Alabama football coach Nick Saban told local reporters on Saturday that he did not offer a position on his staff to Zach Smith, the troubled former Ohio State assistant who was fired a year ago last month.
The remarks were contrary to text message exchanges between former OSU coach Urban Meyer and Smith that were released by the university on Friday.
In January 2018, Meyer believed that Smith held a job offer from the Crimson Tide as their wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator before persuading him to stay in Columbus.
Smith had been part of Meyer’s original coaching staff with the Buckeyes in 2012 and an assistant under him at Florida years earlier as well.Get the news delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our BuckeyeXtra newsletter
At a news conference in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Saban said that he had interviewed Smith for an assistant coaching position, but never went as far as offering him a job after the school conducted a background check.
“I talk to a lot of people about jobs,” Saban said. “I think that we do background checks and we do reviews on people and we decide if we want to hire a guy or if we don’t want to hire a guy.
“I think it’s pretty common, that sometimes people get interviewed someplace or someone calls and shows interest in them. The way this profession works is that you go in and use that as leverage to try to improve your situation where you are now, especially if you have a job. …
“We talk to a lot of coaches about a lot of things. I really never did offer this guy a job. We did interview him, and he did a nice job in the interview. But it was when we did the background check, that we decided that there was a better opportunity to hire someone else, and that’s what we did.”
Saban did not reveal the contents of the background check, but Smith previously had been investigated for incidents of domestic violence against his ex-wife, Courtney Smith, including an arrest in 2009. He was also arrested in 2013 for speeding and operating a vehicle while intoxicated.
Saban eventually hired Josh Gattis as receivers coach in 2018, as well as offensive co-coordinator. Gattis became Michigan’s offensive coordinator this offseason.
In multiple outgoing text messages, Meyer was under the impression that Smith had been offered a job by Saban.
Though Smith remained on staff at Ohio State in January 2018, he was fired by Meyer six months later after alleged incidents of domestic violence surfaced.
Meyer was suspended by the university for the first three games of the season for his mishandling of the domestic violence allegations. He retired at the end of the 2018 season, citing health issues that stemmed from ongoing headaches from an arachnoid cyst in his brain.
Smith has not been hired since his firing by Ohio State.