Did Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer not know one of his assistant coaches was reportedly the subject of a felony investigation in 2015?
Meyer’s explanation of events surrounding his program’s firing of wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Zach Smith doesn’t add up unless Meyer somehow missed that Smith was investigated for assault against his now ex-wife Courtney in the fall of 2015.
Tuesday, Meyer took to the podium at Big Ten media days to explain Ohio State’s decision for firing Smith. Before Meyer talked, the following things had been revealed about the Smiths’ apparently tumultuous relationship.
Ohio State assistant’s troubled history
• Zach Smith was charged with misdemeanor criminal trespass in May. Courtney was granted a protection order against him July 20, alleging she had been intimidated and harassed by him. The trespass charge came after Zach Smith allegedly dropped one of the couple’s children at Courtney’s residence instead of a public place.
• Monday morning, longtime college football reporter Brett McMurphy reported that Courtney accused Zach of domestic violence in 2009 while Zach was a graduate assistant on Meyer’s staff at Florida and Courtney was two months pregnant. No charges were filed.
• Monday afternoon, McMurphy reported that Courtney had accused Zach of domestic violence again in 2015 and the coach had been investigated for felony domestic violence and felony assault. No charges have been filed.
• Hours after the 2015 accusation was made public, Ohio State announced that Smith had been fired.
When he got to the podium and received the first question about Smith, Meyer said the 2009 accusation was not what was detailed in the police report, said the 2015 accusation was “nothing” and intimated that he made the decision to wait until Monday afternoon to fire Smith out of pragmatism.
“In 2009 Zach was an intern, a very young couple,” Meyer said. “As I do any times, most coaches and people in leadership positions, you receive a phone call, first thing you do is tell your boss, let the experts do their jobs. We’re certainly not going to investigate. “
“It came back to me that what was reported wasn’t actually what happened. And [wife] Shelley and I actually both got involved because of our relationship with that family and advised for counseling and wanted to help as we moved forward.
“2015, I got a text late last night something happened in 2015. And there was nothing. Unless, once again, there’s nothing – once again, I don’t know who creates a story like that.”
“And then this recent one was you press pause, it’s something our team lives by, E + R = O, you press pause and get your mind right and step up, press pause and gather information, get your mind right, gather energy, and then step up to do the right thing. That’s the position I hold. That’s how we did that.”
Urban Meyer’s comments about Zach Smith’s dismissal.
He said what was reported in 2009 about an alleged domestic violence incident “wasn’t actually what happened” and a 2015 alleged incident does not exist.
“I don’t know who creates a story like that." pic.twitter.com/22RcIPnhUB
— Dr. Saturday (@YahooDrSaturday) July 24, 2018
Later in the day, Meyer told reporters that he gave Smith a second chance on his staff at Ohio State after the accusation at Florida because Smith was a talented coach and no charges had been filed against him.
Part of Urban Meyer's comments just now on former WR coach Zach Smith: pic.twitter.com/XP10Y6TYsX
— Paul Myerberg (@PaulMyerberg) July 24, 2018
‘Nothing’ label deserves scrutiny
Believing an explanation that the team waited a full business day after the protection order was granted to terminate Smith out of due diligence is easy. And understandable. It’s much harder to figure out why Meyer called the 2015 accusation – which McMurphy reported just hours before Smith was fired – “nothing.”
A felony investigation into domestic violence and assault is certainly more than nothing. Did Meyer downplay the investigation because it didn’t result in any charges like the first accusation? Or did he not know the investigation happened in the first place? His answer to reporters before his main news conference Tuesday makes it seem like he had no idea the investigation even happened.
“When I first heard that last night, I did some research and there was nothing,” Meyer said via Cleveland.com. “I don’t know. Someone texted me that last night. I said, ‘2015?’ That was only a couple years ago. I told people to go find out for me. I’m not sure where that comes up.”
Tuesday afternoon, the Powell, Ohio, Police Department confirmed the investigation’s existence to McMurphy and the existence of an investigation into a Nov. 9 stalking complaint that Courtney made against Zach.
According to online court records, Courtney Smith filed for divorce and obtained a temporary restraining order three days after the stalking accusation. The couple’s divorce was finalized in 2016.
Contrary to Urban Meyer’s comment there was “nothing” to my 2015 report, Powell (Ohio) Police Department confirms Zach Smith was investigated for Oct. 26, 2015 on felony counts of domestic violence & felonious assault & on Nov. 9, 2015 menacing by stalking. No charges were filed
— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) July 24, 2018
Powell police released an incident report relating to an Oct. 26, 2015 domestic violence report by Courtney Smith Tuesday evening. Per the Columbus Dispatch, the suspect’s name in the report is redacted.
Maybe Meyer didn’t make the right calls Monday night and couldn’t confirm the existence of the investigation himself. And maybe he didn’t know about the investigation at all three years ago while consumed in his Buckeyes’ undefeated season at the time.
But that seems implausible. Head coaches of major football programs know most everything that goes on inside their teams. And Meyer got a call about the Smiths in 2009 while Zach was a graduate assistant. Why wouldn’t he have gotten a call when Smith was his recruiting coordinator?
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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