it just two weeks ago when Meyer, standing in front of a live microphone before hundreds of journalists at Big Ten media days, denied knowing anything about the 2015 abuse incident of former assistant coach Zach Smith?
Denying it to everyone with all those cameras rolling? Seriously? How could you not know, coach?
While Ohio State’s hierarchy is left to clean up yet another football coaching mess at that school, I couldn’t help but think back to Phillips and Osborne, memories of a spectacular running back who had trouble coping with life off the field and away from the stadium lights.
If you remember, Phillips and the Huskers dismantled Nick Saban and his Michigan State Spartans on the road by the score of 50-10 on Sept. 9. The Husker junior went wild, rushing for 206 yards and scoring four touchdowns as Nebraska racked up 666 yards in total offense. But when the team returned home later that night, Phillips showed up at Scott Frost’s apartment and dragged 20-year old NU basketball player Kate McEwen down three flights of stairs by her hair, ramming her head into a mailbox.
Frost was a sophomore at the time and was sitting out the season after transferring from Stanford.
The whole incident was, and in many ways still is, a black eye for the football program, and it overshadowed one of the greatest seasons in college football history.
Osborne initially dismissed Phillips, then had second thoughts and only suspended him, keeping him on scholarship and on the team when the national media were saying to kick him off.
But that isn’t how Nebraska’s coach operated. He never gave up on Phillips, that year or later, not until he hung himself in prison in January of 2016.
Phillips would return late in the season and helped Nebraska to a 62-24 whitewash of Florida for the national championship.
One sit-down interview with Osborne changed Bianchi’s mind about the entire Phillips situation. Lawrence Phillips without football was a powder keg ready to explode.
While these two domestic abuse situations are years apart and maybe light years apart in the details, what’s clear are the two coaches’ behaviors.
Osborne came out publicly with the details and suspended Phillips immediately. Everything was up front and out in the open. Meyer not only chose to look the other way back in 2009 and in 2015, but then he double-downed, denying knowledge two weeks ago in Chicago.
Digging through some old magazines following the Huskers’ huge win over the Gators, one ironic headline read, “A Fitting Finale: Once believed to be down and out Lawrence Phillips has the last word.”
Struck me like a ton of bricks.
DAVE BRADLEY can be reached at advertising@hamilton.net.

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