Meyer: ‘Failed’ in denying I heard allegations

Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer issued a statement Friday saying that he “failed” when he denied knowing about domestic violence allegations against one of his former assistant coaches, Zach Smith.

Meyer issued the statement while Smith was giving an interview to ESPN.

Meyer said last week that he knew nothing about a 2015 complaint or any other domestic issues that Smith had during the six years Meyer and Smith worked together at Ohio State. This week, Zach Smith’s ex-wife, Courtney Smith, said that she had shared texts with Meyer’s wife detailing years of domestic violence. Courtney Smith said she was not sure whether Urban Meyer knew about the allegations.

Meyer admitted that he did not handle the situation correctly during Big Ten media days, saying that his job is to be “clear, compassionate and, most of all, completely accurate.”

“Unfortunately, at Big Ten Media days on July 24, I failed on many of these fronts,” he said in his statement. “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.”

He also said in his statement: “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.”

Meanwhile, Zach Smith told ESPN on Friday that he was on a recruiting trip in October 2015 when he was called back to campus by athletic director Gene Smith. Zach Smith said Gene Smith told him about the allegations of domestic abuse and that he then went to the Powell, Ohio, police department. After speaking to the police, he went to practice and saw Meyer.

“Urban pulled me off the practice field and said, ‘What the hell is going on? What is this? What is this?'” Zach Smith said during the interview. “And I laid it all out for him. I said, ‘Apparently my ex-wife is trying to get me charged with domestic abuse from incidents that happened throughout our marriage. I went down and met with Powell PD. I explained both sides of the story. I volunteered to do that. I didn’t ever hit her.’ He said, ‘If you ever hit her, you are fired immediately.’ I looked at him and said, ‘If I hit her, I wouldn’t come in here. I know how you feel about that. If I hit her, I wouldn’t even come to work. I would know it’s over.'”

Meyer did fire Smith on July 23, the same day that a pattern of domestic abuse allegations made by Courtney Smith came to light in a report published by college football reporter Brett McMurphy. Meyer said the next day that he knew about an incident between the Smiths that occurred in 2009 in Florida, but he adamantly denied any knowledge of other domestic disputes between the couple.

Meyer was placed on administrative leave by Ohio State on Wednesday while an investigation by an independent group formed by the university takes place.

Meyer’s statement was read to Zach Smith during his interview with ESPN.

“It’s as heartfelt, honest and as true a statement as I’ve ever heard,” Smith said. “That’s who he is right there.”

Smith was asked why he thought Meyer didn’t admit he knew about the 2015 incident during media day.

“I don’t know what he was thinking,” Smith said. “Not really. He knows everything that has gone on in my marriage that he needed to know.”

Smith explained why he didn’t share all the issues he had in his marriage with Meyer.

“I believe it’s a private matter between two people in a marriage, unless something happened that’s illegal,” he said.

While saying that “I’ve never hit my wife,” Smith said he did bear responsibility for the demise of the marriage.

“Absolutely, I did something wrong every time,” he told ESPN. “I pushed her buttons a lot. I knew how to get her going. Like I said, it was a toxic relationship. Both of us did several wrong things. All I’m trying to put out is there was never an illegal act or violence.”

“I’ve never hit my wife. … Absolutely, I did something wrong every time. I pushed her buttons a lot. I knew how to get her going. Like I said, it was a toxic relationship. Both of us did several wrong things. All I’m trying to put out is there was never an illegal act or violence.” Zach Smith

After Smith’s interviews with ESPN and a Columbus radio station, McMurphy tweeted out a screen grab of a text exchange that he said was between Courtney Smith and Zach Smith.

“Think about the past … think back to the cheating the lies and picking me up by my neck strangling me in Punta Cana and at our place in April. The abuse got worse bc u couldn’t stand me catching u in ur lies,” Courtney Smith wrote.

“I know!!!! Zach Smith replied.

“Now u continue ur lies,” Courtney Smith said.

“I’m so sorry!!!! Zach Smith said.

“Such a slap in my face. Just stay away,” Courtney Smith responded.

ESPN has reached out to Courtney Smith’s attorney regarding the texts.

Zach Smith, when asked about the texts, said he did not recall any altercation with his ex-wife in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. He said he had not seen the published image of the texts but did not believe it was credible.

Zach Smith told ESPN during Friday’s interview that he was called into a meeting with Meyer and Gene Smith and told that he was being fired from his job — his salary was $340,000 for the 2018 calendar year — but they did not go into detail regarding why. Zach Smith first said he didn’t agree with the decision, but then he changed his mind.

“It wasn’t going to be fair for the players to go through this media circus,” he said.

Smith does not think Meyer should be fired for misleading the public.

“I’d be heartbroken for Ohio State, for the players, for him and his family because it’s not right,” Smith said. “It’s not. If that happens, it’s dead wrong. Coming from someone who knows. I was at all the meetings, I knew exactly what he knew. I knew exactly what he did. If he loses his job, it’s flat wrong. And this is a guy who fired me.”

Smith said he and Meyer have not been in contact.

“No, I haven’t talked to him since I got released,” he told ESPN.

Meyer indicated Friday that he won’t be addressing the situation again until there is a resolution.

“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 fully with them,” he said in his statement. “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.”

Information from ESPN’s Dan Murphy was used in this report.

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