Urban Meyer returned to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center on Sunday knowing that for the first time in 2018, he will be on the sideline for Ohio State’s next football game.
Meyer’s three-game suspension for his handling of the Zach Smith matter is now over. On Monday, the Buckeyes’ head coach will resume his normal media duties, which include his weekly news conference. It’s unlikely he will get many questions about this week’s opponent, Tulane.
Other than some posts on Twitter, Meyer had been silent publicly since the news conference after his suspension on Aug. 23. But on Sunday, a day after the Buckeyes rallied to defeat TCU 40-28 in Arlington, Texas, ESPN aired an interview with Meyer in which he mostly rehashed what he’d said on Twitter.
Meyer told interviewer Tom Rinaldi that both Zach Smith and Courtney Smith told him the 2009 incident in Gainesville, Florida, in which she called police was not domestic violence. Zach Smith was on Meyer's staff then at the University of Florida.
“Both parties came to see me,” Meyer said. “I asked about it. I was told it was not domestic violence. She was very upset with him for drinking (that night).
“I was completely reliant on law enforcement that there were no charges.”
Meyer said he knew the Smiths had a “very troubled” marriage.
“(It was) a situation that I wish I had known more and done more,” he said.
When Meyer became coach at Ohio State in late 2011, he said he hired Smith as Ohio State’s receivers coach after getting positive feedback from coaches for whom Smith had worked. Meyer said he did not tell Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith about the domestic incident.
“In hindsight, I should have,” Meyer said. “I can’t recall why (I didn’t). It was several years ago. I can’t recall my mindset.”
Asked about the text exchange between his wife, Shelley, and Courtney Smith in 2015 in which Shelley expressed sympathy for what Courtney said was continuing abuse, Meyer reiterated that Shelley did not tell him about those texts.
Rinaldi asked Meyer why the OSU investigation cast doubt about that claim.
“I think they know how close we are, and they know how much Shelley cares about people and I care about people," Meyer said.
Meyer said he did not want to speak for Shelley in terms of her explanation for not sharing the texts. Shelley Meyer declined to comment to The Dispatch.
Rinaldi mentioned that the Ohio State football program’s core values are on the wall at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. The first two are honesty and respect for women. Rinaldi asked if Meyer had violated them.
“I still hold those values so strong, and I apologize for the perception that I don't, that as a result of this investigation and this situation that I did not take that seriously,” Meyer said.
When Rinaldi pressed him about whether it went beyond perception to action, Meyer replied, “Also for the actions. It was a very tough time, a tough situation that Courtney was in, that Zach Smith was in. We were led to believe it was a very difficult divorce, a lot of things going on. I erred and made a decision to do everything I could do to stabilize that situation. … I probably should have fired him (earlier).”
Meyer fired Smith on July 23. Meyer was placed on paid administrative leave on Aug. 1, and OSU hired investigators to determine what he knew and how he handled the domestic-abuse allegations made by Courtney Smith. The couple divorced in 2016.
The last two weeks, Meyer has been allowed to be with the team during the week but not on game days.