Urban Meyer’s Suspension: What Did Ohio State Coach Do?

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Getty Urban Meyer was suspended for the first three games of Ohio State's season.

Urban Meyer was suspended for three games by Ohio State for his handling of the situation surrounding former assistant Zach Smith. A report conducted by investigators detailed some of Meyers’ missteps in handling the Smith situation, who has been accused of being physically abusive by his ex-wife, Courtney Smith. Here is Ohio State’s statement on the suspension, per Eleven Warriors.

Although neither Urban Meyer nor Gene Smith condoned or covered up the alleged domestic abuse by Zach Smith, they failed to take sufficient management action relating to Zach Smith’s misconduct and retained an Assistant Coach who was not performing as an appropriate role model for OSU student-athletes. Permitting such misconduct to continue is not consistent with the values of the University and reflects poorly on Coach Meyer, Athletic Director Smith, and the University. Their handling of this matter did not exhibit the kind of leadership and high standards that we expect of our Athletic Director, Head Coach, Assistant Coaches and all on the football staff. Urban Meyer is suspended through September 2, 2018, and for the games on September 1, 8 and 15 without pay. Gene Smith is suspended without pay from August 31-September 16.

At Big Ten Media Days, Meyers denied knowledge of Smith’s 2015 domestic violence investigation even though he would later say he misspoke. When Meyer handed over his phone to investigators, all text messages older than a year had been deleted. Ohio State’s report summary provided an overview of some of the troubling parts of the case, including Meyer potentially deleting old messages after learning about Brett McMurphy’s report, per ESPN.

On Aug. 1, after a published report indicated that Urban and Shelley Meyer were aware of Courtney Smith’s allegations of abuse and a police investigation in 2015, OSU chief of football operations Brian Voltolini approached Meyer on the practice field and advised him that it was a “bad article.” The summary report claims the men “specifically discussed how to adjust the settings on Meyer’s phone so that text messages older than one year would be deleted.”

“Our review of Coach Meyer’s phone revealed no messages older than one year, indicating that at the time it was obtained by OSU on August 2nd, Coach Meyer’s phone was set to retain text messages only for that period, as Coach Meyer and Brian Voltolini discussed,” the report said.

“We cannot determine, however, whether Coach Meyer’s phone was set to retain messages only for one year in response to the August 1st media report or at some earlier time. It is nonetheless concerning that his first reaction to a negative media piece exposing his knowledge of the 2015-2016 law enforcement investigation was to worry about the media getting access to information and discussing how to delete messages older than a year.”


Investigators Called Smith a “Blind Spot” for Meyer

The investigation shows Meyer acted negligently in his handling of Smith. At best, Meyer was simply being loyal to a family friend. At worst, Meyer knew more about Smith’s actions than he let on. The investigation reported the former, noting Meyer did not cover up the alleged abuse. The full truth is only known by Meyer and a handful of others involved. Here is what we do know. Meyer’s mentor was former coach Earle Bruce, Smith’s grandfather. The investigation called Smith a “blind spot” for Meyer.

It is a perplexing blind spot given Smith was a wide receivers coach, and Ohio State would have had no trouble finding a competent replacement. Even more puzzling is all indications are Smith was not performing his job at a high level. CBS Sports detailed Smith’s job performance.

Zach Smith’s job performance suffered during his divorce proceedings in 2015. He was regularly late to practice and team meetings. He also failed to appear at recruiting visits at various high schools while claiming that he had been there. Meyer warned Smith that continued problems would lead to his dismissal. Gene Smith recommended to Meyer that he fire Zach Smith that year.

From the investigation, we learned that Meyer kept a position coach on staff that had been accused of abuse multiple times and was routinely late to meetings. Stadium’s Brett McMurphy reported Smith had sex with an Ohio State staff member in a coaches’ office. After releasing several statements throughout the investigation that appeared to do more harm than good, Meyer issued an apology to Courtney Smith in a final follow-up statement.

“Let me say here and now what I should have said on Wednesday. I sincerely apologize to Courtney Smith and her children for what they have gone through,” Meyer said per ESPN.

Meyer will return to his full duties as Ohio State head coach on September 22 as the Buckeyes host Tulane.

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