More trouble in paradise and this time Urban Meyer is at the center of it. I’d far rather be getting ready to start writing my next blog, because I’m excited about the opening of practice for the Buckeyes today. But, when the head coach gets put on paid administrative leave, I feel like I most certainly need to address it.
I’m not going to go deep into the details of what has transpired over the last nine years or so concerning former OSU assistant Zach Smith, his ex-wife, along with Urban and Shelley Meyer. It would take too much time and I like to keep this blog relatively short, so I don’t take up too much of your time. So, I’ll give a bit of an overview.
In 2009, Smith, an intern for Meyer at the University of Florida, at the time, was arrested for allegedly assaulting his wife, Courtney. She was convinced by two people close to Meyer (one of which was Zach’s grandfather Earle Bruce) to not pursue charges. Meyer knew about this, but says he was told what was reported was not what actually happened. He, also, said he and his wife, Shelley, got involved with the Smith’s and tried to help them with counseling.
In the fall of 2015, after the Smith’s were separated, Zach is alleged to have assaulted Courtney twice more. He was fired early last week after being charged with criminal trespassing stemming from a May 12th incident with her. It was at this time the two police reports from the 2015 incidents surfaced. At Big Ten Media Day last week, when Meyer was asked if he had been aware of the reports, he said he was not.
On Wednesday morning, longtime college football writer Brett McMurphy published a report detailing the alleged abuse. In it, Courtney Smith claims all of the coaches’ wives knew and says she directly texted Shelley Meyer. However, she said she does not know if Shelley told Urban, but believes he knew. Late Wednesday afternoon, Ohio State placed their head coach on paid administrative leave while the school investigates. Since then we’ve learned a total of nine police reports of alleged abuse by Zach Smith were filed over a two year period from October 2015 to December 2017, according to a story by cleveland.com’s Bill Landis.
Will They Or Won’t They?
Immediately, after McMurphy’s story came out, the speculation as to whether or not Ohio State would fire Urban Meyer. Some felt it should happen, others felt it would probably happen, but the loudest group, by far, were the ones who were screaming for Meyer’s head on a platter immediately. The public is quite well known for knee-jerk reactions without looking at all sides or having all of the facts. So, let’s take a look at what we actually have here.
Courtney Smith claims Meyer knew of the abuse allegations, but offers this up based only on texts, which bring up Urban Meyer, she exchanged with Meyer’s wife, Shelley, and the wife of another person within the Ohio State program. She never spoke directly with Meyer about the alleged incidents, but admits she had conversations with him where he asked how she was doing. She, also, never directly texted or emailed him about the situation. If she feels he should have done more, as she has indicated, why didn’t she say something when she spoke to him? Many feel those texts with a third party are proof Meyer knew. In my 27 ½ years in TV news, I spent a TON of time in court. This “evidence” couldn’t get anyone convicted. I’m sure, when looking at possible violations of Title IX or their own conduct policy, Ohio State doesn’t have the same burden of proof as a prosecutor. However, there has to be more than just Courtney Smith offering up a few texts with third parties and her saying, “I believe he knew”, in order for the school to seriously consider firing Meyer. Some have said this is “overwhelming” evidence; I just don’t see it that way. There are a few rumbles beginning out there calling into question the credibility of Courtney Smith. I’m not going to go into any of that until these things are verified.
Some have even said there was a cover-up. My answer to that is, of what? There are nine police reports. NINE. Those are public record; anyone can request to view them. But, those nine police reports filed from October 2015 to December 2017 do throw up a bit of a red flag for me. Nine times police were called and not once was Zach Smith was arrested. Something doesn’t seem right to me about that. Either the police were very forgiving or all is not as Courtney Smith claims it to be. That’s just a very high number of calls for domestic situations for there to be not one arrest. Zach’s attorney released a statement indicating his client’s side of the story will be far different from his ex-wife’s, "Zach Smith wants to be as transparent and honest as possible but it is not going to be done today through the media. It will only be after he and his ex-wife are sworn in to testify. Once he gets his chance to tell his side of events, don’t be surprised when it is corroborated by every police who ever responded to Ms. Smith’s calls."
The Scribe And His Article
Brett McMurphy is a longtime college football “insider” type. He was at ESPN until they let a ton of people go in “The Great Purge” a few years ago. He released the article on his Facebook page.
The article is being hailed as a great piece of investigative journalism, but I have a fundamental problem with it: where is the other side of the story? One of the things you always do, when working on a story, is attempt to get both sides. McMurphy give us only Courtney Smith’s side. Did he attempt to contact Zach Smith? Urban Meyer? Shelley Meyer? Or, for that matter, the Powell Police Department (the department filing the reports) to see why an arrest was never made? As far as I can tell the answer is “no”. I’m not going to sit here and say he had a vendetta against Meyer, but I will say he set out to write an inflammatory article and he certainly succeeded.
In a Facebook post a few hours after Meyer had been put on leave, McMurphy said, “Text messages I have obtained, an exclusive interview with the victim and other information I have learned shows Ohio state coach Urban Meyer knew in 2015 of domestic allegations against a member of his coaching staff.” Later Wednesday evening McMurphy appeared on ESPN and continued to make the claim those text messages proved Meyer knew what was going on, “In these text message conversations, it showed Urban Meyer knew about this.” However, when pressed by Scott Van Pelt about evidence showing Meyer was aware, he said, “I do not have any direct evidence-any text messages from Urban Meyer who said he knew about it.” He, also, in that Facebook post, detailed how Meyer could be fired under both Title IX or the school’s conduct policy. Including this struck me as a bit odd and came off as him being eager to see it happen. I think he has oversold this story and is eager to be known as the writer who took down someone the stature of Urban Meyer.
Where Are We Now
As of this writing, the university’s Board of Trustees has formed a “special, independent board working group” to lead their investigation of Meyer. I don’t expect this to be a drawn out investigation. They’re going to want to get it done, make a decision and move on. I’m not saying they’ll rush through it. They will most certainly do a thorough investigation, but they won’t dawdle and drag their feet.
Originally scheduled for today, Zach Smith’s court date has been pushed back to September 14th. I’m anxious to hear the testimony which comes out of this case and am disappointed we have to wait another six weeks. For the tin hat folks in the conspiracy crowd, pushing back court dates is very, very common.
Offensive coordinator Ryan Day has been named interim head coach. I’m not surprised he was the choice. Greg Schiano and Kevin Wilson have been head coaches, but the choice of Day lets everyone know the school is setting themselves up for the future if Meyer is fired. Day is young, has a brilliant offensive mind, and is coveted by other schools; Mississippi State wanted to hire him as its head coach after last season. If it comes to it and Day takes over, you can rest assured the program is in good hands.
Practice begins today for the Buckeyes, but the school has decided to not make any coaches or players available to the media. Practice is, also, closed to the media as well.
What Do I Think?
Let me say this first: Yes, I think Urban Meyer knew something, at least. College coaches are control freaks, who know everything that goes on within the program. But, to me, in order for him to lose his job, you actually have to prove he had direct knowledge. A few texts with third parties isn’t enough; show direct evidence. I think we’ve only seen the surface scratched on this and, in the coming days, more details will emerge. I promise you, those “rumbles” I mentioned earlier, about Courtney Smith’s credibility, are going to be looked into by a few enterprising reporters. Also, I believe he never should have brought Smith to Columbus with him, but Meyer has a very deep respect for Smith's grandfather.
The haters and social media trolls are already out in full force; I don’t bother with them and suggest you don’t either. If Ohio State retains Meyer, there will be howling from those people and the media as well. They all need to keep something in mind. Michigan State’s head football coach Mark Dantonio and head basketball coach Tom Izzo are in the middle of that school’s sexual abuse scandal. They’re still coaching.
Part of me thinks the Board of Trustees will decide to let Meyer go to placate certain groups of politically correct people. But, the more I look at what is actually there as of right now, I think Meyer gets suspended for a few games and retains his job. My advice is sit back, strap in and hang on because this firestorm is just beginning.
Oh, just one other thing. ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith is a blithering idiot. But, I’m sure most of you already know that.