Urban Meyer on firing Zach Smith: 'I had to make a change'
CHICAGO — Urban Meyer fired his longtime receivers coach Zach Smith on Monday, and the Ohio State football coach on Tuesday morning explained his action as something that had to be done for the good of the program.
The decision to dismiss the Buckeyes’ longest-tenured assistant coach came in the wake of recent publicized problems between Smith and his former wife, Courtney.
Zach Smith was cited last week for misdemeanor criminal trespassing stemming for a mid-May incident and Courtney Smith on Friday obtained a civil protection order against her ex-husband. The couple divorced in 2016.
In addition, reports surfaced Monday that Zach Smith was charged with aggravated battery in 2009 in Gainesville, Florida. The charges were dropped.
Regardless, “it was in the best interest of our team,” Meyer said of the decision to fire the 34-year-old Smith, a grandson of former OSU coach Earle Bruce.
Earlier Tuesday as he arrived at the Big Ten media gathering, Meyer cited the core values of the Ohio State program — which include a zero-tolerance policy regarding violence against women — in explaining his decision.
“I think it’s very clear, our expectations, and so I had to make a change,” he said.
Meyer would not elaborate on what finally caused him to make the decision.
“It’s a personal matter,” Meyer said. “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.”
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. “Any time 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.”
There were no charges from that incident, “and what was told to me was not what was reported in ’09, so that was it,” Meyer said.
Meyer indicated that he “pressed pause” when he received word of the civil protection order Courtney Smith filed last week; an Aug. 3 hearing is scheduled to discuss the matter.
“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.