Ohio State’s Meyer put on leave, investigation opened

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FILE - In this April 14, 2018, file photo, Ohio Setate coach Urban Meyer watches the NCAA college football team's spring game in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State has placed Meyer on paid administrative leave while it investigates claims that his wife knew about allegations of abuse against an assistant coach years before he was fired last week. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete, File)

Ohio State placed football coach Urban Meyer on paid administrative leave Wednesday while it investigates claims that his wife knew about allegations of domestic violence against an assistant coach years before he was fired last week.

Courtney Smith gave an interview to Stadium and provided text messages to former ESPN reporter Brett McMurphy between her and Shelley Meyer in 2015 and with the wives of other Buckeyes coaches. Courtney Smith also provided threatening texts she said came from her ex-husband, former Ohio State assistant Zach Smith.

“Shelley said she was going to have to tell Urban,” Courtney Smith told Stadium. “I said: ‘That’s fine, you should tell Urban.'”

Zach Smith was fired last week after an Ohio court granted a domestic violence protective order to Courtney Smith.

Hours after Courtney Smith’s interview was posted online, Ohio State said it was conducting an investigation into the allegations and Meyer was being placed on leave. Offensive coordinator Ryan Day will serve as acting head coach for the Buckeyes, expected to be one of the top teams in the nation again this season. Ohio State’s first preseason practice is scheduled for Friday. The season starts Sept. 1 with a game against Oregon State in Columbus, Ohio.

Meyer said in a statement he and athletic director Gene Smith agreed that his being on leave was best for the investigation.

“This allows the team to conduct training camp with minimal distraction. I eagerly look forward to the resolution of this matter.” Meyer said.

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. Shelley Meyer is a registered nurse and is employed as an instructor at Ohio State. Both Meyer and his wife could be in violation of Title IX policy on reporting allegations of domestic violence against university employees.

Zach Smith was charged in May with misdemeanor criminal trespass. At the time of the charge, Zach Smith’s attorney said Courtney Smith had accused him of driving to her apartment after she told him they would meet elsewhere so he could drop off their son. Zach Smith pleaded not guilty last month. A hearing has been scheduled for Friday.

Zach Smith was also accused of aggravated battery on his then-pregnant wife in 2009 while he was a graduate assistant on Meyer’s staff at Florida. The charge was dropped because of insufficient evidence. Urban Meyer brought Smith, the grandson of late Buckeyes coach Earle Bruce, to Ohio State in 2012. Meyer worked for Bruce and considers him a mentor.

Two police reports filed in 2015 in Ohio’s Powell County, after the Smiths separated in June of that year, accused Zach Smith of abuse. Charges were never filed.

At Big Ten media days, Meyer said he knew of the incident in 2009 and that he and Shelley Meyer addressed it with the Smiths. He was also asked about the 2015 incident alleged by Courtney Smith.

“I can’t say it didn’t happen because I wasn’t there,” he replied. “I was never told about anything and nothing ever came to light. I’ve never had a conversation about it. I know nothing about it. First I heard about that was last night. No, and I asked some people back at the office to call and say what happened and they came back and said they know nothing about it.”

The Smiths divorced in 2016.

Meyer is one of the most successful coaches in college football history, with three national championships and an .851 winning percentage in 16 seasons at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida and now Ohio State, the team he grew up rooting for in Northeast Ohio.

Meyer won national championships with Florida in 2006 and ’08, but his teams also had more than two dozen players get into trouble with the law. He resigned twice at Florida, citing health reasons. First in 2009 season after the Gators lost the Southeastern Conference championship game while trying to repeat as national champs. He changed his mind soon after and coached another season. The Gators went 8-5 and this time he stepped down for good.

Meyer was out of coaching for a season, but was hired by Ohio State in November 2011 to replace coach Jim Tressel, who was fired before that season for lying to the NCAA and university of about rules violation committed by some of his players.

Since returning to coaching, Meyer’s program has been one of the most dominant in college football and his players and coaches have mostly stayed out of major trouble.

Meyer did face some criticism in 2013 for allowing running back Carlos Hyde to return to the team after he was charged with striking a woman in a bar. The case was dropped by police when the woman chose not to pursue charges, but Hyde was suspended three games by Ohio State.

53 COMMENTS

    • What this article doesn’t state is that Hiram DeFries who is special assistant to Meyer at OSU and one of his closest confidants for years, told the wife to not press charges when he was at UF in 09 cause he’d never coach again and that it probably wouldn’t happen again. I don’t see how Meyer makes it through this. There’s no way in hell he can claim he didn’t know when everyone closest to him did. Tressel got fired for not disclosing knowledge of potential NCAA violations. I think not disclosing knowledge of an assistant coach regularly beating his wife is much worse, especially in this day and age with the #metoo movement. Woman’s rights groups will be all over OSU if they allow him to remain. I think outside pressure is going to be too much to overcome.

  1. osu will find someway to spin this and keep Meyer as their coach. The rest of the country won’t buy it but osu won’t care what the rest of the country thinks. I’d be surprised if osu lets Meyer go. I hope I’m wrong. Meyer is BAD news! Win at all costs! A guy with his level of morals doesn’t deserve to be coaching in college or on any level.

      • I’m leaning towards football in Europe or Canada or maybe in that new league SOS is coaching. I can just picture the story line on the two former UF National Champions coaching against each other.

        I’m also leaning towards no on Ring of Honor, and certainly no Statue. It would be torn down the minute it is put up anyway.

        • I haven’t gotten that far in my thinking yet, but could be, Sly. Art Briles, who I do actually think got screwed, just took a coaching job in Italy of all places. Myer would probably be too proud to do that…..but you never know.

  2. He ruined our program because he let players do why they wanted. More arrests than any coach in Gator history. Tell me he didn’t know about Aaron Hernandez involvement in that double shooting in Gainesville? Or when he sucker punched that manager at the Swamp restaurant? He bailed on us after 2010 and set us back 10 years. He is not referred to by Gators everywhere as Urban Liar for nothing. Karma sucks Urban.

    • You sure generalize a lot. You have no proof that there were more arrests than any coach in Gator history, he did not “ruin” our program, he didn’t let the players do whatever they wanted, and he did not set us back 10 years. Our problems in the last 7-8 years have nothing to do with Meyer. We were never put on probation during his time here and won’t be for it and those 2 national championships were horrible memories – not! I’m willing to bet you didn’t complain once in his first 5 years here when we were winning championships.

      • In his 5 years here 31 players were arrested. That’s an unheard of average of 6 players per year for crimes ranging from stalking to multiple DUI’s, battery, burglary, domestic violence, and shooting of semiautomatic assault rifles to name a few. Not minor incidents to say the least. Some were charged multiple times and that’s a fact and can be googled anytime. I was 12 years old when Spurrier took over, so I didn’t know how things were before him, but it’s safe to say Meyer’s more than likely number 1 in the arrest category. You can also google and find many articles outlining how the program was run under his watch, with former players providing input. He may not have been fully responsible for the last 10 years, but he certainly got the ball rolling very quickly into the downward spiral it went. He allowed the players to run rampant and do whatever they wanted as long as they were winning and that led to the mentality that they were all bigger than the program, which took a long time to fix after he left. Of course no one was complaining while he was here cause no one knew the full extent of what was going on behind the scenes until he left. I’m pretty sure there’s not a Gator fan out there though that wasn’t completely embarrassed about the public perception of the program after players were getting arrested on a weekly basis. Opposing fans still throw it in our faces. The man had a win at all costs mentality and apparently still does.

        • In my opinion, you just want to beat a man when he’s down and blame him for our problems instead of the coaches who were here taking responsibility for the poor teams since Meyer left. When Charley Pell was here we were charged with 107 NCAA violations – yes 107 and were put on probation. One was spying on another teams practices. I don’t recall anyone blaming Charley for our teams records after he left granted the bar is higher now but still the blaming essence was not present.

          • I’m not saying Meyer didn’t have problems here. I’m just saying you can’t blame him for our poor records after he left. We had plenty of talent on the roster for any coach to work with it’s just that we had the wrong coaches. Plus, he did not put us on probation! Hopefully, we have a the right coach now!

          • I’m not beating him while he’s down, I’ve said the same thing about him for years. I agreed with you and said he wasn’t fully to blame for the last 10 years, but he certainly contributed to the start of it. The coaches that were hired after him definitely kept the ball rolling in that direction. Sorry you obviously seem to have great affection for him, but he deserves the backlash he’s getting right now. You’re fooling yourself if you believe he didn’t know this was going on, and I’m definitely not going to support someone who puts winning a football game above everything else, especially violence against women or anyone for that matter.

          • I think it’s pretty clear that this mess we’ve been in for the last 8 years is multi-determined. Likewise, it’s not really possible to determine which presumed cause had the most effect on the outcome. Here’s what we know:

            1) Myer was a great coach who had personal liabilities that didn’t come to light until he left, 2) his replacement was a good hire on paper, but in reality was inexperienced as a head coach and subsequently overwhelmed while trying to fix structural deficiencies in the program, in addition to making serious, compounding mistakes on his own, 3) that coach was serially replaced with another coach, who while also good on paper likewise had flaws that ultimately led to his dismissal as well. Through all this, the program declined from one of the elites of college football to being an average, at best, team.

            Which brings us to the hire of the coach we should have hired, if it were possible, to replace the great coach who at the very least was responsible for starting this chain of events. His name is Dan Mullen, he has his hands full as well, but will put an end to this 8 year decline from prominence if we give him the chance.

            Those are the facts as I know them.

          • I not condoning any of his bad behavior, He’s not this horrible win at all costs person that some people are saying he is. I stand by what I said!

          • John didn’t have the internet to post on then.
            6 I think his personal liabilities are what caused him to have health issues. Sometimes ones own ethics or lack of eat at them and they end up with physical problems. He left a culture of irresponsibility which was followed by tenures of ineptness and incompetence. As far as hiring Mullen after Meyer I was for it then but I think his time away let him mature and become better. He said he is always learning I like that in a person.

          • You don’t think that if the internet was like it is now when Pell people wouldn’t be posting and asking for records? In his days you could write a letter to the editor, records request, there wasn’t forums like this to see how many people are going to post on a subject. All odd the old ways took weeks or months. I think what you are seeing here is people find abuse intolerable. Maybe quick to judge because that is the way now in the digital era. I don’t contest his record. But I also think the reporter vetted his resources before he released the story. Sir I have two sisters a girlfriend and a step daughter and if someone physically hurt then they couldn’t get far enough away. That goes for any woman or man for that matter that is abused. They would be escorted to jail. The abuse is not an issue or there would not be protection order. The issue is whether Meyer knew. Hard to believe with that many wives included he was never told of this. If the wives said nothing Shane on them. Meyers wife is in violation of title 9 She knew. Will she say she never told him for her husband? If he knew and let’s her lose her job for him to stay he has no morals or integrity. There are some journalists on this sight who have talked of getting stories before release. Sir this begs the question why are defending Meyer? His coaching is not in question it’s his honesty ethics and integrity that are at issue. If he is found to not have known with the number of people who apparently did her chose to look the other way and not see or hear what was being said.

  3. If the article is all correct many people are tired into this. His wife, and others that were employed by OS in violation of title 9 and more. Could almost be conspiracy. Even if Meyer didn’t know his wife did and she is in trouble. Will wife take the heat for him?

  4. Well, hopefully all media outlet’s will now be reporting this 24-7 instead of the Florida situation. And yes, he did set us back because for two years he was on and off as a coach and did not recruit like he did. He stopped recruiting his last year all together to recover.

    • No he did not stop recruiting. Our recruiting was just as good the entire time he was here. It’s when he decided to leave that many recruits decided to go elsewhere. Ryan Shazier was one of them and so was Stefon Diggs.

    • Actually he signed the #1 overall ranked and probably best class ever in 2010. Recruiting was never the issue, it was the fact that he developed a culture in the locker room where the players thought they could do whatever they wanted and were bigger than the program, that was hard to break after he left.

  5. The man is one of the most successful Head Coaches in college football history, regardless! As Urban won 2 Nattys, and 2 S.E.C Championship Games out of 3, in only 6 years. So, while he may be guilty of many things (and who truthfully isn’t?), he is NOT GUILTY of being a bad coach. ”Urban Meyer beat Alabama a few years back with his third string QB. When the first two went down he didn’t cry, or complain, or give up. He figured it out. That’s what the best coaches do. They figure it out.” -”Jaws of truth” commenter here on Gatosports.com. But the thing that does strike at me as ODD, (according to this story) is Urban’s unwillingness to accept the fact that his coaches are NOT beyond reproach. And his inability to improvise and adjust with his OWN ASST. COACHES (unlike how well he did with his own players).
    And ‘IF’ Urban does leave O.S.U., for me, it will be GATOR GREAT that he only won ‘1’ Natty at ”The Ohio State”, and ‘2’, count them Buckeye fans, ‘2’ National Championships at the mighty Univ. of Florida!
    Chomp-chomp!

    • No one’s questioning his coaching skills. He will certainly go down as one of the best ever. His biggest problem is his win at all costs mentality and that has caused major problems at both programs. Joe Paterno was one of the best ever too, but unfortunately his entire career and accomplishments are tarnished and he’ll always be remembered for the scandal. They’re both exactly alike when it comes to the mentality of lets not rock the boat and keep this winning machine rolling no matter what’s going on around us. You could get away with it 20 years ago, but not anymore.

  6. I am not now, nor would I ever defend Urban’s ethics, or lack thereof. That said, so far we have only the estranged wife’s side of the story. It seems odd the the major complaint in the story occurred in 2015, no charges were filed, and after confiding in Shelley Meyer, Courtney decides, three years later, to throw her under the bus with interviews and copies of text messages? It it highly likely that Zach Smith is an abuser of women. It is also likely that Urban knew of it, and did not do enough (if anything) to curtail it or dump Smith. There is still much to be learned about Courtney’s motivation and timing for these revelations. Something is not quite right here. I want to hear the whole story from all participants before I decide what to believe. I suspect that it will be found that money is at the root of this story, and the former Ms. Smith does not think she got enough. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if extortion/blackmail is an underlying theme, and the genesis of the somewhat belated revelations. Regardless, there should be zero tolerance for abusive behavior – period.

    • There’s multiple police reports showing this guy’s track record of DV, so there’s no doubt he was doing it. You could say it’s about money, or you can say she’s finally had enough of the cover up. Apparently it’s not just Shelley who knew. She’s claiming every wife knew, Hiram DeFries, who is Meyer’s right hand man even convinced her not to press charges in 09. Pretty much everyone in Meyer’s inner circle knew. Yeah it’s weird to finally come out now, but with the way women are coming out of the woodwork from incidents 20 years ago in the metoo movement, it’s not surprising at all she’s coming out now. Women have had enough and aren’t going to hide it anymore.

      • That a person was abused with the knowledge of so many who collectively didn’t do anything is disturbing and more. Reading the article and texts therein the spouse knew. That another woman wouldn’t stick for her is odd. Was the paycheck all were getting worth one woman’s abuse? as all have said you can’t dispute his coaching. I will wait until the investigation is complete but the reporter is a solid reporter and don’t think he broke this w/o it being fact checked. The communication is damning if true.

  7. If he stays of if he is gone, one thing is beyond doubt …. history will call him one of the greatest coaches of the modern era, but also one of the most flawed…. When he departs from a program, he leaves behind TORCHED earth…. BUT, it’s august, so stay focused boys…. Maybe we can get a 2019 OSU player to de-commit !

  8. Urban did great things at Florida and it would be great to have him back. To be honest I think the outrage is politically correct BS -war on all men. I’m not condoning spousal abuse in any way shape or form, but it’s not Urban’s responsibility to act as police, judge, jury and executioner. That’s why laws and courts exist. If the guy was doing illegal stuff, then file reports and work thru courts. Eventually it will be dealt with – but employers should not act on heresay from texts or public opinion. It’s not fair to the accused to ruin their life without a chance to offer a defense. Unfortunately most Americans these days are allowing themselves to be brainwashed into thinking it’s ok. Hopefully they come for you too and you see what it’s like.

    • This is actually a pretty solid line of reasoning that bears legitimate consideration. As I posted earlier, I am interested to hear ALL sides of the story. So far, we have heard only one, and that one has been filtered through the not so subtle bias and agendas of contemporary media. Although I am aware that abuse victims often stay with their abusers for a number of complex reasons, it is a very long time from 2009 until 2015, and again from 2015 until now. There is more to this than so far meets the eye. Abuse is inexcusable, but expectations that we are all responsible for the behavior of those with whom we work is wrong-headed. There have apparently been multiple opportunities for recourse and remedies that have not been pursued. Why? The apparent conclusions being unfairly drawn here are that it is (and was) Shelley and Urban’s fault that Courtney continued to subject herself to her husband’s abuse? Since 2009 or earlier? Stop for a minute and put yourself in their shoes. Regardless of your feelings and opinions about Meyer’s tenure and eventual exit from UF, something about this whole affair doesn’t add up. And it won’t until we are permitted to hear the whole story, unfiltered by the current lens of PC and the MeToo movement.