Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer has been suspended for the first three games of the Buckeyes’ 2018 season, the school announced on Wednesday evening. The university also suspended athletic director Gene Smith for 17 days, a period that will keep Smith away from the athletic department for about as long as Meyer — through Week 3 of football season.
OSU opens its 2018 schedule against Oregon State, before games against Rutgers and TCU. Meyer can rejoin the team on Sept. 2, the day after that Oregon State opener, but will not coach the team during the games against Rutgers and TCU.
The university also released findings from a board of trustees report into Meyer’s (and apparently Smith’s) handling of domestic abuse allegations against former receivers coach Zach Smith. The school gave this rationale for the decision to suspend — but not fire or otherwise discipline — Meyer and Gene Smith:
Although Coach Meyer and Athletic Director Smith failed to adhere to the precise requirements of their contracts when they concluded that they needed to await a law enforcement determination to file charges before they reported the otherwise disputed claims of spousal abuse against Zach Smith, they did so based upon a good faith belief that they did not have sufficient information to trigger a reporting obligation or initiate disciplinary action in the absence of law enforcement action. Other than their misunderstanding of the requirements triggering reporting obligations, neither Coach Meyer nor Athletic Director Smith violated any policy, rules, law or contractual obligation in connection with the alleged domestic abuse claims against Zach Smith.
"Although neither Urban Meyer nor Gene Smith condoned or covered up the alleged domestic abuse by Zach Smith, they failed to take sufficient management action."— Ari Wasserman (@AriWasserman) August 23, 2018
OSU offensive coordinator Ryan Day has been serving as the Buckeyes’ interim head coach. He’ll continue to run the show while Meyer serves his suspensions.
Meyer fired Buckeyes wide receivers coach Zach Smith on July 23, after abuse allegations by Smith’s ex-wife, Courtney, came to public light.
In 2009, while Zach Smith worked for Meyer at Florida, Gainesville police reportedly arrested Smith for aggravated battery on a pregnant victim — his then-wife, who was weeks pregnant at the time. Courtney Smith declined to press charges.
In 2015, police reportedly went to Courtney Smith’s home twice to investigate reports of domestic abuse. The Smiths were separated at the time and later divorced.
Shortly after firing Zach Smith, Meyer spoke about how he handled the allegations against the coach who worked for him in Gainesville and then followed him to Ohio State:
Well, I’m going to address the 2009, because I’ve been asked about that. In 2009, Zach was an intern, uh, a very young couple. As I do many times — as I imagine most coaches or people in leadership positions — you receive a phone call, the first thing you do is tell your boss. Let the experts do their jobs. We’re certainly not going to investigate.
It came back to me what was reported wasn’t actually what happened, so [wife] Shelley and I both got involved actually — because of our relationship with that family — and advised for counseling and wanted to help as we moved forward.
Meyer said there was “nothing” to reports of Zach Smith abusing his wife in 2015:
In 2015, I got a text late last night that something happened in 2015, and there was nothing — unless, once again, there’s nothing — once again, I don’t know who creates a story like that.
College football insider Brett McMurphy reported weeks later that Courtney Smith told Meyer’s wife, Shelley, of Zach Smith’s abuse in 2015.
McMurphy also shared screenshots of several text exchanges he said were between Courtney Smith and various people connected to the Ohio State program, including Shelley Meyer. Another conversation, appearing to be between Courtney Smith and the wife of a longtime Meyer staffer, read: “[Urban] just said [Zach Smith] denied everything.”
EXCLUSIVE: Longtime Urban Meyer assistant Zach Smith's ex-wife, Courtney Smith, opens up about reported domestic violence and what she believes Meyer knew. pic.twitter.com/dNWA9x2F4y— Stadium (@WatchStadium) August 1, 2018
Meyer later apologized to Courtney in a Tweet after not addressing her in the press conference he took place in in which his suspension was announced.
On August 3, Meyer released a (fairly vague) statement
The key assertion Meyer made is that he ran the information up the flagpole as he was supposed to, while acknowledging that he did have knowledge of the 2015 incident.
Meyer has been Ohio State’s head coach since the 2012 season.
During his time in Columbus, the Buckeyes are 73-8. They won 2014’s national championship. Meyer signed a two-year contract extension earlier this year and is making a $7.6 million salary in 2018. His new deal includes a requirement to properly report potential violations of Ohio State’s Title IX policy, with millions at stake if he doesn’t.