The month of August was supposed to begin for the Ohio State football program like many Augusts before.
Starting the first practice of fall camp, the 110 players took the field for the first time on Friday, preparing for a season opening Sept. 1 game against Oregon State.
While the players began practicing like normal, something was completely different. Other than the fact that fall camp had begun and was occuring, the Ohio State football program, with its head coach missing from the sidelines, was silent.
On Wednesday, head coach Urban Meyer was placed on paid administrative leave and the university began an investigation over what he knew about the domestic violence allegations made against former wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Zach Smith in 2015.
Meyer and Smith were not heard from on Thursday. Neither made statements regarding the investigation, and Ohio State announced it closed its practices to the media until further notice.
The silence seemed to be deafening. That is, until Friday afternoon.
Meyer issued a statement on his Twitter page saying he, “always followed proper reporting protocols and procedures when I have learned of an incident involving a student-athlete, coach or member of our staff by elevating the issues to the proper channels.” Meyer said he did that involving the information he received about the incident involving Smith in 2015.
This contradicted what Meyer said at Big Ten Media Days on July 24 in which he said, “there was nothing” regarding the allegations of a 2015 incident against Smith.
“I don’t know who creates a story like that,” Meyer had said.
In his statement, Meyer said he was “not adequately prepared” to answer questions about the Smith allegations, apologizing for the way he answered those questions and saying his intention was not to be misleading or inaccurate.
Smith also broke his silence on Friday with interviews both with Columbus-area radio station 105.7 The Zone and ESPN. In those interviews, Zach Smith said he had never committed domestic violence against his now ex-wife Courtney Smith. Any action, he said, he had made was to “defensively move out of the situation,” which he described as always defensive and never aggressive.
Zach Smith also said athletic director Gene Smith was the one who told him about the allegations made in October 2015, in which he told the wide receivers coach, “to be on the next flight home” while he was on the road recruiting.
Gene Smith has not yet issued a statement.
Zach Smith said in the interview that Gene Smith found out about the allegations because he believes “the Powell Police Department contacted Ohio State” and not Urban Meyer specifically. He also said many people knew about the allegations that were brought to the police department and that Meyer’s statement during Big Ten Media Days was a reaction to the allegation that he was arrested in 2015, which he said never happened.
Zach Smith told ESPN he believed he told Meyer all he needed to know and that he believes marital matters such as this were to remain private.
“I believe this is a private matter between two people in a marriage, and that’s where it should stay,” he said in his ESPN interview. “Unless a crime occured, then everybody needs to know. I wasn’t even trying to come to the media, I wasn’t even trying to do an interview because this is not anyone’s business but mine, my wife’s and my kids.”
However, Zach Smith told ESPN’s Dan Murphy that Meyer told him, after the allegations had been made, “I swear to God, Zach, if I find out you hit her, you’re done, you’re fired.”
In his interview with 105.7 The Zone, Smith said he felt his termination from Ohio State was not warranted, but understood the move because of the “media uproar” this would cause, calling it “unfair” to the university and his former players for him to stay and go through that.
Even with questions still to be answered regarding the allegations made against him, Zach Smith’s main message was not about himself or getting his own job back. It was standing up for Meyer.
“I’d be heartbroken for Ohio State, for the players, for him and his family because it’s not right,” Zach Smith said to ESPN reporter Dan Murphy. “If that happens, it’s dead wrong. Coming from somebody who knows, I was in all the meetings. I knew exactly what he knew, I know exactly what he did. If he loses his job, it’s flat wrong.”