Ohio State suspends coach Urban Meyer 3 games for mishandling domestic abuse case

Meyer called the Smith situation a "he said she said" last month in a text with a former player.

Ohio State Urban Meyer
Ohio State University President Michael Drake offers words to football coach Urban Meyer, who leaves the stage following a news conference in Columbus, Ohio. –AP Photo/Paul Vernon

Ohio State released a 23-page summary of findings from an independent investigation of coach Urban Meyer’s handling of domestic violence allegations against a former Buckeyes assistant coach Zach Smith. Meyer was suspended for the first three games of the season and will forgo six weeks of pay.

Some notable findings:

— Urban Meyer and his wife, Shelley, doubted the veracity of Courtney Smith’s allegations of violence and abuse from her ex-husband. 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.

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— Meyer, athletic director Gene Smith, who was also suspended without pay for two weeks, 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.

— Investigators were troubled by the fact that after a media report in which Courtney Smith said she told Shelley Meyer in 2015 that Zach Smith assualted her, Urban Meyer asked a staffer about deleting text messages more than a year old by changing settings on his phone.

— While assessing why Meyer made misleading statements at Big Ten media day when asked about the 2015 incident between Zach Smith and Courtney Smith that was reported to police, investigators said they learned “Coach Meyer has sometimes had significant memory issues in other situations where he had prior extensive knowledge of events.” Investigators said Meyer has periodically taken medicine that can negatively impair his memory, concentration, and focus.

— The investigation identified “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.”

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— 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.

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

— Investigators found that Meyer was determined to not disclose Zach Smith’s issues to the media and went too far in his denials when he lied to reporters at Big Ten media days about his knowledge of the 2015 police incident. But the report also found that Meyer “has sometimes had significant memory issues in other situations where he had prior extensive knowledge of events.” Meyer has taken medicine that can hurt his memory, concentration and focus, the report said.

— The report said Zach Smith’s conduct was repeatedly “met with reprimands and warnings by Coach Meyer, but never a written report, never an investigation and no disciplinary action until July 23, 2018.