CHICAGO — Ohio State coach Urban Meyer fired his longtime receivers coach Zach Smith on Monday, and he explained Tuesday that it was something that had to be done for the good of the program.
The decision to dismiss Smith after six years came following recently publicized problems between Smith and his ex-wife, Courtney.
Zach Smith was cited for misdemeanor criminal trespassing stemming from an incident in May. After Smith appeared in court last week on the charge, Courtney Smith on Friday obtained a civil protection order against him. The couple divorced in 2016.
In addition, reports surfaced Monday that Zach Smith was charged with aggravated domestic battery in 2009 in Gainesville, Florida. But after Courtney Smith refused to move on with the complaint, the charges were dropped.
Regardless, “it was in the best interest of our team,” Meyer said of the decision to fire Smith, 34 and a grandson of late former Ohio State coach Earle Bruce.
Earlier Tuesday as he arrived at the Big Ten media gathering, Meyer cited the core values of the Ohio State program — they include a zero-tolerance policy regarding respect for women — in explaining his decision.
“I think it’s very clear, our expectations, and so I had to make a change,” he said, but refused to elaborate on what finally caused him to make the decision, though he said he consulted with higher-ups. “It’s a personal matter. It’s a decision that was made for the best interest of our team. But I’m not going to get into the details of that. That’s not fair.”
What he insisted at the time was it had nothing to do with another report Monday that indicated Powell police had been called to Courtney Smith’s home on Oct. 26, 2015. Meyer said he knew nothing of that previously and that his administrators could find no record of the incident, and neither could The Dispatch until Powell police found a copy Tuesday afternoon.
It indicated Courtney Smith was injured in a dispute the night before and that she “has been a victim of sustained physical abuse by the suspect,” presumably Zach Smith, who is not named. The report stated police were investigating incidents of domestic violence and felonious assault.
But no charges were filed for that or for a complaint brought by her 14 days later of menacing by stalking, a few days after she filed for divorce.
Meyer said Tuesday he was aware of the 2009 incident. At the time, Zach Smith was an intern on Meyer’s staff at Florida. Courtney Smith initially filed a domestic violence complaint for an incident in their home, but she dropped the charge and no further legal action was taken.
“They were a young couple,” Meyer said. “Anytime I get a phone call or something like that, I tell my boss, then I let the experts do their job. It came back to me what happened. We advised him in counseling, moved forward.”
But Meyer said that when the developments of last week surfaced, he “pressed pause” when he received word of the civil protection order Courtney Smith filed, with a hearing set for Aug. 3.
“This recent one … you get your mind right, step up; you press pause again, gather information … then step up and do the right thing,” Meyer said.
As for what he will do about the sudden opening on his 10-person coaching staff, speculation was rife that he will elevate assistant Brian Hartline — a former Ohio State and nine-year NFL receiver — to the post, though Hartline’s coaching experience is limited. Meyer would not confirm that and said he’d have an announcement later in the week.
Dispatch reporters Bill Rabinowitz and Dean Narciso contributed to this report.