Ohio State football: Urban Meyer acknowledges mistakes in news conference

Bill Rabinowitz
Ohio State football head coach Urban Meyer talks to the media for the first time since returning from his three-game suspension at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus on Sept. 17, 2018. [Adam Cairns]

In his first news conference since Aug. 22, Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer was contrite in acknowledging mistakes that led to his three-game suspension but reiterated that he has never condoned domestic violence.

The seventh-year coach, who will be on the sidelines for the first time this season on Saturday against Tulane, answered questions for 55 minutes. Most were about his handling of the domestic-abuse allegations involving former assistant coach Zach Smith by his former wife, Courtney Smith.

“I erred in supporting and trying to help a troubled employee,” Meyer said.

>>Video: Meyer faces tough questions

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He and Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith fired Zach Smith on July 23.

The next day, Meyer said at the Big Ten’s football media gathering in Chicago that he did not know about the allegation in 2015. Meyer went through a timeline of events leading to that, saying that he was told of a report of a felony arrest involving Zach Smith. That report was erroneous and Meyer said it affected the way he answered questions that day.

“I want to be really clear that there was zero intent to mislead,” he said.

Meyer said that he knew that Zach and Courtney Smith had a troubled marriage — they divorced in 2016 — but he said he relied on reports from law enforcement that there was no domestic violence.

“My mistake was not asking enough questions,” Meyer said.

Meyer addressed issues raised in OSU’s investigative report. He said he did not delete texts from his cell phone. He said that because of the volume of texts to recruits and family that he sends and receives, his phone sometimes becomes locked. He said an OSU IT staffer reprogrammed the settings to delete texts automatically after a year months before the request came to save the texts.

Meyer also said his wife, Shelley, did not share her text exchange with Courtney Smith regarding the domestic abuse allegations with him.

Meyer said he fired Zach Smith after the assistant failed to tell him about a criminal-trespass arrest in May and a domestic-violence protection order in July.

Meyer hired Smith, who’s Earle Bruce’s grandson, while coaching at Florida and rehired him when he took the Ohio State job in 2011 based on what he said were “glowing” recommendations from coaches who’d supervised Smith elsewhere.

Meyer said Smith did an excellent job as a recruiter and in developing Ohio State’s receivers. He believed the marital problems the Smiths experienced and Zach Smith’s other personal issues were in the past.

“I actually thought we made it through it,” Meyer said.

Meyer said that he has always been clear about his expectations regarding zero tolerance of domestic abuse. Respecting women is one of his “core values” on the wall of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

Meyer said he was devastated by his suspension, but said it does not affect the way he views Ohio State. He said he has a “great relationship” with OSU president Michael V. Drake.

“My love is unwavering for Ohio State, even more so now,” Meyer said.


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