Urban Meyer admits he knew about abuse allegations against ex-WR coach in 2015

Yahoo Sports
Urban Meyer (R) and former WR coach <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/ncaaf/players/263324/" data-ylk="slk:Zach Smith">Zach Smith</a>. Meyer admitted Friday he knew Smith was accused of domestic violence in 2015 and kept him on staff. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)
Urban Meyer (R) and former WR coach Zach Smith. Meyer admitted Friday he knew Smith was accused of domestic violence in 2015 and kept him on staff. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

Urban Meyer admitted in a letter posted to Twitter on Friday that he knew of domestic violence accusations against former wide receivers coach Zach Smith in 2015.

Meyer’s admission that he knew Courtney Smith had accused her ex-husband of abuse three years ago is a departure from what Meyer said at Big Ten Media Days on July 24. Meyer told assembled media in Chicago that he was previously completely unaware of any accusations of abuse from 2015 — but knew about an accusation of abuse in 2009 when Zach worked for Meyer at Florida — and even went so far as to accuse the report of the 2015 accusation of being made up.

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‘I have always followed proper reporting protocols’

Meyer said in his letter that he’s always followed proper procedure and did so when he learned that Courtney had accused Zach of abuse in 2015.

Screenshots of text messages between Courtney Smith and the wives of other Ohio State staff members — including Meyer’s wife Shelley — show that she told them of the accusations and even included pictures of bruising.

“Here is the truth: While at the University of Florida, and now at The Ohio State University, I have always followed proper reporting protocols and procedures when I have learned of an incident involving a student-athlete, coach or member of our staff by elevating the issues to the proper channels,” Urban Meyer wrote. “And, I did so regarding the Zach Smith incident in 2015. I take that responsibility very seriously and any suggestion to the contrary is simply false.”

“The power of what I say and how I say it, especially regarding sensitive and serious domestic issues, has never been more evident than now. My words, whether in a reply to a reporter’s question or in addressing a personnel issue, must be clear, compassionate and most of all, completely accurate. Unfortunately, at Big Ten Media Days on July 24 I failed on many of these fronts. My intention was not to say anything inaccurate or misleading. However I was not adequately prepared to discuss these sensitive personnel issues with the media and I apologize for the way I handled those questions.”

The letter does not detail who or where Meyer made his reporting to or how he found out about the accusation. Given that Shelley Meyer was directly told of the allegations, it seems implausible that she would have withheld that information from Urban. 

Smith remained on Ohio State’s staff until July 23, when he was fired after Courtney obtained a protection order against him. His firing came after college football reporter Brett McMurphy reported the 2009 and 2015 accusations.

Meyer on July 24: ‘There was nothing’

Meyer said at Big Ten Media Days that he and Shelley had intervened when Courtney accused Zach of pushing her against a wall when the couple resided in Gainesville in 2009 but that the recent revelation of the 2015 accusation had taken him by surprise.

Here are his full remarks to a question about Zach Smith on July 24. Before his news conference, Meyer told a group of reporters that he had done some research about the 2015 accusation the night before and didn’t find anything.

“In 2009 Zach was an intern, a very young couple,” Meyer said at his news conference. “As I do any times, most coaches and people in leadership positions, you receive a phone call, first thing you do is tell your boss, let the experts do their jobs. We’re certainly not going to investigate. “

“It came back to me that what was reported wasn’t actually what happened. And [wife] Shelley and I actually both got involved because of our relationship with that family and advised for counseling and wanted to help as we moved forward.

“2015, I got a text late last night something happened in 2015. And there was nothing. Unless, once again, there’s nothing – once again, I don’t know who creates a story like that.”

“And then this recent one was you press pause, it’s something our team lives by, E + R = O, you press pause and get your mind right and step up, press pause and gather information, get your mind right, gather energy, and then step up to do the right thing. That’s the position I hold. That’s how we did that.”


Meyer’s full letter

My heart is heavy today as I witness the toll that events of the past week have taken on the Buckeye Family and the university community that I love so dearly.

When I stand before the 105 young men in our football program and talk about core values and doing the right thing and respecting women, it is not lip-service. I genuinely believe that we have an obligation to help develop the young men in our charge into positive change agents and that responsibility rests with me.

Over the past several days, I have been portrayed as being indifferent to domestic violence and as someone who did not take appropriate action when warranted. While over three decades of coaching I have learned to ignore how others define me, I do feel it necessary to share the truth with the Buckeye family.

Here is the truth: While at the University of Florida, and now at The Ohio State University, I have always followed proper reporting protocols and procedures when I have learned of an incident involving a student-athlete, coach or member of our staff by elevating the issues to the proper channels. And, I did so regarding the Zach Smith incident in 2015. I take that responsibility very seriously and any suggestion to the contrary is simply false.

The power of what I say and how I say it, especially regarding sensitive and serious domestic issues, has never been more evident than now. My words, whether in a reply to a reporter’s question or in addressing a personnel issue, must be clear, compassionate and most of all, completely accurate. Unfortunately, at Big Ten Media Days on July 24 I failed on many of these fronts. My intention was not to say anything inaccurate or misleading. However I was not adequately prepared to discuss these sensitive personnel issues with the media and I apologize for the way I handled those questions.

I understand that there are more questions to be answered and I look forward to doing just that with the independent investigators retained by the University and I will cooperate fully with them. At the appropriate time, I will also address the questions and speculation in a public forum. But for now, out of respect for the ongoing inquiry, I will refrain at this time.

Please know that the truth is the ultimate power and I am confident that I took appropriate action. As I stated above, I deeply regret if I have failed in my words. As the son of an amazing woman and the husband to another and, as the father of two incredible young women, those who know me best know the admiration and respect I have for all women. Our core values are just that — values that do not ever waver.

I ask that you continue to support the incredible coaches and student-athletes in our program, and I look forward to rejoining them soon.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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