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Gene Smith ‘disappointed’ in Brett McMurphy report

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 Athletic Director Gene Smith denied a report from Stadium’s Brett McMurphy that stated a verbal altercation might have taken place in which former wide receivers coach Zach Smith used racial slurs toward former Ohio State wide receiver Trevon Grimes.

McMurphy published his report on Stadium Tuesday morning, claiming that during a practice in September 2017, Zach Smith used racial slurs directed toward Grimes. His report was based on accounts from Grimes’ father, LeBron Grimes. The report said Grimes’ mother, Leah Grimes, told McMurphy that Trevon and his father have not spoken for more than two years. The report also suggested Trevon’s transfer to Florida was part of an effort to cover up the meeting and that head coach Urban Meyer was aware of the incident and helped keep it under wraps.

Gene Smith told The Lantern it was disappointing to see a coach — referring to Meyer — who “cares deeply about respect for others” and a program that appreciates diversity and knows that “being demeaning or using derogatory, racial comments is unacceptable” put in a position where they appear as if they are covering up for the alleged incident.

“I’m disappointed that the accusation was made and that that family’s being dragged into the story for no reason,” Gene Smith said Tuesday.

Brett McMurphy told The Lantern he stands by his reporting. He later added that they are not his allegations, but rather claims he was told on record by multiple sources.

Gene Smith said he was aware the report would be coming out last week, and that during that week he met with players and coaches on the football team, as well as Leah Grimes. When the university first learned of McMurphy’s report, a meeting was called between the team and compliance staff at the university, and players and coaches with knowledge of the incident were interviewed.

After talking with Leah Grimes, Gene Smith said he “just felt bad for her and what she’s dealing with” and that he respected the position she was going to take. Leah Grimes could not be reached for comment to The Lantern and only issued a statement to McMurphy saying Meyer was a good friend to the family and that it was unfair to accuse him of the misconduct.

The interview subjects were staff around at the time and players who were there, Gene Smith said.

“There was no use of the N-word, and our players are the type of young men that had that  been used, they would not accept that,” Gene Smith said. “They would have gone to Urban or come to me, and we ultimately would have dealt with it so that and found who did an unbelievable accusation.”

Gene Smith said the altercation that took place involved Zach Smith and Trevon Grimes, where Zach Smith “was trying to motivate him to play harder.”

The reason behind Trevon Grimes’ transfer to Florida, Gene Smith said, was to be closer to his mother, who was battling cancer. Ohio State’s athletic director said they worked with Florida to facilitate the transfer so Trevon Grimes could play immediately, pursuing his academic and athletic career as a Gator while spending time with his mother, who lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, less than 350 miles from Gainesville, Florida.

Gene Smith said McMurphy implied there was a cover-up around the transfer, but that Ohio State had compiled a litany of documentation to orchestrate the immediate transfer. The university had documentation from doctors and pictures of Trevon Grimes’ mother in the hospital, hoping it would help the transfer process quicker, Gene Smith said.

On the Big Ten coaches teleconference, Meyer said he was considering legal action to pursue against McMurphy for the report, but Smith said he has had no discussions with Meyer about that.

Gene Smith also said that while he has not read much of McMurphy’s reporting in the past, that he hopes the journalism industry will weigh in on the ethics surrounding McMurphy’s report.

“I respect good journalism,” Smith said. “I respect people who operate with the ethical conduct that journalists should abide by.”

Updated at 8:48 p.m. with additional statement by Brett McMurphy.

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