Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer has been placed on paid administrative leave, just hours after a report from college football insider Brett McMurphy showed that Meyer likely knew of abuse allegations against former assistant Zach Smith in 2015, despite his recent denials of having any knowledge at the time.
“The university is conducting an investigation into these allegations,” the school said in a statement. “We are focused on supporting our players and on getting to the truth as expeditiously as possible.
Meyer put out a statement as well, saying he agreed with the decision as it “allows the team to conduct training camp with minimal distraction. I eagerly look forward to the resolution of this matter.”
Ryan Day will take over the team’s head coaching duties during the investigation. The Buckeyes season is set to start in just over four weeks against Oregon State.
The investigation will likely look into what Meyer knew about the abuse allegations against Smith, Ohio State’s former wide receivers coach, and when he knew it.
Smith was fired in July after an earlier report from McMurphy showed that Smith’s ex-wife Courtney had filed a domestic violence civil protection order against him which brought to light a history of abuse allegations.
Shortly after Smith’s firing, Meyer denied any previous knowledge of the 2015 allegations.
Per Cleveland.com :
“When I first heard that last night, I did some research and there was nothing,” Meyer said. “I don’t know. Someone texted me that last night. I said, ‘2015?’ That was only a couple years ago. I told people to go find out for me. I’m not sure where that comes up.”
McMurphy’s latest report shows that Courtney Smith had exchanged text messages with Meyer’s wife Shelley and the wives of other coaches on the team regarding the allegations of abuse at the time.
“All the (coaches) wives knew,” Courtney said. “They all did. Every single one.”
McMurphy cites an exchange between Shelley Meyer and Courtney Smith in his report, showing the extent of Shelley’s knowledge of the situation in 2015.
Shelley Meyer: “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” Courtney Smith: “Restraining orders don’t do anything in Ohio-I tried to get protection order which is what started this whole investigation. And that should go through soon finally. It’s hard bc you have to prove immediate danger. Legal system is tough. Basically you have to prove he will kill u to get protective order” Shelley Meyer: “Geesh! Even w the pics? Didn’t law enforcement come to your place ever??”
Another text exchange provided to McMurphy showed communication between Courtney and Lindsey Voltolini, wife of Ohio State director of football operations Brian Voltolini, that imply Urban Meyer knew of the allegations at the time.
Courtney Smith: “(Zach’s) trying to make me look crazy bc that’s what Shelley is saying (he’s doing)” Lindsey Voltolini: “He (Urban) just said he (Zach) denied everything” Smith: “I hope urban is smarter than that” Voltolini: “He (Urban) doesn’t know what to think” Smith: “I don’t really care. Ya know” Voltolini: “Yeah, don’t worry about urb”
The report also includes photos from the alleged incidents that show Courtney with bruises and cuts, as well as threatening texts from her ex-husband.
McMurphy notes in his report that if Meyer knew about the allegations against Smith and ignored them, the school could be in violation of Title IX.
Courtney Smith also spoke with Stadium about her struggle to find help, and her decision to come forward with the allegations in 2015.
“I was told, ‘don’t call the police,'” Smith says. “‘If you call the police, he’s going to get arrested. It’s going to go to the media, and he’s going to lose his job. What are you and the kids going to do?'”
Courtney also spoke with McMurphy about being pressured not to press charges after Zach was arrested for aggravated battery in 2009 while she was pregnant.
“A few days after Zach’s 2009 arrest, Courtney said two of Meyer’s closest friends – Hiram de Fries and Earle Bruce – asked her to drop the charges. Bruce is Zach Smith’s grandfather, de Fries is Meyer’s ‘life coach.’
“[De Fries] said ‘if you don’t drop the charges, Zach will never coach again,'” Courtney said. “‘He’s never hit you before. He was drinking. He’ll probably never do it again. You should think about giving him a second chance.'”
You can read McMurphy’s full report here .