Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer on Friday issued his first extensive statement regarding the domestic violence allegations against former assistant Zach Smith, two days after the university placed Meyer on paid administrative leave.
In the statement posted to his Twitter account, Meyer said that he “followed proper reporting protocols and procedures” at both Ohio State and Florida when learning of any incidents involving players, coaches or staff members. But Meyer also acknowledged he “failed” in addressing questions about an alleged 2015 incident involving Smith during Big Ten Media Days last week, and said “I apologize for the way I handled those questions.”
When asked during his media session about his knowledge of any allegations against Smith in 2015, Meyer said, “I was never told about anything. Never anything came to light, never had a conversation about it. So I know nothing about it.”
Meyer is on paid administrative leave while Ohio State investigates whether or not he did know of allegations of domestic violence against Smith back in 2015. Meyer fired Smith on July 23 after learning Smith had been charged with trespassing and was deemed by a judge to be a danger to his ex-wife.
A report by college football reporter Brett McMurphy earlier Wednesday indicated that Courtney Smith, Zach Smith’s wife at the time, had informed Shelley Meyer, Urban Meyer’s wife, of the alleged abuse in October 2015. McMurphy reported originally that Urban Meyer did indeed know of the allegations back in 2015, though in an interview with Stadium released later Wednesday, Courtney Smith could only confirm she told Shelley Meyer.
Zach Smith also was arrested for battery of Courtney Smith in 2009 when he was on Meyer’s staff at Florida, an incident Meyer said last week he reported to supervisors at the time. Zach Smith wasn’t charged in the case, as Courtney Smith declined to press charges. She said in an interview with Stadium on Wednesday night that she made that decision under pressure from Zach Smith’s family.
Meyer is 73-8 in his six seasons with the Buckeyes, including winning the 2014 national championship.
Smith is the grandson of former Ohio State coach and College Football Hall of Fame member Earle Bruce, who gave Meyer his first college coaching job as a graduate assistant in 1986.
Offensive coordinator Ryan Day, who also coaches quarterbacks, will serve as acting head coach during the investigation.
Here is the full text of Meyers’ statement Friday:
“Family and the university community that I love so dearly.
When I stand before the 105 young men in our football program and talk about core values and doing the right thing and respecting women, it is not lip-service. I genuinely believe that we have an obligation to help develop the young men in our charge into positive change agents and that responsibility rests with me.
Over the past several days, I have been portrayed as being indifferent to domestic violence and as someone who did not take appropriate action, when warranted. While over three decades of coaching I have learned to ignore how other define me. I do feel it necessary to share the truth with the Buckeye family.
Here is the truth: While at the University of Florida, and now at The Ohio State University, I have always followed proper reporting protocols and procedures when I have learned of an incident involving a student-athlete, coach or member of our staff by elevating the issues to the proper channels. And, I did so regarding the Zach Smith incident in 2015. I take that responsibility very seriously and any suggestion to the contrary is simply false.
The power of what I say and how I say it, especially regarding sensitive and serious domestic issues, has never been more evident than now. My words, whether in a reply to a reporter’s question or in addressing a personnel issue, must be clear, compassionate and most all, completely accurate. 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 sensitive personnel issues with the media, and I apologize for the way I handled those questions.
I understand that there are more questions to be answered and I look forward to doing just that with the independent investigators retained by the University and I will cooperate with them. At the appropriate time, I will also address the questions and speculation in a public forum. But for now, out of respect for the ongoing inquiry, I will refrain at this time.
Please know that the truth is the ultimate power and I am confident that I took appropriate actions. As I state 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.
I ask that you continue to support the incredible coaches and student-athletes in our program, and I look forward to rejoining them soon.
—Field Level Media