Update: Ohio St suspends Meyer for 3 games

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FILE - In this Sept. 17, 2016, file photo, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, right, and then-assistant coach Zach Smith, left, gesture from the sidelines during an NCAA college football game against Oklahoma in Norman, Okla. Ohio State expects to open fall camp as scheduled on Friday, Aug. 3, 2018, but without coach Urban Meyer. Meyer was put on administrative leave on Wednesday, Aug. 1 over the handling of a longtime assistant who has been accused of domestic violence. Co-offensive coordinator Ryan Day will be running the team while Ohio State investigates claims that Meyer’s wife knew about 2015 allegations of abuse against former Buckeyes assistant Zach Smith, who was fired last week. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

[Updated, 8-23-18, 7 a.m.] COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State suspended coach Urban Meyer for three games on Wednesday night for mishandling repeated professional and behavioral problems of an assistant coach, with investigators finding Meyer protected his protege for years through domestic violence allegations, a drug problem and poor job performance.

The superstar coach’s treatment of his now-fired assistant was also clouded by his abiding devotion to the legacy of former Ohio State coach Earle Bruce, the grandfather of former wide receivers coach Zach Smith and an early coaching mentor for Meyer.

“I gave Zach Smith the benefit of the doubt,” Meyer said.

The investigation turned up “a pattern of troubling behavior by Zach Smith: promiscuous and embarrassing sexual behavior, drug abuse, truancy, dishonesty, financial irresponsibility, a possible NCAA violation, and a lengthy police investigation into allegations of criminal domestic violence and cybercrimes,” according to summary investigative findings released by the university on Wednesday night.

Meyer knew about at least some of the issues.

The report and punishment culminated a two-week investigation of how Meyer reacted to allegations that Smith abused his ex-wife, Courtney Smith. Zach Smith was fired last month after she asked a judge for a protective order.

Courtney Smith alleged her husband shoved her against a wall and put his hands around her neck in 2015. Zach Smith has never been criminally charged with domestic violence. The university put Meyer on paid leave and began investigating after Courtney Smith spoke out publicly, sharing text messages and photos she traded in 2015 with Meyer’s wife, Shelley Meyer. Shelley Meyer is a registered nurse and instructor at Ohio State.

“I followed my heart and not my head,” Meyer said, quickly reading a written statement during a news conference after his punishment was announced. “I should have demanded more from him and recognized red flags.”

Investigators said Meyer and athletic director Gene Smith mismanaged Zach Smith’s misconduct and kept him even though he was not an appropriate role model for OSU student-athletes. The review found neither Meyer nor Gene Smith condoned or covered up alleged abuse, but raised red flags of their own:

— Meyer, the athletic director and others throughout Ohio State thought it wasn’t their place to do anything about allegations against Zach Smith unless law enforcement took more action like making an arrest or filing charges. Investigators called that a widespread misunderstanding of their reporting obligations.

— Meyer responded to Courtney Smith coming forward to a reporter by asking one of his staffers about changing the settings on his phone to delete text messages more than a year old. Investigators didn’t find older messages on Meyer’s phone but couldn’t determine whether he deleted them before or after the media report.

— Meyer and his wife, Shelley, doubted the veracity of Courtney Smith’s allegations of violence and abuse. Urban Meyer called the Smith situation a “he said she said” last month in a text with a former player. He also insisted to investigators he met with Courtney Smith after Zach Smith’s 2009 arrest and that she recanted her original story to authorities. Courtney Smith told investigators she never met with Meyer or recanted any allegations.

— In June 2016 at Meyer’s urging, Zach Smith was admitted to a drug treatment facility for addiction to an unspecified stimulant prescription drug, the report said, adding that Gene Smith was never told about it.

— Zach Smith ran up a big strip club bill in 2014 with a high school coach in Florida and spent $600 in personal funds. Meyer reprimanded Zach Smith but didn’t report the issue to compliance officers or the athletic director. Investigators said they told the NCAA about the incident.

Trustees discussed how to punish Meyer in a marathon meeting of more than 12 hours Wednesday while Meyer waited in the building. Athletic director Gene Smith — who is not related to Zach or Courtney Smith — was suspended without pay from Aug. 31 through Sept. 16.

Both the athletic director and Meyer apologized and said they accepted the punishments, though Meyer said repeatedly that he did not fully know what was happening with the Smiths.

“I should have been aware of it,” Meyer said.

Meyer said he was not aware of the text messages Courtney Smith sent to his wife. When asked if he had a message for Courtney Smith, Meyer said: “I have a message for everyone involved in this: I’m sorry we’re in this situation.”

Meyer, 54, will miss Ohio State’s first three games against Oregon State, Rutgers and No. 16 TCU, though he will be allowed to coach practices leading into the Rutgers and TCU games. Co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ryan Day is serving as acting coach while Meyer is absent.

Meyer insisted as the investigation began he followed proper protocols after learning of the 2015 accusations. But he also acknowledged lying to reporters a week earlier when he said he hadn’t heard of the incident until shortly before he fired Zach Smith.

Investigators found that Meyer was determined to not disclose Zach Smith’s issues to the media and went too far in his denials.

Zach Smith’s attorney Brad Koffel said in a statement to USA Today that Meyer, Ohio State and Gene Smith were “collateral damage” for Courtney Smith’s desire to seek revenge her ex-husband.

“Zach Smith married a woman he should not have married,” Koffel said.

Mary Jo White, a former federal prosecutor, led the investigation that cost the university $500,000. She said more than 40 witnesses were interviewed, some several times, and more than 60,000 electronic documents were reviewed. Investigators reviewed 10,000 text messages of Meyer’s and text messages and photos provided by Courtney Smith.

Meyer is heading into his seventh season at Ohio State, where he is 73-8 with a national title in 2014 and two Big Ten Conference championships.

His contract was extended in April by two years through 2022, increasing Meyer’s salary to $7.6 million in 2018 with annual 6 percent raises. Meyer has about $38 million left on his contract.

In 2009, Zach Smith was accused of aggravated battery on his pregnant wife while he was working a graduate assistant for Meyer at Florida. The charge was dropped because of insufficient evidence.

The Smiths separated in June 2015 and divorced in 2016.

Meyer is one of the most accomplished coaches in college football history, with three national championships and a 177-31 record in 16 seasons at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida and Ohio State, the team he grew up rooting for in Northeast Ohio.

Ohio State began investigating Meyer while also facing three federal lawsuits about its response to allegations of groping, leering and other misconduct by a deceased athletic department doctor who treated wrestlers and other students for two decades. The lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by Dr. Richard Strauss say Ohio State facilitated the abuse by ignoring complaints.

Since Ohio State announced an independent investigation in April, more than 100 former students have come forward with accounts of sexual misconduct by Strauss. The allegations range from 1979 to 1997 and involve male athletes from 14 sports, as well as his work at the student health center and his off-campus medical office.

80 COMMENTS

  1. Part II. He didn’t know, he did know, he did know and didn’t report. I’m confused figuratively. So listening to the interview that was scripted he was looking out for someone as a favor to someone else over the abuse of a woman. While I don’t dispute his coaching process his choice sucked. If what was on tv is true he is lucky.

  2. There were rumors when Meyer was at Florida that he had issues concerning his dealings with female employees in the Florida athletic office, which likely included Smith when he was in Gainesville. It is just a different time now in most places other than Columbus, Ohio, I appears. The OSU administration should have totally cleared Meyer, or they should have dismissed him if they could not totally clear him. Clearly, the administration at Ohio State has less moral character than Meyer, and that is a major accomplishment. They obviously think a soft slap on Meyer’s pinky covers his sin of covering up violence against a woman. Shame on them. But, hopefully, all the rest of the college head coaches will see Meyer and think, “I do not want to be anything like him.”

  3. And, I wonder how the NCAA is going to react to this decision by the Ohio State administration, who obviously buckled to the extreme pressure they felt from the Ohio State fanbase, who prefer winning on the football field over supporting non violence against women. What a statement OSU just sent to mothers of recruits across the country. And to women who are thinking of attending Ohio State University.

        • Gator65. My phone changed Mullen to “Mullet” the other day. I know that frustration. And the NCAA can respond. But I doubt they will. Too many powerful boosters at OSU and likely why Meyer is still the head coach there. Where I hope it impacts them is on the recruiting trail with the mothers out there, and especially when Meyer walks into a home to meet a recruits’ mother and sisters. I would love to be in that living room when that happens.

          • Doesn’t say much for integrity of NCAA if they are afraid of boosters from any school. Again her said he didn’t report the incident a title 9 issue. Had he followed the rules this would be a non issue. Again to what some are saying as to guilt. Not the point he was required to report. The lies were to keep it from the public.

    • This whole thing is really about Urban Meyer being a died in the wool liar… The wife beater just exposed him in Ohio for what Gator supporters all know too well about him.

      I’m still as angry today as I was 2005 that Machen x Foley chose this fraud over SOS in ’05… Heck, come to think of it, Foley might be as much of BS-er as Urban.

    • The Big 10 conference could do something (but they probably won’t) In the early ’90s, the then PAC 10 slapped the Washington football program with major scholarship bowl-appearance restrictions over a car loan an alum gave to quarterback, Billy Joe Hobart (plus some other violations that the university disputed). The conference acted because it thought the sanctions levied by the NCAA were too lenient. Those sanctions, plus some bad HC hires, emasculated Washington’s program for the next 20 years.

    • “What a statement OSU just sent to mothers of recruits across the country. And to women who are thinking of attending Ohio State University.

      Tampa….I believe this is where good ole Karma rears it’s head! Good point.

  4. Three things are certain about Urban Meyer… He can coach football, and he lies whenever and about whatever he wants. The third thing is that when #2 interferes with #1, the whole world can piss off (in his mind anyway).

  5. What an absolute travesty, the fact Tressel received his 10 year penalty for his lack of judgement and Meyer gets three games. Smith is a real creep, it cant all be lies no matter how they spin it and for urban to bring him to OSU is pathetic. Are the lives of people not more important than winning football games, obviously not

  6. What did the Board of Trustees have to talk about for over 12 hours? It was reported yesterday that the president was leaning towards suspension. Their decision was a fait accompli. It was just a song and dance to show they were were listening to the public and that they were taking it seriously.

    • Good point, and I can only add that Myer should be thankful the TOSU didn’t use the same “independent” investigation committee that Baylor did. Very thankful indeed.

      OK, unless it rears its ugly head again in another form, that off season drama is done with, our own woman abusing punk has moved on, and no more air soft AR-15s available in Gainesville for the time being….let’s play some damn football! 🐊🐊🏈🏈❤❤❤ (that was for you 65, enjoying your vacation but still on the leading edge of staying tuned in)

      • 6 football is my passion in sports. Can’t wait for game day. Abuse is something that gets me riled. I also find false allegations equally despicable. I don’t think this was false in this instance. Was married to crazy years ago never harmed her. Had to walk away alot. Turning ones back on people who cannot or seem unwilling to help themselves is tacit condoning abuse. It was OSU decision to suspend for three games. That was a choice. Think Meyer didn’t sound like he was sincere. One ESPN reporter said he thinks he won’t be back last year. The release was spin. Ultimately huge black eye. Credibility destroyed and they missed the item of had this not been made public he’d still be working for Meyer. All my opinion only which doesn’t hold much in world. Smiths wife may be bringing suit against Meyer and TOSU.

        • Well put and I couldn’t agree more, 65. Thing is, TOSU has another top-5 season, and the whole damn thing is ancient history. Justice if not always dispensed on this plane of life….but I’m certain that it is in the next life. And that, buddy, is all I’m going to say about it because in 9 days we’ve got other fish to fry. I think that’s a metaphor, but I ain’t sure anymore! GO GATOR GO.

          • Literary terms wasn’t my strong suit. Poetic Justice would be for us to meet them and take care of business. 🐊🐊🐊🐊🐊🐊🐊🐊🐊 don’t care if they’ve become unpopular. According to my departed grandpa, “there will come a time you no longer care what others think.”. Guess that time has come. The Storm is Coming, Just Do It, Go Gators!

    • How do you know Courtney Smith was a victim? How do you know she is telling the truth? How do you know that Zac Smith isn’t the one who deserves an apology? How is Meyer supposed to know who is telling the truth unless he witnessed it? Zac Smith says he is innocent and is looking forward to his day in court. What is the truth? I don’t know, and neither do any of you. There is a principle in America of innocent until proven guilty. Smith has not been convicted of anything. There’s a mob mentality with this in the media and among many of you.

      • I agree with most of that…she maybe nuts….BUT he did lie. WHY did he lie? Why did he go to someone to make sure text messages were deleted? While I don’t necessarily believe the released facts constitute firing him as the Smiths are the ones with all the issues merits firing…he sure is quaking….so assuming he is a duck by many isn’t way out of bounds.

          • Patrick…Honestly, I don’t know. I was in agreement with your take on the mob mentality and all the talking heads who are all of a sudden “the best men in the world who never backed a troubled colleague” guys. That gets nauseating to me. The guys who allegedly did the crime is barely mentioned, nor has there been equal reporting about Courtney, who I believe is not being backed by her own mother (which should give “some” pause). I do, however, feel that it’s a pretty safe bet that they were involved in cover ups and made a decision to keep Urbs there from the onset….and THAT looks bad….and again, I ask why was there a cover up? They knew they were screwed at a minimum in the court of public opinion, and went into defense mode. The report being made public after the presser smells bad as well. They did not help themselves that’s for sure as there will absolutely be backlash for this decision.

            As far as the punishment…and based on precedent, Tressel was successful too and lied about knowledge of tattoos and was shown the door. He had a title…he dominated Michigan and the conference. …so maybe 3 games is too lenient.

      • Destroyed text messages, lying to the media, selective memory based on meds, etc. Lies, lies, and more lies. Meyer is a habitual liar. Smith is just a bad dude with no moral compass. Keep drinking the garnet and grey Kool-Aid. Outside of Columbus the rest of the world sees what the Blackeye football program is all about.

        • Gulf Coast- I’m a Gator, not a Buckeye. It’s not about football team loyalty. It’s about allowing law enforcement to follow due process before we determine people are guilty. If they determine he is, then I’ll be happy to see them throw the book at him and him never guide hired coaching football again. Until then, I don’t know, and neither do you.

          • As far as I can tell, tho, Patrick, there wasn’t a crime involved on Myer’s part — an ethical situation pretty much covers it I think. That’s serious enough, but that makes it entirely up to the institution to do with it what they may. We may disagree with their decision, but that’s that. Maybe there’s a civil tort involved, but I kind of doubt it.

        • So you know for a fact that she was coerced into dropping the charged the first time? Just because she makes a claim doesn’t mean it is true. Of course you can’t hit a crazy woman, but neither of us know if he really hit her. You can defend yourself against someone attacking you. Many a bat s crazy woman has made a false claim before. As I said above, if Mr. Smith is found guilty, then I am happy for him to do jail time and never work as a coach again. Until law enforcement makes that determination, I don’t know what the truth is, neither do you, neither does the university. I don’t believe in jumping to conclusions before law enforcement is able to follow due process and make the determinations themselves. I don’t believe in firing people on an accusations alone, and I don’t believe in university officials trying to do the job of law enforcement. If Meyer is found to have obstructed justice, then fine- that is a crime too, but what a lot of people seem to be calling for here is an employer taking action and firing an employee simply on accusations.

          • Our sensibilities have definitely been offended on either side of the coin, and that’s to be expected even among us Gators. Fair enough — but let’s move on and get ready to play some damn Gator football! Otherwise, I may be tempted to hit y’all with an emoji attack the likes of which you have never seen! I have the technology, even a few flying monkeys I think. GO GATORS….

          • records from 09 event said someone from Urban’s group from Ohio came down and convinced her to drop charges. Most of these never go to court doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Doesn’t mean its ok. Had employees in previous job that were abused for whatever reason they didn’t press charges. I saw the results of some of that abuse. You are defending a man who admittedly lied (Meyer) about not reporting the incident to protect a friend. Police said there was evidence of abuse in 09 but the victim didn’t prosecute.

          • Gator-6, fair enough. looking forward to the season just one week away.

            Gator65- you cannot seem to grasp basic concepts. This article spells it out pretty well. According to this, he did report it, but simply “waited too long”- waiting because he didn’t know if a crime had been committed or not and was hesitant to ruin a guy’s life without having all the facts. The report states that Meyer did not commit any violation of school reporting rules or obstruct justice. https://www.wsj.com/articles/ohio-state-suspends-urban-meyer-for-three-games-1534989592 There may be evidence that something did happen, but also evidence that something didn’t. Police simply having evidence doesn’t mean that a there is convincing evidence or proof. Again, you use the term victim, but none of us know if she was a victim. Given what is stated in this repot, a 3 game suspension seems adequate. But people here are calling for him to be fired. That is what I have the problem with. Please spare me the “I saw the results of that abuse…” You cannot seem to understand that I do not condone abuse. As I have stated before, if he is convicted by a jury of his peers, then they should throw the book at him. You are correct that just because someone doesn’t press charged doesn’t mean a crime did not occur. But it certainly doesn’t mean that a crime DID occur. Likewise, someone actually pressing charges does not mean an actual crime occurred. Plenty of examples of false charges being filed and the supposed victim later admitting it was a lie. Here is a good example of a young man’s life being destroyed in such a case. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Banks_(American_football)

            Again- I will reiterate, I am not condoning abuse, and I am not saying that Zac Smith did not do it. What I am saying is he shouldn’t be convicted by public opinion before he is convicted by a jury of his peers, and coaches and employers should not be expected to take action firing employees before the police do.

          • Amazing. The head coach of Ohio State University, who used to coach here a long time ago, has the power to set two loyal Gators at odds with each other. The way it looks, all you’ve got is a difference of opinion between two very passionate guys, and the degrees of separation between you is a whole lot less than you probably realize.

            Yeah, I know, I’m a fine one to talk about getting hot under the collar, but it’s easier to see too that you’re more alike than you are different when I’m not pissin’ up the rope myself. Go Gators?

      • Great posts Patrick. You are spot on with all your comments. Your one of the few level headed people here. Most of the posts here are a mob mentality and would not hold up in a court or in a committee after looking at this in detail and coming to decision on what action to take. There was no pattern of behavior with this with other employees/athletes albeit very poor behavior otherwise a firing would be appropriate.

  7. I was born and raised in Ohio (now a gator fan). Ohio State has an image problem and it was not addressed by this ruling. Meyer should have been fired. It showed that Ohio State cares more about winning than doing the right thing.

    • It’s going to be interesting to see if this winds up being the final decision or if the pressure eventually becomes too much and he eventually is forced to resign. I can tell you right now, this backlash they’re getting now is only the beginning. Wait till the protests start and the metoo movement gets involved. Now it’s coming out that he erased all text messages more than a year old before turing over his cell phone. I mean if that’s not a blatant cover up and acknowledgment of doing something wrong, whether it be for this situation or something else against the rules, then I don’t know what is. Like some people have already said, good luck recruiting and trying to convince all the mother’s of recruits to trust you. I really don’t think the administrators gave much thought to the consequences of their decision, but they’re going to find out real soon what a stupid decision they made. Like Tampa said, it should’ve been fired or reinstated immediately, but instead they went with we know he did something wrong but care more about winning than anything else.

  8. In my opinion, the reason Meyer and Smith weren’t fired is this was with one employee ( and yes terrible ) and not with multiple employees and athletes were there was a pattern of behavior again with many, a cover up, and they did not find any NCAA violations I believe. If there was a pattern, even with one more person both would have been gone! Obviously, many feel Meyer should be gone but others don’t!

  9. “For that handling of the Urban Meyer case, Ohio State’s administrators have to be one, detestable, sleazy, shameless lot. Trust me when I tell you that something of that magnitude could never happen here, particularly under my watch!”

    — John Engler, Michigan State University president, just talking smack to a friend

  10. “Don’t tell me Jack Schitt about anything whatsoever that involves anybody on my staff! Got that?! Nothing! Got it?! You’d better have it! Not one damn word!”

    —Urban Meyer, to wife, Shelley, after supper tonight

  11. So in this new age of public courtrooms, I’d like to ask a rhetorical question.

    IF you believe that a person should be fired for some indiscretion, even if that person didn’t commit a crime, is it your belief that this person should never be allowed to work again…even to the point of ending up on public welfare? OR do you just think this person can no longer work in a well paid or coveted job.

    In other words, if you want Urban fired, do you think he should never be employable again…in ANY job or just a D1 highly paid coaching job?

  12. I think everyone should keep in mind that while Urban and Shelley are no saints, the problem wasn’t created by them.

    The problem starts with Zach and Courtney. Time…and possibly the legal system… will discover who was at fault in this relationship. If Zach physically abused her, he should be punished for that. If Courtney was at fault, she should be penalized.

    Did law enforcement ever get properly involved and did they ignore evidence in the name of keeping a football program out of the spotlight?

    And finally, did Urban….Gene Smith…..OSU Administration…etc. have a hand in covering up or using influence with law enforcement to sweep this under the rug. If so, then YES they should be held accountable.

    But, the way this is playing out is a public crucifixion of Urban Meyer first and foremost. I’m no fan of Urban…in fact I really don’t like him, as far as what I’ve seen (I’ve never met him). But in the larger scheme of our society, what happens here will translate to the next big story and one day it may even translate to you and your life. We need to be careful to investigate cases and properly determine fault and then make corrections. We need to NOT be quick to judge and we need to remember who the people at fault truly are. And how in the world did we get to a place where “firing” someone is gonna make everything better????? And how in the world did we get to a place where taking money away from someone is gonna make everything better??????

  13. This is plain and simple. there was no order when he was in gainesville. Player behavior was horrible. He skated because he won… full stop. Then he faked a heart attack, skipped town, and left our locker room in shambles. Now he has carried his stupid decisions and arrogance north, and a athletic department cancer THAT HE HIRED AND LET RUN FREE has come back to utterly destroy his legacy. To make it worse, he lied about it, and covered it up. This is the kind of thing that will keep you out of the college football HOF, and he only has HIMSELF to blame. He is not a victim nor a saint. END OF STORY. I say we just move on. Not our problem.

  14. Hmmm… Looking the other way to protect someone important? Do you think Notre Dame, Urbans dream job, will even think twice about hiring him? His next heart problem will leave him out of College football, where he belongs.