I watched Ohio State upset Alabama in the college football semifinals last night and found myself rooting for an Urban Meyer team for the first time. It all stemmed from Meyer's apology in 2012 for the color of practice shirts worn by players that were seen as an insult to gay people.
During Meyer's first offseason practices in 2012, any player seen loafing was forced to wear lavender jersey. This decision was criticized by LGBT groups at Ohio State, who noted that lavender has long been associated with gays, and the shirts were designed to stigmatize players.
There was some quibble over the actual color of the loafing jerseys, but Meyer quickly put on end to any controversy by writing a letter of apology to Scarlet & Gay, Ohio State's LGBT advocacy group:
Thank you for sharing your concerns regarding the purple mesh pullovers. The use if purple was never intended to offend anyone but since it has, we have taken steps to change the color.
Please accept our sincere apologies. We have core values of respect and honor within our program, and these are two principles that are central to my personal life, my coaching philosophy, and to Ohio State and its athletics programs. Bias has absolutely no role in how we think or operate.
It was impressive that Meyer saw that the jerseys had a perceived negative impact to an important group on campus and instead of digging his heels in, changed the shirt color and moved on.
The opposing coach against Meyer, Oregon's Mark Helfrich has also been great on the gay issue, with these comments when asked this summer about the reaction should a Ducks player come out as gay:
"I don't think we would even bat an eye. ..."Football is the ultimate meritocracy. If a person is a teammate, it doesn't matter where they're from, what color they are, their sexual orientation. ... I think we're going to look back on this [in the future] ... going, 'What were all these people thinking?' "
The two teams playing for the college football title -- Ohio State and Oregon -- both have strong LGBT campus policies, so either winning the title is fine by me.