Text messages released Friday by Ohio State as part of an independent investigation of former head football coach Urban Meyer and former wide receivers coach Zach Smith reveal concerns about Smith’s performance prior to his firing. Though many texts and names were redacted, the texts provide insight into events preceding Smith’s termination.
Smith was hired as an assistant coach at Ohio State in 2012 after previously coaching under Meyer at Florida. Reported domestic abuse accusations against Smith date back to 2009 and Smith was fired by the university three days after his ex-wife filed a civil protection order against him on July 20, 2018. Meyer stepped down from his position as head coach after a 2018 season that saw him suspended for three games due to his handling of Smith.
Despite concerns over his performance, the texts also show Smith was given additional responsibility before his termination.
Meyer expressed concerns about Smith as early as Dec. 24, 2017, when he asked where Smith was and asked someone to keep an eye on him.
“Keep an eye on zach,” Meyer said in a text to a redacted recipient. “He is not here. Need to make [sure] his guys play well. I will say something as well.”
Problems with Smith were ongoing, according to texts between Meyer and his former agent, Trace Armstrong, July 24, 2018, the day after Smith was fired. Armstrong had texted Meyer to telling him to be ready for the day
“Amazingly all the stuff vs Zach will get legally dropped and he was fired,” Meyer said in a text. “Tuff perception world we live in. He was fired for cumulative stuff. I will not tell media.”
In the same text, Meyer asked Armstrong to “monitor” for him that day.
“Will do,” said Armstrong in a text responding to Meyer. “For sure it was the totality of his choices…but you had to do it. Only a matter of time before he did something that did substantial harm to you or the program.”
Shelley Meyer, Urban Meyer’s wife, also expressed concern about Smith’s temperament that day.
“I am worried about Zach’s response,” she said July 24, 2018 in a text to a redacted recipient. “He drinks a lot and I’m just not sure how stable he will be. Afraid he will do something dangerous. It’s obvious he has anger/rage issues already.”
Leading up to the firing, however, Smith was still given additional responsibility and encouraged to stick with the program in a Jan. 18, 2018 exchange after Smith was offered another job.
“After much thought, I want u to stay,” Meyer said in a text. “I have personally invested far too much in u to put u in position to take next step. U need to step away from other situation and let’s go win it all ….again.”
Meyer said moving forward, Smith should put “cell phone away-full engagement and become a coordinator.”
A Jan. 21, 2018 text from Urban to a redacted recipient said that Zach Smith had been offered the wide receiver/passing game coordinator job at Alabama, but that Smith turned it down.
June 4, 2018, Meyer said in a text that Smith would be “in charge of this class like [former assistant coach Kerry Coombs] used to.”
On July 20, 2018, three days before his firing, Meyer texted about a recruit’s concerns around Smith.
“(Redacted) texted me about zach and the legal issue,” Meyer said in a text. “Asked if he was ok. Says he hasn’t heard from him in awhile. We need to keep recruiting (redacted) as if he is not committed. Need to stay on this!”
“Yeah I haven’t hit him up since Monday – was letting this shit blow over for a couple days,” Smith said. “But I got you. Just hit him now.”
“I also reached out to his mom and dad just now,” Meyer said. “We can’t let people use this against us.”
Days later, on July 23, Meyer announced Smith’s termination to the staff.
“Send to staff. All – I made a decision to release Zach from staff. Core value violation and cumulative issues. ‘Win the Moment’ – most important thing is team and players at this time,” Meyer said in a text to a redacted recipient, “Zero conversation about Zach’s past issues. We need to help him as he moved frwd. Team and players!! Thx. Will discuss plan when I return Wednesday.”