Ohio State closes ranks as Meyer probe adds new scandal
By MITCH STACY
AP Sports Writer
Friday, August 3
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio State closed ranks around the rollout of its football season as the university investigates whether coach Urban Meyer failed to report domestic abuse allegations, a scandal hitting a school already accused of not facing up to sexual misconduct allegations against a sports doctor.
The Buckeyes planned to open their first football practice Friday without Meyer, who was put on administrative leave during the probe and also suspended from an endorsement deal by restaurant chain Bob Evans. It’s not clear how restrictive the paid leave will be for the coach set to earn $7.6 million for the season after getting a raise this year.
Ohio State officials said Thursday that reporters would be barred from football practices until at least next week, and university trustees announced that a six-member committee will head up the investigation.
Co-offensive coordinator Ryan Day has been named acting head coach.
“Due to the ongoing investigation, football coaches and student-athletes will not be available for interviews until further notice and all practices will be closed,” Ohio State spokesman Jerry Emig said in an email.
Meyer’s future with one of the most storied programs in college football depends on how he managed allegations that Buckeyes assistant and recruiting coordinator Zach Smith abused his ex-wife, Courtney Smith — answering the questions of what Meyer knew and when.
Courtney Smith alleged Wednesday that she told Meyer’s wife, Shelley, about the abuse in text messages and phone conversations in 2015 and that Shelley Meyer indicated she would tell the head coach. Courtney Smith’s allegations — including the text messages — were reported by former ESPN reporter Brett McMurphy on his Facebook page and in a video interview with Smith.
“In 2015 I came forward with it,” Courtney Smith said in the interview. “I told Shelley, I sent her some pictures (of her injuries), I spoke to her on the phone.”
Meyer told reporters last week that he didn’t know anything about the 2015 incident. It is not clear what contact Meyer had, if any, with university officials about the situation until Smith was fired last month. Smith has never been criminally charged.
Separately, a court hearing for Zach Smith was postponed Thursday on a domestic protection order sought by his ex-wife. She asked for the order after a July 20 disagreement and the court action resulted in Zach Smith being fired from Ohio State, where he was set to make $340,000 for the 2018 season. The Smiths are due in court in September and their lawyers did not respond to messages seeking comment Thursday.
Ohio State is investigating Meyer while also facing three federal lawsuits about its response to allegations of groping, leering and other misconduct by a deceased athletic department doctor who treated wrestlers and other students for two decades. The lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by Dr. Richard Strauss say Ohio State facilitated the abuse by ignoring complaints.
Since Ohio State announced an independent investigation in April, more than 100 former students have come forward with accounts of sexual misconduct by Strauss. The allegations range from 1979 to 1997 and involve male athletes from 14 sports, as well as his work at the student health center and his off-campus medical office.
The questions confronting Meyer involve whether he vouched too strongly for a coach he’s considered family. The 34-year-old Zach Smith is the grandson of Meyer’s mentor and former Ohio State coach Earle Bruce. He played for Meyer as a walk-on at Bowling Green, worked for him at Florida and was hired as the wide receivers coach when Meyer came to Ohio State in 2012.
Meyer acknowledged last week that he had been aware of a 2009 domestic-abuse incident in Gainesville. He said he and Shelley counseled the couple and allowed Zach Smith to remain on his staff.
Meyer ended up as the Ohio State coach because of a previous football scandal. Coach Jim Tressel was fired in 2011 for lying to the NCAA and university of about rules violations committed by some of his players.
The Ohio State probe bears similarities to scandals past for other big-time college programs, centering on whether a team’s leader properly reported potential wrongdoing. The similarity prompted the son of late Penn State coach Joe Paterno to weigh in with his opinion about public response criticizing Meyer, comparing Meyer’s situation with the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
Jay Paterno, who was an assistant coach to his father and is currently an elected Penn State trustee, said in a blog post that “we should wait for facts” before calling for the Buckeyes coach to be fired.
Joe Paterno’s career four-decade career as Penn State coach ended when he was fired amid questions about how much he knew about Sandusky’s past crimes and whether he acted appropriately with allegations he was told of by an assistant coach.
“As Penn Staters, we’ve seen the forces of innuendo, implication and allegation damage the lives and careers of good innocent people,” Jay Paterno wrote, saying Americans should demand more.
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Ohio State’s Day the latest interim coach tapped amid trouble
By CLIFF BRUNT
AP Sports Writer
Friday, August 3
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer is on administrative leave as the school investigates claims his wife knew about allegations of domestic violence against former Buckeyes assistant Zach Smith, who was fired last week. Co-offensive coordinator Ryan Day will run the team during the investigation. Here are some of the coaches who took interim roles at prominent programs after scandals and how they fared:
JIM GROBE, BAYLOR, 2016
Grobe, a former Wake Forest head coach, came out of retirement to after Art Briles was fired following a sexual abuse scandal at the school. Grobe led the team to a 6-6 regular-season finish and a spot in the Cactus Bowl. The Bears defeated favored Boise State 31-12 to give the Bears a winning season. Grobe steadfastly said he had no interest in returning for another year and he headed back into retirement.
CLAY HELTON, USC, 2015
Helton took the interim role in 2015 following Steve Sarkisian’s in-season dismissal. Helton’s 5-2 run as a fill-in got him hired as the full-time head coach. He has gone 21-6 the past two seasons, and the Trojans won the Pac-12 title last season. Helton was rewarded in February with a contract extension through 2023.
JOHN L. SMITH, ARKANSAS, 2012
Smith stepped in after Bobby Petrino was fired following a motorcycle accident that led to revelations of an affair with a female employee. The former Michigan State coach couldn’t right the Razorbacks, who stumbled to a 4-8 record after starting the season with top 10 aspirations.
LUKE FICKELL, OHIO STATE, 2011
Fickell took over as interim coach while Jim Tressel served a five-game suspension as the NCAA investigated a tattoo parlor scandal. Tressel resigned after those five games, and Fickell led the team to a 6-6 regular-season record. Fickell kept his job as an assistant when Meyer took over, and he was the defensive coordinator when the Buckeyes won the national title in 2014. Fickell is now the head coach at Cincinnati, which went 4-8 last season.
TOM BRADLEY, PENN STATE, 2011
Bradley took over after Joe Paterno was fired nine games into the season amid the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal. Bradley went 1-3 to close the season, with the win coming against Ohio State. The Nittany Lions lost to Houston in the Ticket City Bowl, and Bradley left after he was not hired by new coach Bill O’Brien. He is now the defensive backs coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
MIKE SHULA, ALABAMA, 2003
Shula took over for Mike Price, who was fired after a well-publicized night at a Florida strip club before he even coached a game for the Crimson Tide. Alabama went 4-9 that season under Shula, 6-6 in 2004 and 10-2 in 2005. Shula was fired after a 6-6 campaign in 2006. He has been an assistant in the NFL with Jacksonville and Carolina, and currently is the New York Giants’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
GALEN HALL, FLORIDA, 1984
Florida hired Hall as offensive coordinator in 1984, but three games into the season, head coach Charley Pell was fired after an NCAA investigation alleged more than 100 violations. Hall went 8-0 overall and 5-0 in the Southeastern Conference and led the Gators to their first conference title. Florida removed the interim tag, and Hall went 9-1-1 in 1985. The penalties depleted the program, and Florida never won more than six games under Hall again. He resigned midway through the 1989 season after he acknowledged violating NCAA rules.
AP Sports Writer Kurt Voigt contributed to this report.
Column: Control freak Meyer suddenly ‘knows nothing’
By PAUL NEWBERRY
AP Sports Columnist
Friday, August 3
College coaches are notorious control freaks.
From making sure every minute of practice is accounted for to fretting over what players are putting in their bodies at the dining hall, no detail is too small for a coach’s prying eyes.
They have to know everything.
Which is why it’s ludicrous to believe that Urban Meyer turned into Sgt. Schultz — the “Hogan’s Heroes” character famous for saying “I know nothing. Nothing!” — when asked about multiple domestic abuse allegations involving one of his assistant coaches.
Which is why Meyer will probably soon be Ohio State’s ex-football coach.
Meyer was placed on paid administrative leave Wednesday while Ohio State conducts an investigation into what he knew and when he knew it, but we all know where this is likely headed.
Like so many who came before him — Joe Paterno, Rick Pitino, et al — Meyer was more consumed with winning at all costs, protecting his program’s reputation and covering for his buddies than doing the right thing, the obvious thing, what should’ve been the easy thing.
For Meyer, the handling of former Buckeyes assistant Zach Smith is simply the latest episode in a disturbing pattern of playing dumb, even while keeping track of such minute details as a player’s heart rate at practice .
In his previous job at Florida, Meyer captured two national championships but never seemed all that concerned about the staggering number of players — more than two dozen in all, enough to fill out a complete offense and defense — getting into trouble off the field.
Then there was Aaron Hernandez.
No one knew what kind of monster he would turn out to be during three seasons with the Gators, but plenty of NFL teams sure had their concerns after he entered the 2010 draft. Hernandez plummeted all the way to the fourth round before he was picked by the New England Patriots, amid reports of multiple failed drugs tests while at Florida.
Hernandez wound up in prison for murder and killed himself behind bars. We’ll never know if this tragic story would’ve taken a different turn, if only Meyer had dealt more forcefully with such a clearly disturbed player during his time in Gainesville.
Let’s not forget Meyer’s mysterious departure from the Gators. He resigned after the 2009 season, citing health concerns, but changed his mind a day later. He coached at Florida one more season and quit again, this time saying he wanted to devote more time to his wife and children. Apparently, one year on the sideline was all the family time he needed. No wonder his critics referred to him as “Urban Liar.”
In 2012, Meyer returned to coaching at Ohio State, taking over a storied program in his home state after another national championship-winning coach, Jim Tressel, was forced out for lying to the school and the NCAA about violations committed by his players.
Meyer won a national title of his own with the Buckeyes.
And, now, it looks like he’s headed for the same ending as Tressel.
This possible cover-up involves Smith, whose ties to Meyer run deep.
Smith is the grandson of late Ohio State coach Earle Bruce, a mentor to Meyer and one of the most influential people in his life. Smith played for Meyer at Bowling Green. When Smith decided to get into coaching, it was only appropriate that Meyer was there with a job.
But Smith’s personal life has long been troubled, and Meyer certainly knew at least part of the story. Last week at Big Ten media days, the coach said he was aware of a 2009 case in which Smith was accused of aggravated battery on his then-pregnant wife while coaching at Florida.
The charge was dropped because of insufficient evidence. Meyer said he and his wife, Shelley, addressed the incident with the Smiths, but that’s about as far as it went.
When Meyer was hired by the Buckeyes, Smith again joined the staff as a receivers coach and ace recruiter.
The strife at home didn’t let up. Police reports obtained by cleveland.com detail nine domestic incidents involving Smith and his now ex-wife Courtney between 2012 and last month. Most troubling, that includes an alleged incident of domestic abuse on Oct. 25, 2015, shortly before the couple divorced.
Courtney Smith told Stadium that she told Shelley Meyer in 2015 that Zach Smith had assaulted her. Courtney Smith provided text messages to former ESPN reporter Brett McMurphy between her and Shelley Meyer about Zach Smith’s behavior, and threatening text messages she said were sent to her by Zach Smith.
“Shelley said she was going to have to tell Urban,” Courtney Smith told Stadium. “I said: ‘That’s fine, you should tell Urban.’”
Courtney Smith concedes that she does not know if Shelley Meyer ever told her husband about the allegations. If we’re to believe what Urban Meyer said last week, his wife kept quiet about the whole affair, not even bothering to mention at the dinner table, “Hey, you’ve got an assistant coach who might have a problem.”
Urban Meyer could even be throwing his wife under the bus. As a university employee herself, she will surely face questions about whether she violated some sort of Ohio State policy — or, at the very least, failed to meet a moral obligation — if she indeed failed to report an allegation of domestic violence against someone who works at the school.
“I can’t say it didn’t happen because I wasn’t there,” Urban Meyer said during Big Ten media days. “I was never told about anything and nothing ever came to light. I’ve never had a conversation about it. I know nothing about it.”
Zach Smith was finally dismissed by Meyer on July 23 after an Ohio court granted a domestic violence protective order to Courtney Smith against her former husband. Zach Smith has never been convicted of a crime or charged with assaulting his ex-wife, and his attorney said he will be exonerated when all the facts come out.
Even so, Meyer’s claims of ignorance seem downright implausible.
If that proves to be the case, he should be out of a job.
Of course, this being college athletics, Meyer wouldn’t be out of work for long.
There will always be another school that cares more about his success as a coach than his failings as a human being.
Paul Newberry is a sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberryap.org or at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paul%20newberry
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Column: If true, Urban Meyer has to go
Morrow County Sentinel
August 2, 2018
Mount Gilead, OH
If the allegations are true, Urban Meyer cannot remain as Ohio State’s football coach.
The key is … if the allegations are true.
Meyer was placed on paid administrative leave Wednesday by OSU, while university officials — and others — investigate whether Meyer knew of a 2015 incident involving assistant coach Zach Smith.
Smith was fired last week after an accusation of domestic violence against his wife Courtney came to light. Smith is a long-time Urban Meyer friend and assistant, and the grandson of former OSU coach Earle Bruce.
Since that time, news of a domestic violence incident regarding Smith in 2015 have come to light.
When asked about that incident, Meyer claimed at the Big Ten meetings last week, that he was unaware of a 2015 incident. That is the basis of Meyer’s removal “temporarily” as Ohio State’s head coach.
Meyer said he was aware of a 2009 incident involving Smith and his wife, but said it was not what was reported in the media. Therefore, no action was taken with Smith in 2009, when Meyer was head coach in Florida and an Smith was one of is assistants
Courtney Smith said in a media article released Wednesday that there is no way that Meyer was not aware of the situation in 2015.
Which is where we are today.
If Meyer was aware of the 2015 incident — on top of the 2009 incident, even though no charges were filed in 2009— and Smith remained as one of his assistants, that is a problem in and of itself.
At the minimum, in an age where many colleges and leagues and business owners are preaching “no tolerance,” these charges are a truly ugly black eye on The Ohio State University and Meyer.
The questions remains. When did Urban Meyer learn of the 2015 incident?
Smith was — and should have been — fired last week.
If a similar incident occurred in 2015, Smith should have been terminated at that time, is that incident was known to Meyer and OSU officials.
Should he have been fired in 2009? Probably. But like it or not, the world was a different place at that time.
The fact remains, Smith has not been convicted of any domestic violence issues. That includes the incidents in 2009 and the alleged 2015 incident.
In that regard, neither Urban Meyer nor Ohio State, did nothing ‘wrong’.
But morally, Meyer failed big-time.
If Ohio State learned of the 2015 incident — and Smith remained on staff — it also is a big-time moral failure by the university and athletics department.
Zach Smith’s reputation, Urban Meyer’s reputation and the reputation of The Ohio State University must take a back seat to the safety of a victim of domestic violence.
In 2018, Meyer and the University did the right thing.
It remains to be seen if the right thing was done in 2015.
It remains to be seen if Meyer was aware of the 2015 incident, although, it appears that was the case.
As far as 2009?
I don’t know.
Former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel wasn’t fired because some of his players made extra money for selling shoes and other Ohio State apparel.
He was fired for lying about the fact he knew what his players were doing. He was fired for lying to his bosses, and the media uncovered his lies.
Sounds familiar, right?
If Meyer was aware if the 2009 incident involving Zach Smith — he was. And if we was aware of the 2015 incident — and it appears he was. And after those two incidents, Zach Smith remained on his staff, Meyer must receive some type of punishment.
If what is alleged is true, Meyer could be gone by the end of the week, certainly before the season starts.
Is that fair?
I don’t know.
Is a one-year suspension enough?
I don’t think so.
If the allegations against Meyer are true, the only option for Ohio State is to terminate his contract.
If Urban Meyer knew about OSU coach’s alleged domestic violence and did nothing, he deserves to be fired
Former Ohio State wrestling coach urged Rep. Jim Jordan’s accusers to recant, texts show
EXCLUSIVE: Longtime Urban Meyer assistant Zach Smith’s ex-wife, Courtney Smith, opens up about reported domestic violence and what she believes Meyer knew.