Required viewing: Fifty Shades of Scarlet & Gray

The inquiry into Urban Meyer's return to the sidelines is nearing its conclusion, or is it?

The committee weighing the future of Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer has a compressed schedule if it is to finish its work as promised on Sunday.

But between now and then, the august body zeroing in on its conclusion must nevertheless consider some salacious new facts contained in something which could be titled, Fifty Shades of Scarlet and Gray.

A report on Friday from Stadium, a digital sports network based in Chicago, gave lurid details about the behavior of former assistant coach Zach Smith.

Reporter Brett McMurphy, citing photos and documents obtained from Smith’s ex-wife, Courtney, reported Smith had sex toys shipped to the OSU football offices, took photos of his genitalia in the school’s football facility and in a White House bathroom on the team’s 2015, and took photos of himself engaged in various sex acts, including one with an OSU staff member, at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center on campus.

This is exactly the sort of October Surprise that Ohio State risked by announcing and committing to a 14-day conclusion to its investigation before the inquiry began.

It’s therefore a benefit, albeit a stunning blockbuster, for such details about Smith’s behavior while on Meyer’s staff to become public at this time.

Stadium published the story after OSU re-affirmed its investigation would end Sunday, but that school president Michael Drake and the Board of Trustees would take some time after before announcing its decision next week.

As has been the case since shortly after OSU placed Meyer on administrative leave Aug. 1, the latest revelations moved few of the legion of partisans invested in Meyer’s future out of the trench in which they were already embedded.

To the national crowd calling for Meyer’s job, Smith’s lurid behavior is one more instance of Meyer’s tolerance for an assistant who has now embarrassed Ohio State on an entirely different front.

They will argue that if Meyer didn’t know these latest sensationalist details, he should have known. Or, at the very least, abiding Smith as an assistant after multiple other incidents provided ample reason to fire him, not doing so inextricably links Meyer to everything Smith did.

To the fans of Buckeye football who want Meyer completely exonerated and returned to the sidelines immediately, disclosure of Smith’s brazenness only confirms McMurphy’s vendetta against Meyer and OSU.

How could the coach have known about any of this? And they’ll contend that if Meyer didn’t know, it is supremely unfair to sanction him for any of it.

While the Committee has primarily focused on Meyer’s awareness of a 2015 domestic violence incident involving Smith and his ex-wife, its ultimate charge and that of Drake and the Board is to determine Meyer’s fitness as a steward of the football program and the players and coaches under his command.

They must also determine if Meyer, as the highest-paid and highest-profile representative of Ohio State, can effectively continue in his role as the face of the school.

For that reason, the lurid details of Smith’s sex toy shipments and sexual acts are extremely relevant to the work of the committee, Drake and the Board.

Here’s why:

All of Smith’s brazenness took place on campus, within the confines of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, or at the White House on a visit where he was an official representative of Ohio State University.

The disclosure of those facts compel the Committee to ask hard questions of secretaries, trainers and an entire spate of potential witnesses who were not germane to the investigation before.

What did they know, see, hear and believe about any or all of Smith’s actions, because if they knew these details, that indicts the oversight of the program, which ultimately falls upon Meyer.

Perhaps Smith engaged in this behavior as part of a secret life. Or perhaps he bragged about his sexploits to colleagues and co-workers?

As uncomfortable or embarrassing as exploring this entirely new portion of questions may be for committee members who typically traffic in matters of much greater propriety and politeness, it is imperative to wade into the swamp of Smith’s life because of Meyer’s blind spot for Smith's multiple failings.

How big that blind spot was, and how much it obscured judgment Meyer is paid to guard staunchly as a representative of Ohio State, will drive the Committee’s recommendation to Drake and his decision in concert with the Board.

Drake said on Thursday the matter will be “finished when it is finished.”

Now, that end seems a whole lot farther away.

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

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