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Column: Urban Meyer tried to help everyone except Courtney Smith

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer answers questions during his first press conference back from suspension. Credit: Amal Saeed | Assistant Photo Editor

For nearly an hour, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer fielded question after question about the events leading up to his suspension and the results of the investigation.

He talked about all he learned, or claimed he learned. He spoke about how many people he’s helped over the years. All the former coaches under him who have moved on to become successful head coaches.

“When I see someone in need, you help the person in need,” Meyer said in his first press conference since his suspension on Aug. 22. “How far do you go? That’s the fine line.”

Still, what was unclear by the end of the press conference was how much Meyer had helped the one person who seems to have gotten lost in this ongoing drama: Courtney Smith.

Courtney Smith, who brought forward claims of domestic abuse against her ex-husband and Meyer’s longtime assistant coach Zach Smith, finally had her name uttered by Meyer after he failed to do it in his first press conference when his suspension was announced. But the help he claimed to have provided, the sympathy he attempted to give, seemed more directed toward himself than to her.

In the aforementioned quote, Meyer is not referring to Courtney Smith. He is not suggesting he needed to go far to help her. He is referring to Zach Smith, the troubled employee who visited a strip club, dealt with addiction and cheated on his spouse, whom he allegedly abused.

With all that happening around Zach Smith, every new problem that emerged about the assistant coach, Meyer still retained him. Meyer spun that in such a way to make himself appear thoughtful of Courtney Smith and her children.

“Fire Zach Smith? Can he support that family? And what happens next?” Meyer asked, later adding that Zach Smith “has an obligation to raise those kids. He has an obligation to support that family.”

Meyer sought counseling for Zach Smith to treat his addiction. He instituted a new rule in the employee manual to ensure no coaches go on future strip club visits. He threatened termination when he heard about the alleged abuse.

But Meyer did not go any further than allowing the authorities to investigate the claims. And when the police came back with no charges against Zach Smith, Meyer decided that was convincing enough to allow Zach to remain on the team.

Meyer said he now understands he should have done more than just taken the word of the police. But is he sincere about that?

His truthfulness with that sentiment was tested when he was asked directly if he believed Courtney Smith was ever a victim of domestic violence.

“I can only rely on what information I received from the experts,” Meyer said, providing what was one of his shortest answers to any question asked to him during the 56-minute long press conference.

That answer could have many interpretations. It could be said he’s being careful not to prove someone guilty without a trial. It could be said he’s not trusting the word of a domestic abuse victim.

But if he’s not going to believe Courtney Smith by now, why should anyone believe he’ll look beyond police reports in the future?

Meyer tried to paint himself as a character deserving of sympathy, someone who is sad he missed the first three games of the season and whose reputation might be tarnished. Someone who has learned his lessons and is ready to move on.

“It’s tough to take,” Meyer said about how his credibility might be shattered.

He said he did not do a very good job at Big Ten Media Days, and that he has learned from it and feels sorry for all that happened. He will now retake the reins of a vaunted football program.

Meyer is trying to move on. He answered the questions he felt he needed to answer. Now, it’s back to football for him. Everything else is up to the public.

“Now everybody has a decision to make and a choice to make,” Meyer said. “I was very clear about why I was doing, why I said what I said. And I apologize for that. If that destroys a guy’s credibility, then I apologize for that. Also, did I turn my back to domestic abuse? Not one bit. I never would do that.”

One comment

  1. So, you’re saying that any employer is responsible for not just their employees, but their spouses, and, by association, their children? Where do you suppose this stops? Their extended families? Their neighbors?

    Also, I guess you don’t mind your spouse’s employer “checking” up on you? Or the government? Where do you think it will stop?

    It sounds nice….like you’re thoughtful and benevolent, but what you are REALLY saying is that no one deserves privacy.

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