The Slatest

Ohio State’s Urban Meyer Placed on Administrative Leave After Claim He Likely Knew About Assistant’s Alleged Abuse

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes wearing a headset on the sideline of the Goodyear Cotton Bowl on December 29, 2017 in Arlington, Texas.
Head coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes during the Goodyear Cotton Bowl on December 29, 2017 in Arlington, Texas.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Ohio State placed head football coach Urban Meyer on paid administrative leave Wednesday after the ex-wife of a former Buckeyes assistant alleged that Meyer likely knew about a 2015 domestic violence complaint against that coach. According to a report posted on Facebook by former ESPN reporter Brett McMurphy, Courtney Smith filed a police report regarding her then-husband Zach Smith on 0ct. 26, 2015, alleging that “a domestic incident happened last night at her home and that she has been a victim of sustained physical abuse.” No charges were filed against Zach Smith in the aftermath of that report, but he was fired as Ohio State’s wide receivers coach last month after he was charged with criminal trespassing stemming from an incident in which he dropped off one of his children at his ex-wife’s house. Zach Smith has pled not guilty to that trespassing charge.

In interviews with McMurphy and the television network Stadium, Courtney Smith said she was abused by her ex-husband as far back as 2009, with that abuse including “pushing me against the wall, putting his hands around my throat. There were so many instances. It’s hard to recall all of them.” She says the abuse also included multiple incidents of public terror, such as showing up at her house and banging on the windows late at night.

When asked about Zach Smith’s alleged domestic abuse at last week’s Big Ten media day, Meyer said “I was never told about anything” and added that it was a “very tough call” to fire Smith upon learning about the criminal trespassing charge. According to Cleveland.com, “Meyer said he had his staff look into those 2015 allegations last week, when he claimed to first hear about them, and that ‘there’s nothing … I don’t know who creates a story like that.’ “

Text messages obtained by McMurphy, however, indicate that Urban’s wife Shelley Meyer knew about the 2015 allegations and appeared to believe in their veracity. Shelley wrote to Courtney Smith at the time, “I am with you! A lot of women stay hoping it will get better. I don’t blame you! But just want u to be safe. Do you have a restraining order? He scares me.”

The question now for Ohio State is what Urban Meyer knew and when he knew it. Courtney Smith says she doesn’t know for sure whether Shelley Meyer told her husband about the abuse claims, but Smith believes it’s likely she did. “Shelley said she was going to have to tell Urban,” Courtney Smith said McMurphy. “I said: ‘That’s fine, you should tell Urban.’ I know Shelley did everything she could.”

Offensive coordinator Ryan Day will serve as the Buckeyes’ acting head coach during the investigation; Ohio State starts practice Friday.