Ohio State football: What we know about Urban Meyer situation
From Zach Smith’s time as graduate assistant at Florida to the latest on Ohio State’s investigation into what Meyer knew about Smith’s alleged abuse.
SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports’ Dan Wolken discusses reports that Ohio State coach Urban Meyer knew about domestic violence allegations against a former assistant. USA TODAY Sports
Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer is on administrative leave as the university investigates claims that Meyer knew about domestic-violence allegations against former wide receivers coach Zach Smith.
Here’s what we know so far as the university begins its investigation.
Meyer and Smith’s history
Smith worked under Meyer as a graduate assistant intern at Florida from 2007-2009 before joining Meyer at Ohio State in 2012. Smith also is tied to Meyer through his grandfather, the late Ohio State coach Earle Bruce. Meyer began his coaching career as an assistant under Bruce at Ohio State in 1986.
Smith fired July 23Ohio State fired Smith after a history of domestic violence allegations surfaced — and three days after Smith’s ex-wife filed a domestic violence protection order against the former Buckeyes assistant.The day after Smith’s firing, July 24 at Big Ten media days, Meyer denied knowing that Smith was accused of domestic violence in 2015, saying, “I was never told about anything,” and that an inquiry into that specific episode originally found “nothing.” He added that Smith’s firing was a “very tough call” and “a group decision from several people I rely on.”Meyer acknowledged knowing of a 2009 incident, saying he and his wife, Shelley, tried to help the couple find counseling. In that 2009 altercation between Zach and then-wife Courtney Smith, Zach Smith was arrested and charged with felony assault following an altercation with his then-pregnant wife, who ultimately declined to file charges.
Courtney Smith’s allegations Courtney Smith told college football reporter Brett McMurphy that “all the (coaches’) wives knew. They all did. Every single one.”In an interview with the sports-streaming website Stadium, Smith said she believes Meyer had direct knowledge of her ex-husband’s domestic violence issues while under Meyer at Ohio State. “I do believe he (Meyer) knew, but instead he chose to help the abuser and enable the abuser and believed whatever story Zach was telling everybody. He’s going to tell everybody I’m crazy and I’m making this up. That’s not the case. No one from the university came to me and asked me for my side of the story.
They knew there was an investigation going on and not once did anyone call me and ask me what happened.”On Wednesday, nine police reports of domestic violence disputes in Powell, Ohio, between Zach and Courtney Smith surfaced, stretching from 2012-18. The couple divorced in November 2015. In 2017 and 2018, Zach Smith faced numerous charges that included trespassing, stalking and harassment — all leading to the civil protection order on July 20, three days before Smith was fired.
Smith said Shelley Meyer, Urban’s wife, never confirmed that Urban directly knew of the abuse. University responds
As details emerged Wednesday, Meyer was put on paid administrative leave. The university said in a statement: “We are focused on supporting our players and on getting to the truth as expeditiously as possible.”
Ohio State’s offensive coordinator, Ryan Day, was put in charge of the football program as interim head coach. The 39-year-old has a relatively low profile.
The Buckeyes open practice Friday. On Thursday, the school announced all practices would be closed ”until further notice” and Day and the players would not be available to the media.Meyer could be fired with cause
Meyer’s contract extension signed in April contained new provisions that could give the university latitude to fire him for cause, depending on the outcome of its investigation. The contract amendment includes two new specific contract provisions that could be at issue.
A provision was added to duties and responsibilities that reads in part: “Coach shall promptly report to Ohio State’s Deputy Title IX Coordinator for Athletics any known violations of Ohio State’s Sexual Misconduct Policy (including, but not limited to, sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, intimate violence and stalking) that involve any student, faculty, or staff that is in connection with a university sponsored activity or event.”
For the purposes of this provision, the contract states, “a ‘known violation’ shall mean a violation or an allegation of a violation of Title IX that Coach is aware of or has reasonable cause to believe is taking place or may have taken place.”
A provision was added to termination for cause that states Meyer’s contract can be terminated if he fails to promptly report to the university’s deputy Title IX coordinator-athletics or the university’s Title IX coordinator “any known violations of Ohio State’s Sexual Misconduct Policy (including, but not limited to, sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, intimate violence and stalking) that involve any student, faculty, or staff that is in connection with a university sponsored activity or event.”
Contributing: Paul Myerberg, Steve Berkowitz