Ohio State University announced Monday that its leadership will meet Wednesday to discuss the fate of head football coach Urban Meyer, who was placed on paid leave while the university determined what he knew about allegations of domestic violence involving a former assistant coach.
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University officials released a statement that said the 20-member board of trustees will meet in executive session at 9 a.m. Wednesday to evaluate Meyer's actions.
Two sources connected to the investigation said the likely recommendation to university President Michael V. Drake is a suspension for Meyer. Drake and the board also could opt for a "time served" punishment since Meyer has been removed from football activities for more than two weeks.
Ohio State spokesman Chris Davey did not dispute what the sources told The Dispatch, but he called their statements "reckless."
"Let’s get the facts, allow the board to deliberate, and then the president of the university will announce his decision in due time," he said.
Drake is to make the final decision on Meyer. It's not a given that Drake will decide on Wednesday after hearing from the trustees.
The trustees were verbally informed of the findings of the investigation Monday at a secret meeting that the university, in a statement, called an "informational briefing."
Under the Ohio Open Meetings Act, a gathering of a public body like the trustees is a "meeting" if it has three characteristics: it is a prearranged gathering, a majority of the members are in attendance and the purpose is to "conduct, transact, deliberate, or discuss public business." Any special meeting of a public body requires at least 24 hours' advance notice, regardless of whether the public body decides to go from a public session to a closed-door "executive session" that is allowed under one of several exceptions to the act, such as to discuss personnel or pending legal matters.
Davey said there was no public notice of the briefing because there was no public business performed by the board. The board needed the briefing in order to deliberate Wednesday, he said.
"There was no discussion, deliberation or action taken by the board,” Davey said. “There’s no requirement to make it public, and there is legal precedent for these types of things.”
Davey said all 20 members of the Board of Trustees participated, 13 in person and seven by phone. They were presented with the findings of the investigation by the working group and the investigative team.
Meanwhile, the state attorney general’s office Monday delayed asking permission for Ohio State to spend up to $500,000 to pay for the Meyer investigation.
The request was scheduled to go before the state Controlling Board, a legislative spending-oversight panel, to approve payment to the New York-based law firm Debevoise & Plimpton. The hourly rate for the investigative work is not to exceed $1,620.
”The Controlling Board item has been deferred as the parties will be adjusting the budget on this matter,” said Dan Tierney, spokesman for Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office.
The request is expected to be back on the agenda when the Controlling Board meets in two weeks. No payment has yet been made to the firm.
A few lawmakers on the board said they had questions about the payment.
“I’m hopeful they can pinpoint more specifically the costs so we don’t have to regularly revisit the issue with additional funding requests,” said Sen. Jay Hottinger, R-Newark.
Hottinger said he wanted to know more about the total cost and why the university is using an out-of-state law firm to conduct the investigation.
Sen. Charleta Tavares, D-Columbus, whose district includes most of Ohio State’s main campus, said she questioned the timing and wanted to hear more about the hourly rate, which, she said, seemed high.
Meyer and his coaching staff have been surrounded by turmoil since a report by sports journalist Brett McMurphy in which Courtney Smith detailed allegations involving her husband, assistant coach Zach Smith. The report came about a week after Courtney Smith filed a civil protection order against Zach Smith. He was fired July 23, soon after the protection order was granted.
Zach and Courtney Smith have since made statements to several media outlets stating their sides in the years-long domestic dispute.
The city of Powell has refused to release the police report that details the incident in 2015. The Dispatch has filed a public-records complaint in the Ohio Court of Claims to gain access to the report.
Drake appeared on a local radio show last week and said the investigation would conclude over the weekend. He would not offer any thoughts on the investigation or what he thought should happen with Meyer.
Meyer released a statement shortly after being placed on paid administrative leave. In it, he said he mishandled Zach Smith's domestic situation and that he was not accurate in July when he said he was not aware of the 2015 incident between the couple that is now subject of the investigation.
"I deeply regret if I have failed in my words," Meyer's statement read.
Ohio State's investigation was led by Mary Jo White, formerly the head of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and conducted by Debevoise & Plimpton.
Ryan Day has served as interim head coach in Meyer's absence. The university has barred the media from speaking to the coaching staff or players during the investigation. Day has kept a low profile during the investigation.
Ohio State’s training camp began Aug. 3 without Meyer. The Buckeyes football season starts at noon Sept. 1 at home against Oregon State.