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Report indicates Urban Meyer knew more of past Zach Smith issues

Urban Meyer and Gene Smith listen as President Drake speaks at a press conference on on Aug. 22, 2018. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo Editor

Ohio State University head football coach Urban Meyer and athletic director Gene Smith had more knowledge of more issues involving fired wide receivers coach Zach Smith, according to documents the university released late Wednesday night.

A “summary of findings” from a special, independent working group of The Ohio State University Board of Trustees, shared after the evening press conference announcing Meyer’s and Gene Smith’s suspensions, revealed several behavior issues. Included a trip to a Miami strip club, for which Zach Smith was reprimanded. It also said Zach Smith was admitted into a drug treatment facility and that Meyer knew about it but did not report it to Gene Smith.

The working group was formed to investigate reports that indicated Meyer knew about domestic abuse allegations against Zach Smith but let him keep working as an assistant coach at the university.

The summary states Meyer and officials discussed deleting text messages and stated that he ignored concerns from his wife, Shelley Meyer, that former wide receiver coach Zach Smith might “do something dangerous” after he was fired for domestic abuse allegations.

The group’s report also faulted Ohio State for failing to fulfill a Lantern records request for emails and text messages, as well as any call history between Meyer and Zach Smith between the days leading up to the 2018 Big Ten Media Days and around the time of Smith’s 2015 domestic violence charges as the same communications and dates between Meyer and Gene Smith.

An Ohio State spokesperson said the university had nothing to add beyond the report and the statements in the news release from Wednesday night. 

Miami and rehab

On May 8, 2014, Zach Smith visited a Miami strip club and spent approximately $600 of his personal funds there, the report said. It went on to say that Meyer found out about it from director of football operations Brian Voltolini and revised the coaches’ manual to include a “morality clause” that told staff to “avoid strip clubs” and prohibited “pornography . . . on any university issued computer, iPhone, iPad, etc.”

He did not report the incident to the Athletic Compliance and Gene Smith was not made aware of the incident, the summary said.

After the divorce between Zach and Courtney Smith, the report said that Smith’s job performance suffered. The assistant coach was late to practice and workouts, according to the report, and failed to appear at scheduled recruiting visits despite reporting internally that he had.

The report added Meyer had been made aware of these issues and if those actions continued, he would be fired.

Gene Smith suggested that Zach Smith should be replaced based on these issues, the report stated, and Meyer said no.

According to the report, Zach Smith was admitted into a drug treatment facility based on the advice made by Meyer. The reports said Smith was addicted to a stimulant prescription drug used to treat ADHD. Gene Smith was unaware that Zach Smith was admitted to the drug treatment facility, according to the report.

Shelley Meyer

The summary provided additional information into the text messages sent by Courtney Smith to Shelley Meyer about the alleged abuse. The report stated Courtney Smith told Shelley Meyer that Courtney Smith was concerned for her safety, and that Shelley Meyer later contacted Powell Police to learn more about the investigation into Zach Smith.

Shelley Meyer did not tell Urban Meyer about either the text messages or the outreach to the Powell Police, the report said.

However, it did say that given “the closeness of their relationship and Shelley’s concerns, we believe it is likely that Shelley and Urban Meyer had at least some communications about these allegations in late 2015 and were concerned about them.”

It added that both had their doubts about the validity of Courtney Smith’s claims.

After Zach Smith was fired from Ohio State, the report said Shelley Meyer sent Urban Meyer the following text message at 7:35 p.m. on July 23.

“I am worried about Zach’s response,” Shelley Meyer said according to the report. “He drinks a lot and I am just not sure how stable he will be. Afraid he will do something dangerous. It’s obvious he has anger/rage issues already.”

The report states that Meyer did not respond to that text message from his wife.

Deleting text messages

The day after reports emerged on Aug. 1 that Meyer might have known about the 2015 abuse of Zach Smith against his then-wife, Courtney Smith, Meyer and Voltolini discussed whether they could delete text messages on Meyer’s phone that were more than a year old after discussing whether the media could get access to Meyer’s phone, the report said.

The report added that a review of Meyer’s phone revealed “no messages older than one year.” Meyer’s phone was set to retain messages for only that period, but  the report stated that it was not possible to tell if his phone was set to retain messages after one year as a response of the reports that emerged the previous day.

The report said there was a “failure of OSU personnel to respond promptly to two July 25 records request” from The Lantern for text messages, call history and emails between Zach Smith and Urban Meyer and between Gene Smith and Urban Meyer between the dates of July 18 through July 24, as well as between Oct. 25, 2015 and Dec. 1, 2015.

According to the findings, if The Lantern’s records request had been “examined and processed promptly at that time” when the request was filed on July 25, 2018, “we would know definitively that the August 1 article’s revelations had no impact on the evidence we received for July 23rd and dates in 2015.”

Read the full report here.

*Updated at 11:49 a.m. on Aug. 23, 2018: Included Ohio State’s response to The Lantern’s request for comment.

5 comments

  1. That disaster of a press conference should be a curriculum module of what NOT to do.
    …Perception is Reality.

  2. Interested Buckeye

    It shouldn’t be too hard to check the expense reports of the football coaching staff and find out just who the other OSU football coach and the high school coach(es) were who went to the Miami strip club in May of 2014. (See p. 6 of the Independent Investigation Summary of findins.) Perhaps a simple request to the Compliance Office or the NCAA would suffice. And while you are at it, please let us know whether OSU funded any of this.

  3. The Ohio State administrators can protect Meyer from punishment but Meyer and his wife can’t be protected from their lack of morality.

    A battered women makes a plea to them for help and Meyer and his wife do nothing – except continue to rehire the wife-beating coach year after year to his state paid job.

    Meyer and his wife say they followed university procedures in the matter. Do university procedures require a wife-beater be continually rehired each year to a state-paid job?

    But this is big time NCAA football at Ohio State so I bet Meyer and his wife haven’t lost a minute of sleep over the fact they were enablers for a wife beater.

    • There’s no evidence of him beating his wife. She’s an unstable drunk that starts fights and calls the cops after she does. Neighbors up here get real tired of it. You don’t have the facts on this “victim”. But please, take your shots. Everyone else is.

  4. I am a lawyer in Texas so I don’t know Ohio law but I would check to see if there are penalties in Ohio for destroying texts that were subject to an open records request whether or not Coach Meyer knew about the request.

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