Urban Meyer says he mishandled his answer regarding Zach Smith allegations

Bill Rabinowitz
Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes arrive at Michigan Stadium before their game against Michigan Wolverines on November 25, 2017. [Kyle Robertson]

Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer acknowledged on Twitter on Friday that he mishandled his answer last week during Big Ten media day about then-assistant coach Zach Smith’s 2015 domestic-abuse accusation, but he asserted that he did act appropriately regarding the allegation.

In an extended post, Meyer said that while at both Florida and Ohio State, he has always followed proper protocols and procedures when he has heard of incidents similar to the Smith matter.

“And, I did so regarding the Zach Smith incident in 2015,” Meyer wrote. “I take that responsibility very seriously and any suggestion to the contrary is simply false.”

>>Read more: Complete coverage of the Urban Meyer investigation

— Urban Meyer (@OSUCoachMeyer) August 3, 2018

>>Read the full statement from Urban Meyer

At the media day in Chicago, Meyer had said he knew nothing in 2015 about a new allegation regarding Smith and his wife, Courtney.

Friday, he said he understands the power of his words regarding domestic abuse has never been more evident than now, a reference to the #MeToo movement.

“My words, whether in a reply to a reporter’s question or in addressing a personnel issue, must be clear, compassionate and most of all, completely accurate,” Meyer said. “Unfortunately, at Big Ten Media Days on July 24th, I failed on many of these fronts. My intention was not to say anything inaccurate or misleading. However, I was not adequately prepared to discuss these serious personnel issues with the media, and I apologize for the way I handled those questions.”

Zach Smith, who was fired July 23, also spoke publicly Friday for the first time since his firing. He spoke to The Dispatch as well as 105.7 The Zone and ESPN and defended Meyer’s response to the allegations, which he said are unfounded.

“The fact his job is in jeopardy, I feel, is outrageous,” Zach Smith told The Dispatch. “It’s from pressure put on by media reports and not on actual actions.”

Meyer is on paid administrative leave while a committee of six members — three from the OSU board of trustees and three outsiders — investigates his actions or inactions regarding the Smith allegations involving treatment of Courtney Smith.

>>Read more: Urban Meyer placed on paid administrative leave

Zach Smith said Meyer knew about the 2015 accusations from others after Powell's police department notified OSU. After learning of the allegations, athletic director Gene Smith told Smith to return from a recruiting visit during that season’s off week.

Zach Smith said he didn’t talk at first with Meyer about it because he believed it was a private matter that shouldn't burden the head coach.

“I didn’t tell him about it,” he said. “Gene or someone else did.”

But Smith said Meyer then questioned him.

“He was not happy at all, obviously,” Smith said. “He asked me, ‘What the hell happened? What’s going on right now?’”

Smith said he explained that he’d gone to the Powell police station voluntarily to answer questions. He was not charged with any crimes.

“He looked at me and said, ‘All right, I’m going to let investigators do their job and investigate this. But I swear to God, if you hit her, you’re fired.’ I said, ‘Coach, I already know that and I didn’t hit her.’”

National college football reporter Brett McMurphy tweeted Friday evening what he said was a text exchange between Courtney and Zach Smith in which she refers to him twice "picking me up by my neck strangling me" and his replies include "I know!!!!" and "I'm so so sorry."

Regarding photos that Courtney Smith released Wednesday that showed bruises and abrasions, Zach Smith told 105.7, “I don’t know where those pictures are from.”

As for Meyer saying in Chicago that he didn’t know of any 2015 allegation, Smith said he thinks that stems from erroneous reports on the internet the night before that the domestic abuse allegation was a felony.

“I believe that as he tried to rush and prepare for questions he didn’t expect when he flew to Chicago, he read what was being said so that when he was being asked about it he would have somewhat of a prepared answer. What was being said on the internet is that I was arrested for a felony.

“Now he’s getting his honesty in question over something that was misreported. I don’t know that that’s the case, but that’s what I took from it.”

In his statement, Meyer said he understood that other questions would have to be answered and said he looks forward to doing that with the committee. He said he would address questions in a public forum “at the appropriate time.”

“Please know that the truth is the ultimate power and I am confident that I took appropriate action,” Meyer said. “As I stated above, I deeply regret if I have failed in my words. As the son of an amazing woman and the husband to another and, as the father of two incredible young women, those who know me best know the admiration and respect I have for all women. Our core values are just that — values that do not ever waver.”

Meyer concluded by saying that he hopes the OSU community will support Buckeye coaches and players, who began preseason training camp Friday, “and I look forward to rejoining them soon.”


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