On Wednesday, August 1st, the Ohio State Buckeyes placed head football coach Urban Meyer on administrative leave due to the school’s investigation into whether or not Meyer knew of domestic violence allegations against an assistant coach or not. To be clear, this paid administrative leave is not due to domestic violence allegations made against Urban Meyer, but rather it’s over the possibility of Meyer knowing about these allegations and doing nothing about them.
According to ESPN, Meyer made the following comments about the administrative leave:
“[Athletic director] Gene [Smith] and I agree that being on leave during this inquiry will facilitate its completion. This allows the team to conduct training camp with minimal distraction. I eagerly look forward to the resolution of this matter.”
Last month, Ohio State’s wide receiver coach Zach Smith was charged with criminal trespassing while dropping his kids off at his ex-wife’s home. This resulted in Smith being fired from his job at Ohio State on July 23rd. However, the gruesome details of the marriage between Zach and his ex-wife Christina Smith were just beginning to come to light.
Last week, Zach Smith was served with a domestic violence civil protection order due to Christina Smith’s allegations of long-term domestic abuse from 2009 to 2018. After these allegations came to light, Cleveland.com verified that there were at least 9 police reports of domestic incidences that occurred between the Smiths in addition to the 2015 report of domestic violence. It’s this 2015 incident that’s currently put Urban Meyer on administrative leave.
Before looking at the 2015 incident, this sad story starts back in 2009 when Christina Smith first told people about being abused by her husband. On June 21, 2009, Zach Smith apparently abused Christina Smith at their home in Gainesville, Florida. At the time, Zach was an intern on Meyer’s staff at the University of Florida and Christina was 2-months pregnant. Apparently, Zach picked her up and slammed her into a wall.
Family members, friends, the Meyers and other coaches allegedly asked Christina not to go through with pressing charges. After weeks of pressure, Christina decided not to press charges. Unfortunately, the domestic issues didn’t end there.
From 2009 to 2015, Christina said that Zach got worse as she believed that his life was spiraling out of control. It culminated in her leaving Zach in June of 2015, and filing for divorce a few months later. However, the apparent abuse didn’t end with their marriage. In October of 2015, Christina reported another incident of domestic violence and the Powell Police came out to investigate. In an interview with Brett McMurphy, posted on his FaceBook page, Christina stated that Zach shoved her against a wall and placed his hands around her neck in front of their two young kids.
After this occurrence, there were several more domestic encounters of stalking, trespassing and abuse.
At the heart of Meyer’s administrative leave is whether or not he knew about the domestic violence back in 2015 and if he covered it up.
Last week, at the Big Ten media day, Urban Meyer stated that he didn’t know anything about the 2015 domestic violence. He also acknowledged that he and his wife tried to help the Smiths out in 2009 after the criminal investigation into Zach’s domestic abuse was over with. However, Urban said that he was given different details about the domestic issues in 2009, and not what has come to light over the last few weeks.
Zach Smith’s attorney Bradley Koffel has also gone on record saying that he urged his client to tell Urban Meyer about the criminal trespassing charge, but understands why he didn’t. In the abovementioned ESPN article, Koffel made the following comments:
“I now understand why Zach compartmentalized the info — to protect Urban. You cannot impute every family argument involving an employee and his wife to the CEO of a company or the head coach of a large football program.”
Koffel’s comments help to support Meyer’s position that he was never told about the 2015 domestic violence and any other issues outside of the 2009 matter.
However, Christina Smith firmly believes that Urban Meyer knew about the 2015 incident and other domestic occurrences. In a video interview with Stadium, Christina made the following comments:
“I do believe he knew, and instead he chose to help the abuser and enable the abuser and believe whatever story Zach was telling everybody.”
It’s Christina’s allegations of Urban’s knowledge, and implied cover up, along with the police reports that has sparked Ohio State’s investigation. In the abovementioned interview with Brett McMurphy, Christina details how Urban’s wife Shelley knew about it and was allegedly going to tell Urban about the issues. Additionally, Christina mentioned how all of the Ohio State football coaches knew about the abuse.
Although she credits Shelley Meyer for being a friend to her during some tough times, Christina also believes that the Meyers could’ve done more. In the interview with Stadium, Christina Smith made the following comments:
“They have a duty to do something to help, instead of worrying about winning games, or instead of worrying about who his mentor is and who his family is and trying to protect that; somebody’s safety and the safety of their children and the environment they’re in needs to be more important.”
As of now, there’s been no evidence that Shelley Meyer told her husband of the abuse. However, there are text messages between the wife of another Ohio State assistant coach and Christina Smith that imply Urban knew about the 2015 allegations of abuse.
With Meyer on paid leave, he’s going to be under a lot of public scrutiny. Ever since the Penn State sex abuse scandal with Jerry Sandusky, and the uproar over Joe Paterno’s involvement or knowledge of the matter, the general public has a “guilty, until proven innocent” mentality when it comes to domestic and child abuse.
Meyer has a duty to report any knowledge of abuse. If he knew about a domestic abuse situation and did nothing about it, then Meyer could be held in violation of his contract and terminated. Not to mention, the second highest paid college football coach at nearly $8.5 million dollars per year could be involved in a civil suit.
ESPN is already speculating that Ohio State could part ways with Urban Meyer even if he’s found “innocent” of the “cover-up” allegations.
With Meyer on admin leave, offensive coordinator Ryan Day will be the “acting” head coach. Ohio State football begins practicing on Friday. The team was the odds on favorite to win the Big Ten conference and also had the 3rd highest odds on winning the National Championship. With Meyer absent, this team won’t be the same. We’ll see how oddsmakers adjust the betting odds based on Meyer’s absence.
This story is going to be in the headlines for the next few months. Unfortunately, it’s going to be a black cloud over the football program, school, NCAAF, and the Meyers. Hopefully, Christina can get the justice she deserves and that the Ohio State investigation will provide us with thorough details on whether or not Meyer is guilty of doing nothing or innocent as he maintains.
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