Urban Meyer’s handling of Zach Smith’s abuse allegations: What we know

Ohio State fired receivers coach Zach Smith on July 23, after multiple domestic violations against Smith came to public light. Since then, more revelations have come to light and led to the school placing Meyer on paid administrative leave on Wednesday.

Here’s what we know about this story.

Courtney Smith, the assistant coach’s ex-wife, has accused him since 2009 of repeated domestic violence.

Brett McMurphy was first to report on the incident in 2009, while Smith worked for Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer as a Florida Gators grad assistant:

[Smith] was arrested for aggravated battery on a pregnant victim, according to a Gainesville Police Department report. Courtney Smith was 8-10 weeks pregnant at the time.

That alleged assault occurred on June 21, 2009 – the Smith’s one-year wedding anniversary. Courtney Smith, however, ultimately decided not to press charges.

McMurphy later reported:

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.”

The Columbus Dispatch reported that police twice went to Smith’s wife’s home in late 2015 to investigate reports of domestic abuse:

Two incident reports provided by the Powell police department on Tuesday detailed a visit to Courtney Smith’s home on Oct. 26, 2015, for suspicion of domestic violence and felonious assault. Fourteen days later, police were called to the residence on a complaint of menacing by stalking.

In neither case was Zach Smith charged or arrested.

Smith told Stadium she believed police had sufficient evidence to charge him with domestic violence.

In 2016, the couple divorced.

Cleveland.com reports several other incidents, including her telling police in 2015 that she was being followed by a black SUV and that Zach Smith received a trespassing warning in December 2017 after she told police he’d been outside her house at 1:30 a.m.

The Dispatch reported that police arrested Smith in July 2018:

He was, however, arrested last week on a misdemeanor charge of criminal trespassing dating from a May incident when Smith was dropping one of the couple’s two children at his ex-wife’s apartment.

He’s pled not guilty to that charge. Smith’s lawyer says the fired coach will “tell his side of events” after both Zach and Courtney Smith have been “sworn in to testify.”

Urban Meyer has said “there was nothing” to reports of a 2015 incident.

Meyer commented from a podium at Big Ten Media Days in late July 2018, after he was asked about Smith, who’s the grandson of former Buckeyes coach and Meyer mentor Earle Bruce:

In 2015, I got a text late last night that 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.

After those remarks, McMurphy reported that a 2015 incident’s official status has since changed:

On the original Oct. 26, 2015 Powell Police report, a box on the form was checked indicating Zach had been arrested. However, nearly three years later – after I reported the incident last week – the Powell Police released a revised version of the report to the media and the arrest box was no longer checked.

“The terminology used by the Police Department was different in the original report (dated 10/26/2015) and inconsistent with what actually occurred,” said Megan Canavan, director of communication for the Powell Police Department.

Meyer also said that in 2009, he let “the experts” investigate, and indicated they said “what was reported wasn’t actually what happened.”

From Meyer’s same Big Ten Media Days comments:

Well, I’m going to address the 2009, because I’ve been asked about that. In 2009, Zach was an intern, uh, a very young couple. As I do many times — as I imagine most coaches or people in leadership positions — you receive a phone call, the 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 what was reported wasn’t actually what happened, so Shelley and I both got involved actually — because of our relationship with that family — and advised for counseling and wanted to help as we moved forward.

Courtney Smith says she came forward in 2015 to tell Meyer’s wife, Shelley, and the wives of other OSU coaches.

She says she told Shelley Meyer of Zach Smith’s domestic abuse. Asked whether Shelley ever confirmed she’d shared the information with Urban, Courtney says, “she did not.”

Text messages said by McMurphy to be between the two women appear to indicate wives of OSU coaches were aware.

Courtney said Shelley Meyer, Urban’s wife of nearly three decades, knew about the abuse that begin in 2009, continued in 2015 and culminated with Zach Smith being served a domestic violence civil protection order last week.

Courtney said she and Shelly often discussed Zach’s domestic violence.

“Shelly said she was going to have to tell Urban,” Courtney said. “I said: ‘That’s fine, you should tell Urban.’ I know Shelley did everything she could.”

McMurphy made an an appearance on ESPN’s SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt later Wednesday evening, where he was asked about Urban’s direct knowledge of the situation. Part of the segment is transcribed below:

SVP: “When you were connecting dots here, and the idea that Shelley Meyer, Urban’s wife knew, and that Urban knew. You believe that because why?”

McMurphy: “So there’s all this evidence — I do not have any direct evidence that Urban Meyer — any text messages from Urban Meyer that says he knew about it,” McMurphy said on-air. “But I have mounds of evidence that indicate that Urban Meyer would have known about this basically because [of] his relationship with his wife Shelley, who he discussed at Big Ten Media days about how close they are.

“They share everything, he relies on her for everything. They’ve been married 29 years. I find it hard to believe that the same couple they counseled in 2009 — she has evidence, she knows of domestic violence against this same woman in 2015. And they completely ignore it, and Urban has no knowledge.”

McMurphy’s report also references text messages that he says are from a 2015 conversation on the subject between Courtney Smith and Shelley Meyer, along with photos of wounds suffered by Courtney and a conversation said to include the wife of another longtime Urban staffer, who’s quoted as saying, “[Urban] just said [Zach Smith] denied everything.”

We’ll continue to update this article.


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