Ohio State has suspended head football coach Urban Meyer three games for mishandling allegations of domestic violence.
Reporting from Stadium’s Brett McMurphy uncovered allegations of domestic violence made against former wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Zach Smith.
More reporting, including an interview on Stadium with Smith’s ex-wife Courtney, indicated Urban Meyer likely knew about the allegations made against Zach Smith in 2015.
Text messages provided by Courtney Smith showed that she had conversations with Shelley Meyer, wife of Urban Meyer, about the alleged assault by Zach Smith, and even sent her the photographs of the bruising, blood, and red marks caused by Zach’s alleged abuse.
While Courtney Smith says Shelley Meyer never confirmed that she told Urban about the allegations, text messages between Courtney and Lindsey Voltolini, wife of one of Urban Meyer’s staff members, suggests Urban had been made aware of the accusations.
Lindsey said in a text message that Urban “just said he [Zach] denied everything,” and that Urban “doesn’t know what to think.”
In a statement released Wednesday evening by Ohio State, the independent counsel said the following:
“We believe [Coach Meyer] as did Zach Smith, that if [Coach Meyer] ever came to learn or believe that Zach Smith had physically abused his wife, Coach Meyer would have fired Zach Smith or any other coach on the spot.”
Zach Smith was the wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator under Urban Meyer and had been an assistant with the Buckeyes since 2012. Smith was a quality control coach and graduate assistant under Meyer at Florida from 2005-’09, and coached under former Meyer assistants Doc Holliday at Marshall in 2010 and Steve Addazio at Temple in 2011.
Zach Smith’s grandfather is Earle Bruce, Ohio State head football coach from 1979-1987, under whom Urban Meyer served as a graduate assistant in 1986 and ’87. Referring to Bruce, Meyer said he is “the strongest relationship I’ve ever had other than my father,” per McMurphy’s story on Meyer’s alleged knowledge of the 2015 incident.
Zach Smith was arrested in 2009 while he was a member of Meyer’s coaching staff at Florida. According to Courtney: “He literally picked me up by my shirt and threw me up against the wall.” She was 8-10 weeks pregnant with their son at the time.
Courtney says she was pressured by Zach’s family, Urban Meyer’s attorney, Earle Bruce, and others to not press charges against Zach.
Zach was investigated on domestic violence and felonious assault allegations on October 26, 2015. Courtney alleges several other incidences of domestic violence spanning from the first incident in 2009 until the final physical incident and their divorce, which was filed in 2015 and finalized in 2016.
While Meyer acknowledged knowing about the 2009 incident, he claimed, “what was reported wasn’t actually what happened.”
According to Courtney Smith in her interview with Stadium, “Everything that is stated in the police report is correct.”
At Big Ten Media Days in July, Meyer was asked about Smith’s 2015 incident and responded, “I know nothing about it.” He later released a statement admitting knowledge of that incident, saying, “I have always followed proper reporting protocols and procedures when I have learned of an incident involving a student-athlete, coach or member of our staff by elevating the issues to the proper channels. And, I did so regarding the Zach Smith incident in 2015.”
In a press conference Wednesday evening, lead investigator Mary Jo White commented, “We ultimately did not conclude that Urban Meyer deliberately lied at Big Ten Media Days.”
Meyer commented later in the press conference adding, “Most of what I know about Zach Smith is work related. The biggest regret is I wish I knew more. If so, I would have taken action much quicker.”
Meyer is suspended through Sept. 2, and for Ohio State’s games against Oregon State, Rutgers, and TCU. His suspension is without pay. Athletic Director Gene Smith has been suspended from Aug. 31-Sept. 16 without pay.