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Reports and press conference show Urban Meyer’s shortcomings on handling domestic abuse

Urban Meyer listens at a press conference as he fields questions about his handling of the Zach Smith domestic abuse allegations on Aug. 22, 2018. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo Editor

Urban Meyer listens at a press conference as he fields questions about his handling of the Zach Smith domestic abuse allegations on Aug. 22, 2018. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo Editor

Urban Meyer stood at the podium, hands on either side of the glass perimeter around the mic as he addressed his three-game suspension.

His left hand twitched almost the entire time, and he rarely looked up from the prepared statement laid out before him. When he returned to his seat to answer questions from the press, he seemed out of focus, repeatedly requiring the questions to be asked again.

Ohio State’s head football coach had been at the Longaberger Alumni House for nearly 11 hours, and the outcome of the investigation into his knowledge of domestic abuse by his former assistant coach did not seem to be something he favored.

“I trust and support our president,” Meyer responded when asked if he agreed with the suspension.

His appearance at the press conference could be interpreted differently by many. Some might say he seemed tired. Some would say angry. Some might even say nervous.

One thing Meyer certainly was not: remorseful.

Throughout the press conference, Meyer avoided uttering the name of Courtney Smith, the ex-wife of his former wide receivers coach Zach Smith. And then he was asked if he had a message for Courtney specifically.

“Well, I have a message for everyone involved in this. I’m sorry we’re in this situation,” Meyer said. “And I’m just sorry we’re in this situation.”

Meyer’s seemingly nervous tics and apparent lack of focus might be open for interpretation, but less so are the messages he sent by not mentioning Courtney by name and the findings in the investigative report.

The “summary of findings,” released by Ohio State after the press conference on Wednesday, found Meyer frequently sided with his former coach than with his coach’s wife.

The first instance of this came in 2009 when Zach Smith was arrested for allegedly throwing his wife into a wall when he brought a female co-worker home to sleep on the couch after a party. Courtney Smith decided not to pursue charges.

The report said in 2009 that both Meyer and his wife, Shelley, “took away from the 2009 events that Courtney Smith was not being entirely truthful when she called 911 to have Zach arrested.”

Then, between 2015 and 2016, the report said the Powell Police Department and the Delaware County prosecutor conducted an investigation into domestic abuse allegations against Zach Smith. The report said the university’s then-Title IX deputy coordinator for athletics told athletic director Gene Smith and Meyer about the investigation, to which Meyer and Gene Smith responded by telling Zach Smith that if he ever hit Courtney or if he is charged, he would be fired.

But Courtney Smith brought the allegations to Shelley Meyer over text message. Shelley and Urban Meyer both said she never showed him the messages, but the report said “given the closeness of their relationship and Shelley’s concerns,” the group believed it was likely the two discussed the messages.

The day Zach Smith was fired, at 7:35 p.m. on July 23, Shelley sent a text to Urban Meyer saying she was “worried about Zach’s response,” the report said.

“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,” she said to Urban Meyer in the text, to which he did not respond.

In its conclusion, the summary said that both Meyer and Smith “believed in good faith that they did not have sufficient information to trigger any reporting obligation,” the pair “viewed the issue too narrowly through the lens of law enforcement.”

“Both should have made some report of Zach Smith’s potential violation of the domestic violence laws, which was the subject of the law enforcement investigation they came to know about in late October 2015,” the findings said. “Such reports would have been made to the Athletic Compliance Office and, for AD Smith, the Office of University Compliance and Integrity.”

As rape survivor and speaker Brenda Tracy told The Lantern about her visit back in July, Meyer’s comments at Big Ten Media Days are “really indicative of a huge misunderstanding of the dynamics of domestic violence.”

“There’s some education that needs to happen there and I think that it would be good for people to educate themselves; reach out to people like me, reach out to advocates in your community,” she said.

That, combined with the findings of the report and Meyer’s comments during his press conference, paints a picture of someone who, at best, does not understand how to properly handle a situation like this. Meyer allowed his loyalty toward former head coach Earle Bruce, Zach Smith’s grandfather, to cloud his judgment of Smith, the report said, and give him more chances to remain an assistant coach than would likely have been afforded another coach.

Who knows if Meyer was frustrated by the suspension or just tired when he seemed out of sorts in his press conference. But he certainly seemed to feel no remorse for Courtney Smith.

Perhaps she thought she had been untruthful, not worth believing. Perhaps he still felt disappointed in Zach Smith, the grandson of his former mentor.

Regardless, the picture he painted at the press conference and that the reports seem to show is not a glowing one of Meyer. And it’s possible this will be a stain on his legacy for years to come.

22 comments

  1. Alexander Williams

    Just another “trial by twitter”. No laws broken, no NCAA violations, no arrests, no convictions, exonerated by the police, just third party information with with a source known to have lied in the past. This guilty until proven innocent then you are still guilty environment must end.

  2. Perhaps he just doesn’t think “policing” the private lives of his assistants is his business or his right…and he would be correct on both counts. Why do university officials think they have the right to reach into the homes of employees to regulate domestic affairs? Title IX does not grant such rights.

    Meyer is a great coach and he should leave ASAP…this kangaroo court was a complete travesty.

    • You are spot on. #firedrake

    • Whether one agrees with them or not, OSU has a requirement that if you, as an employee, are aware of allegations of domestic violence, you must report within 5 working days. As the previous writer summed it up, it may have been a twitter trial but, did he respond within the appropriate time frame? No one, including an extremely well paid football coach, gets a free pass.

      • Read the report, the AD and the title IX office were aware of the allegations.

      • I thought the language said “known violations of domestic abuse” not “allegations you are aware of.” The investigative panel “did not discover evidence in connection with Zach Smith’s alleged commission of domestic violence suggesting any Title IX violation” and… “found no other facts giving rise to violations of policy, rules or contractual obligations of Coach Meyer or AD Smith in connection with alleged domestic violence by Zach Smith.” Just because it is economically profitable to be able to win college football games does not mean that football coaches are all-knowing. I think it is significant that no arrest was ever made in 2015 by legal professionals, trained in domestic violence matters, even though there were reportedly numerous allegations made.

  3. The article seems to indicate that Meyer or the University owe Courtney Smith an apology, or are somehow responsible for what goes on between her and her ex. Why? What did Meyer or the University do that harmed Courtney in any way? Employing her ex-husband didn’t harm her. They didn’t enable him, they didn’t interfere with police investigations. Not sure why anyone would think the Meyer or the University owe Courtney Smith anything.

  4. Are any female students, mothers protesting, demanding his resignation or be fired? NO. It will blow over and business as usual for almighty football. Meyer is disgusting. Apathy rules this nation. The people that still live Meyer, how would they feel if it was their daughter or mother?

    • If it were my daughter or mother I’d make sure she pressed charges and I’d get her out of the situation. I certainly wouldn’t expect that his employer would do it. But that’s a simple answer to a simple questions, not all situations are so simple. In this situation Courtneys own parents have spoken out against her and her motives.

    • spaghetti monster

      Well supposedly Courtney Smith’s own mother still thinks just fine of Urban.

      But the issue is you’re still trying to blame him for something that’s not his fault in a case of unproven charges. If there was clear evidence that all allegations were true, which so far there isn’t, then it would be fully reasonable to be angry with Zach Smith, or the police who responded totthe allegations. But it is not Urban’s, or Shelley’s, or the Smith’s neighbors’ who were probably aware, or anyone else’s responsibility to take action in a situation that was brought to the police and did not result in charges. To take action is to assert that he was guilty until proven innocent and that you are a higher power than the police and legal system.

  5. I find it disturbing that the elites have convicted Urban in the media. Lets put a microscope on everyone involved with the university board and Drake. They would all fail at something.
    Life would be so much fulfilling if people would just treat people with respect. Urban was taught how to coach, which he does a fantastic job at. He is not a babysitter of adults. The university has new problems to solve every day with staff including the board and Drake.
    Wait until the tide turns on them. Humble pie will be served cold.

    #firedrake

  6. What if the husband of a female assistant coach of an OSU athletic team reported to the head coach that his wife hit him. What should the head coach do? It’s now clear what he/she should do.
    Step 1: Head coach tells authorities at OSU.
    Step 2: Authorities give approval to fire assistant coach.
    Step 3: Head coach fires assistant coach.

    • …and, this should all happen expeditiously in a time frame of not more than a few hours. Good riddance you husband beater!

  7. many here seem to think urban is the victim. they refuse to consider that all urban had to do was report concerns. no one has said it was urban’s job to stop the alleged violence .certainly if an adult heard that a kid at a local school was acting out and may be dangerous they would notify authorities. it would not be their job to do so. they may not even have a kid there but they would act out of responsibility. but coaches and band leaders and figures we admire are defended without thought or concern for victims. all we want is for the team to win, for the band to be the best damn band in the land. and never let anything or anyone get in the way of that. it is easy to rationalize in our minds and to justify..just read the comments above.

    • And who was he supposed to report it to? The title IX office already knew, Gene Smith already knew, the police already knew. I get that it should be reported, but in this case there was nobody left…

  8. I am an older woman who lives in Texas with no ties to Ohio State. It seems to me that much of the press is encouraging a sort of vigilantism defined as taking the law into one’s own hands to effect justice based on their own idea of right and wrong. That is not a very good idea. We have a legal system of professionals who are trained in domestic violence issues. It is my understanding that a woman can be the instigator of domestic violence. I don’t believe that all the police officers who responded to Courtney’s calls were completely inept. Why is there an assumption that Courtney is the only one who is honest and truthful and all the other persons involved were mentally deficient? Why is a person whose pay is based on his ability to win football games expected to determine whether domestic violence occurred when the legal professionals were unable to make that determination?

  9. I watched the press conference live-stream. Didn’t Gene Smith answer every question directed at Urban before Urban did? I think that is why Urban asked that the questions be repeated.

    As an aside- I heard but have no way to verify this- that the Board was not in favor of the 3 game suspension but Drake dug in and insisted, and that is what took up so much of the discussion time. Can anyone verify this?

  10. Ball washing spaghetti monster

    Look at the Spaghetti queen fondling Herban’s bean bag. Call Schanio if you need someone’s Johnson to suck……so stupid…..I bet your family has an inbreeding problem

    • The University handled this problem very bad. Since when do you have to report something when the police have been at the Smith’s house 60 times in Florida and I don’t know how many times they have been to their house here. All I know as the police did not find anything to report. But the University says Gene Smith and Urban should have reported it. What if what they reported is not what happened? I thought we relied on the Police Departments in this State to handle domestic violence, not Gene Smith or Urban. Shirley Royer

  11. Edward Sutelan, you shouldn’t even be at OSU, much less reporting for them. Urban was closer to Zach and Courtney than any of us and knew her better and most likely knew that she’s the one who owes the apology to Urban and the University for making such a stink that doesn’t benefit her or anyone else. And you and McMurphy owe an apology as well for your sensationalism to get readers.

  12. Urban’s first action was to delete old text messages from his phone, which the university kept quiet until AFTER the press conference. The whole thing is a joke, and a giant stain on the university, 10x worse than whatever happened under Tressel.

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