A capable attorney representing Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer could tear through any case the university might make to fire him. Meyer just got bumped to $7.6 million a year, so lawyering up shouldn’t be a problem.
Meyer has been placed on paid administrative leave — often defined as “negotiating a buyout” — as the university investigates a domestic abuse case: One of Meyer’s assistants, Zach Smith, is accused of physically and/or psychologically abusing his ex-wife. Did Meyer know about it, and if so, when?
A decent lawyer could hammer away at a number of angles. Is Meyer culpable for the actions of his assistant coaches? If his former assistant actually was abusive — accusations are plentiful, but no charges have been brought — is Meyer responsible to press a case? If Meyer’s wife, Shelley, knew about any of this — and there is evidence to suggest that she did — is it her place to tell her husband? Is there evidence she did?
Courtney Smith says she is a victim of abuse. There is a raft of reports from the Powell police that chart her plight. She has produced photos showing abrasions on one of her arms and her neck, which she said showed that her husband jacked her up in a choke-hold. She has shared text messages with a veteran reporter, Brett McMurphy, that Courtney Smith said were sent to Shelley Meyer. The texts catalogue a plea for help. Courtney Smith talks about it on YouTube.
Considering that the assistant coach in question, Zach Smith, is a grandson of Earle Bruce — the late, great Ohio State football coach, mentor and friend to Urban Meyer and grandfather figure to everyone involved — this all makes for a juicy case.
>> Read more: Urban Meyer and Ohio State: What we know so far
A good lawyer could deflect on the Meyers’ culpability. A good lawyer might say, “Where did Urban Meyer step outside the law? How is he responsible for another man’s transgressions — a man who has not been charged with a crime? What is the evidence against him? Do we know that his wife ever told him anything?”
The nut of this whole disgusting affair is this:
There is a police report in which Courtney Smith accuses her husband of abuse, and the report dates to October 2015. There also is a request for a restraining order from that month and year. There is evidence to indicate that Shelley Meyer was aware of the allegations of abuse at that time. Courtney Smith is on the record about all of this.
A good lawyer can poke holes in the story. It happens all the time in domestic abuse cases, in which the victims are twisted into scapegoats.
Call me crazy, but I don’t think Zach Smith is the victim here. I don’t think Urban Meyer is the victim here. I don’t think Shelley Meyer is, either.
Courtney Smith begged the Powell police. She has evidence she confided in Shelley Meyer in October 2015. She assumed Shelley was going to tell Urban. Why?
Courtney Smith said in an interview, “Shelley, she said she was going to have to tell Urban. I said, ‘That’s fine. You should tell him.’ ”
From this vantage point, it’s hard to imagine that Shelley stayed mum. It’s incredible to think that the first time Urban Meyer heard about this was last week, when he fired Zach Smith.
And if Urban Meyer did know, he spent nearly three years covering for a man accused of abusing his wife because … why? To spare Earle Bruce? To protect the program?
A woman was in danger, and maybe her children.
If the investigation shows that Meyer knew about the abuse allegations and I were Ohio State president Michael Drake, I’d clean house.
I’d work my way through the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, where I’d give Urban Meyer a cardboard box and a security escort. And I'd keep going, looking also at the athletic director and his 30-plus executive associates, senior associates, associates and assistant athletic directors to determine what they knew and when they knew it.