Ohio State's investigation couldn't conclude Urban Meyer 'deliberately lied' at Big Ten Media Days

Yahoo Sports

Ohio State announced Wednesday night that Urban Meyer would not coach the team’s first three games of the season for his role in the handling of domestic abuse allegations against former assistant coach Zach Smith in 2015.

Meyer, who has been on paid administrative leave, is suspended without pay through Sept. 2. He can rejoin the team after then but can’t coach in a game until Sept. 23. He’ll miss games against Oregon State, Rutgers and TCU. Ryan Day is the team’s interim coach.

Additionally, athletic director Gene Smith is suspended from Aug. 31-Sept. 16. Here are some of the most noteworthy quotes from the news conference involving lead investigator Mary Jo White, Ohio State president Michael Drake, Gene Smith and Meyer.

White started off the press conference with a summary of the report.

Investigation unable to conclude Urban Meyer ‘deliberately lied’

Lead investigator Mary Jo White said a big part of the investigation stemmed from the statement Meyer made July 24 at Big Ten Media Days when he said he didn’t know about a July 2015 accusation of domestic violence against Smith.

She opened the news conference with a statement about the investigation.

“Despite Coach Meyer’s clear awareness in 2015 of monitoring of the law enforcement investigation of Zach Smith for domestic violence we ultimately did not conclude that Coach Meyer deliberately lied during his comments at Big Ten Media Days on July 24, 2018,” White said. “He has consistently maintained that he did not recall in July 2018 what he knew in 2015 regarding the domestic violence investigation of Zach Smith by law enforcement.

“And we credit that Coach Meyer in answering reporters’ questions on July 24 was closely focused on erroneous media reports that Zach Smith had been arrested on felony charges in 2015, which coach Meyer had determined the night before not to have occurred. But his answers swept more broadly than the falsely reported arrest and Coach Meyer falsely stated that he lacked knowledge of all relevant events regarding alleged domestic violence by Zach Smith in 2015.

“While those denials were plainly not accurate, Coach Meyer did not, in our view, deliberately lie.”

Here’s what Meyer said at Big Ten Media Days. He said in an Aug. 3 statement that he lied at Big Ten Media Days and blamed the misstatements on a lack of preparation.


Brett McMurphy, the reporter who publicly revealed the domestic abuse allegations against Smith, posted a picture of the 2015 incident report after the news conference. The box next to “arrest” is checked.

On July 23, I reported Zach Smith was arrested in 2015 because that is exactly what the Powell Police’s Ohio Uniform Offense Report from 2015 indicated. “Box F Arrest – Adult” had an “X” in it. I have included a copy of that report (the handwritten notes on the report are mine in the days/weeks after I obtained the report). 

On July 24, the Powell, Ohio, Police Department released a “revised report” about the 2015 incident – nearly three years after the incident – and the Powell Police Department changed its original report and now had the arrest box unchecked in its “revised report.

Meyer accepts responsibility for ‘this situation’

Meyer breezed through a prepared statement shortly after White’s remarks about the investigation. Here is part of it.

“I am fully aware that I am ultimately responsible for this situation that has harmed the university as a whole and the department of athletics and our football program and Buckeye Nation. I followed my heart and not my head. I fell short in pursuing full information because at each juncture I gave Zach Smith the benefit of the doubt.

“As I reflect, my loyalty to his grandfather Earle Bruce, who was my mentor, likely impacted how I treated Zach over the years. I did not know everything about Zach Smith, what Zach Smith was doing and I am pleased that the report made this very clear. However I should have demanded more from him and recognized red flags.

“I did a poor job at media day. That’s a big reason why we’re here today. I was not being as complete or accurate as I should have been at media day and afterward. But there was no intent to mislead. My role is to set a good example and in this instance I did not live up to the university’s standards.”

Gene Smith asked if he knew of 2009 incident involving Zach Smith

Ohio State’s athletic director was asked if he had been told of a 2009 domestic abuse allegation against Zach Smith when Smith was a graduate assistant under Meyer at Florida.

“No I was not,” Gene Smith said.

Why Meyer said he fired Zach Smith

Smith was fired July 23, three days after his ex-wife Courtney Smith received a protection order against him. The firing also came hours after the allegations of domestic abuse from 2009 and 2015 were revealed publicly.

“I received that week, I can’t remember the exact date, someone told me there was a court date or asked was I aware of a court date involving Zach,” Meyer said. “I said I was not. They started explaining to me it was a trespassing issue. I immediately contacted Gene. I told [director of football operations] Brian Voltolini to find out more about what happened. I called Zach Smith in. He was on vacation and I had him come in to ask what this was all about. He told me in great detail what had happened and that he was dropping his children off at a certain location and then went to the house and eventually had a citation for trespassing. He made it sound like it was not that big of a deal.

“I told Gene and we both decided to just keep him updated. I was very disappointed it had happened approximately two months prior to that. I was very upset that he didn’t share that with me. And I made that clear, ‘You have to keep me exactly posted on any situation like that,’ so I can alert Gene.”

“And then I go to media days and that Monday I find out there’s a restraining order and that’s when termination entered my mind. The seriousness of a restraining order and also the fact that I made very clear that you keep me posted and alert me to any situation and he did not do that and later that day I made the decision to fire him.”

What Meyer would say to Courtney Smith

Meyer was asked at the end of the press conference what he would say to Zach Smith’s ex-wife Courtney. He did not directly apologize to her.

“My message for everyone involved in this: I’m sorry we’re in this situation,” Meyer said. “I’m just sorry we’re in this situation.”

Meyer ‘unaware’ of text messages from Courtney Smith to his wife Shelley

Courtney Smith said she told Shelley Meyer about the allegations against Zach. Shelley said she would have to tell Urban about it. Urban Meyer said he did not hear about the allegations from Shelley.

“I was not aware of Shelley’s text messages at the time,” Meyer said.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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