Sorry, Not Sorry

We always talk with the speakers we coach about the importance of delivery. We help them see the job that your voice and your non-verbal communications can do to reinforce your authenticity or take away from the words you deliver and the impact of your message.

It was the first week of my SPCH 201 class at Winthrop when an example fell into my lap.

Urban Meyer Incident Background

The Ohio State Head Football Coach, Urban Meyer, was placed on administrative leave on August 1 while the University conducted an independent review of how much Meyer knew (and when he knew) about domestic violence and other misconduct allegations against an assistant coach.

On Wednesday, August 22, results of the review were presented to the OSU President and Board of Trustees. After a lengthy meeting, they announced a three-game suspension for Urban Meyer and a similar suspension for athletic director, Gene Smith.

Shortly after that there was a press conference with statements from President Michael Drake, Gene Smith and Urban Meyer.

Urban-Meyer-OS

Let’s Do an Experiment, Read the Transcript of Meyer’s Statement

Army West Point vs. The Ohio State University at Ohio State, Sept. 16, 2017.  (U.S. Army photo by Cadet Thomas Matty)
Urban Meyer

I know that the impact that the events last three weeks have had on this institution, an institution that I love and how challenging this has been for our community, our president, a man who I have great respect for and for that I am deeply sorry.

I am fully aware that I’m ultimately responsible for the situation that has harmed the university as a whole and our department of athletics and our football program.

I want to apologize to Buckeye Nation.

I followed my heart and not my head and was short in pursuing information and at each juncture, I gave Zach Smith the benefit of the doubt.

As I reflect my loyalty to his grandfather Earle Bruce who was my mentor and like a father to me and likely impacted how I treated Zach over the years. I did not everything about Zach Smith which was what Zach Smith was doing and I’m pleased that the report made this very clear. However, I should have demanded more from him and recognized red flags.

I needed to show more care and concern for the entirety of the situation and the people involved. I should have been more demanding of him in the same way I am of my players, other staff members and myself.

I should have done more and I am sorry for that.

I did a poor job at Media Day. It’s a big reason why we are here today. I was not being as complete and as accurate as I should have been on Media Day and afterward but no intent to mislead. My role is to set a good example and in this instance I did not live up to the university’s standards.

The suspensions are tough but I fully accept them. I wished go back and make different decisions but I can’t. These difficult lessons are a constant reminder of the duties and obligations that I have as a member of this universities and this community.

I take full responsibility—I take this responsibility very seriously and I will do better.

I’ve been a buckeye my entire life. For the past six years and worked diligently to build a great program for the state of Ohio and Ohio State can be very proud of and I appreciate the opportunity to learn from a mistake and work as hard as I ever had to make our strong program even stronger.

Thank you very much.

Compare the Statement to the Video

Do the Words and the Delivery Match?

My students said (by the way, most did not know about the situation, but at least one student knew and provided the background to the rest of the class):

“He’s not sorry.”

I responded, “What makes you say that? He said he was sorry.

They had a lot to say about that.

“His body language said he wasn’t.”
“He didn’t make eye contact.”
“He never apologized to the victim.”
“He was monotone.”
“He read the statement.”
“It was like he didn’t write it, and he didn’t believe it.”

Bingo!

Meyer was universally criticized in the sports and news media for his statement. The experts had the same evaluation that my students did. They, unlike my students, knew that Meyer can be a charismatic speaker. They also knew that he has a large ego that was insulted by questions about his judgement and character. But you did not have to know that to have a harsh evaluation of his press conference appearance. His response to questions during the question and answer portion of the press conference did nothing, but reinforce those views.

Since that time, Meyer has taken to Twitter numerous times (1) (2)  to apologize for his apology (that’s never a good sign). Before his return to the field as coach on September 22, he participated in an on-camera interview with ESPN and a press conference, all roundly criticized. Credibility lost with most everyone, but the Buckeye faithful.

Sometimes you can learn from a bad example.

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Susie Adams

Susie Adams has 30 years in communications. Accomplished in public relations, media training and crisis communications, she is known for her intuitive wisdom around even the most difficult messaging challenge. Read more about Susie at Interact or seek her on Twitter: @cltdogmom