News & Politics

Ohio State Football Coach Urban Meyer Receives Slap on the Wrist for Abuse Scandal

Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer makes a statement during a news conference in Columbus, Ohio, Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)

The Ohio State University has placed head football coach Urban Meyer on a three-game suspension after an investigation into whether he had properly reported the allegations of domestic abuse against his former assistant coach Zach Smith.

Smith’s now ex-wife Courtney called police in 2009, when Zach Smith served under Meyer at the University of Florida, to report that Zach had hit her after he had brought a woman home to spend the night at their house and Courtney objected. Courtney Smith was pregnant at the time of the incident, and she dropped the charges.

In 2015, Courtney Smith told Meyer’s wife Shelley on multiple occasions that she feared for her safety because of her husband’s behavior. The Smiths divorced in 2016. Meyer fired Smith on July 23 of this year.

The 23-page investigation report discusses other matters involving Zach Smith, including his affair with a football program secretary, the delivery of sex toys to his OSU office, and his taking obscene photos of himself both at the OSU athletic facilities and while on a team trip to the White House. The report also details some of the conversations between Shelley Meyer and Courtney Smith, as well as between Shelley and Urban Meyer, including her concerns to the coach that Zach Smith could engage in reckless and violent behavior upon learning that he had been fired.

At a Big Ten Media Days event on July 24, Meyer denied that he knew anything about the 2015 incident involving Zach Smith, but the investigators don’t buy the denial:

We cannot logically square Coach Meyer’s responses on Big Ten Media Days broadly denying knowledge of the 2015 events regarding Zach Smith with his extensive knowledge of those events in 2015 and the evident knowledge of AD Gene Smith of the 2015 events reflected in the group text message of July 23 and July 24, 2018 sent to Coach Meyer.

Another bombshell from the investigation involved a discussion between Meyer and another member of the football staff about changing the settings on the coach’s phone to automatically delete text messages that were over a year old. Investigators did not find any text messages over a year old on his phone, but they didn’t know whether that was because the coach had activated that setting.

In the end, investigators concluded that Meyer was not completely forthcoming in his recollection of the events involving Zach Smith.

Meyer kept Zach Smith on at both Florida and Ohio State because Smith’s grandfather was Meyer’s mentor, Earle Bruce. So Zach Smith was able to coach in two different tenures at two different schools because Meyer didn’t want to upset his mentor. Yet Ohio State only saw fit to suspend him for three games — a mere slap on the wrist.

Buckeye fans held a vigil on August 6 to show their support for their head coach. But outside of Ohio State fandom, it’s tough to find unflagging support for the coach. The Twitterverse is aflame with opinions on the matter, as one might expect.

Here’s the thing: Ohio State kept Urban Meyer on, instead of firing him like they should have, because the school cares more about winning than it does integrity. The same goes for the coach. A domestic abuser stayed on the Meyer-led coaching staff at two different schools, and Meyer gets a slap on the wrist.

Both OSU and Meyer want to move on from the whole affair as though it were something minor. Over at Saturdays Down South, Connor O’Gara puts it well:

The university had to know that it was going to get roasted for any outcome that wasn’t terminating Meyer. That’s exactly what happened.

White should have basically come out and said “we absolutely didn’t want to fire Meyer, and we hope this 3-game suspension makes everyone forget that he protected an admitted domestic abuser on his staff and then lied about it to the world, and tried to bully a reporter for discovering that information.”

The sick thing is that Meyer called this “a learning experience” for him. What did he learn? How to win enough games to keep his job? Certainly Meyer didn’t learn anything about showing remorse to domestic violence victims or else he wouldn’t have responded the way he did when asked if he had anything to say to Courtney Smith. Meyer and Ohio State officials apologized to Buckeye Nation multiple times.

Meyer has apologized profusely to OSU fans but gave Courtney Smith the most perfunctory of apologies. He and the Buckeye faithful may be content to shove this whole ordeal down the memory hole after Week 3 of the season, but I doubt many fans of other teams are willing to do the same. I, for one, hope that opposing fans remind Meyer how disgraceful he is week in and week out.