These last few months have been a whirlwind for Ohio State
After advocacy groups called for lawsuits against Ohio State for ignoring years of abuse by a former team doctor, as well as the university shutting down its Sexual Civility and Empowerment unit, Ohio State must now figure out what to do with its esteemed football program.
The dust appeared to be settled when wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Zach Smith was fired for allegations of domestic violence from both 2009 and 2015 against his now ex-wife Courtney Smith.
But now, after a story by former ESPN reporter Brett McMurphy, head coach Urban Meyer has some questions to answer about what exactly he knew from Zach Smith’s past, and now Ohio State must look deeply into how many of those answers Meyer can give.
Just a week before McMurphy released his story, Meyer answered these very questions at Big Ten Media Days, and made it clear he was aware of the events that took place in 2009, but had no knowledge of incidents between Zach Smith and Courtney Smith that occurred in 2015.
Meyer said he let “the legal course run its course” surrounding Zach Smith’s 2009 allegations, and that he did meet with both Zach and Courtney Smith about the event.
“We met with them, there were no charges, everything was dropped,” Meyer said. “There was a very young couple, and I saw a very talented coach, and we moved forward.”
These comments are less troubling, as Meyer admitted he knew and made a decision around it. But, it is his comments about the events in 2015 that will be substantial in the investigation until a conclusion is made.
“There was nothing,” Meyer said. “Once again, there’s nothing — once again, I don’t know who creates a story like that,”
Later in the day, Meyer was pushed on these comments and solidified his lack of knowledge surrounding the 2015 events.
“I can’t say it didn’t happen because I wasn’t there,” Meyer said. “I was never told about anything, never anything came to light, never had a conversation about it, so I know nothing about that.”
McMurphy’s story showed information that suggests Meyer may have lied in Chicago a week ago. But is there enough evidence for Ohio State to take down one who many regard as one of the greatest coaches in the history of college football?
There is not yet a definitive answer to this, but the presented information reveals the two possible scenarios that will come with the conclusion of the investigation: Meyer keeps his job or he does not.
The outcome comes down to one major question: was information withheld from Meyer?
McMurphy reported that Courtney Smith received texts from the wives of every coach on the Ohio State team about the 2015 incidents, including Shelley Meyer, Urban’s wife.
“She’s been right there with everything,” Meyer said on his wife at Big Ten Media Days. “Especially when you’re dealing with – not who’s going to carry the ball on third down, she has an opinion on that too – we chat about people. She has a great spirit. A great love of people. Her heart is always in the right place. She’s phenomenal. Absolutely I rely on her.”
But, McMurphy said on ESPN that he has no direct evidence to this point that Shelley and Urban Meyer discussed the incidents between Zach and Courtney Smith back in 2015.
This will be the crutch of Ohio State’s investigation, and could be the piece that decides Meyer’s fate as the head coach of the Buckeyes moving forward.
There are other questions that can be looked into, one being if Urban Meyer had any involvement in Earle Bruce, former Ohio State head coach and Zach Smith’s grandfather, and Hiram de Fries, an Ohio State special assistant and Urban Meyer’s “life coach,” going to Courtney Smith and pressuring her to drop the charges in 2009.
“He said ‘if you don’t drop the charges, Zach will never coach again,’” Courtney Smith said to McMurphy. “‘He’s never hit you before. He was drinking. He’ll probably never do it again. You should think about giving him a second chance.’“
Is knowing about a single case of abuse and doing nothing enough to fire a head coach? What about if he knew that he abused her multiple times? What if he had a part in her not pressing charges? Ohio State has a difficult decision to make, and the pressure of a summer filled with controversy surely won’t make it easier.
Regardless of the fate of Urban Meyer and the Ohio State football program, there is one thing that should not be forgotten: Courtney Smith was forced to live with an abuser for years under the fear of getting him fired, and it was only until 10 days ago that the abuser kept his job through it all.
Whose fault was that? It might be a lot of people, but Courtney Smith is not one of them.
Now, it is up to the university to determine what responsibility Urban Meyer had in covering up the allegations made against Zach Smith.