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  • Ohio State would owe Urban Meyer nothing if he were fired with cause over what he knew about domestic violence allegations against former receivers coach Zach Smith.
By Andy Staples
August 01, 2018

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer will be placed on paid administrative leave while the school investigates what Meyer knew of accusations of domestic abuse against receivers coach Zach Smith between 2015 and earlier this year.

Buckeyes offensive coordinator Ryan Day will serve as the interim coach while Meyer is on leave. Ohio State begins practice Friday and opens the season Sept. 1 against Oregon State. There is no timetable for the investigation’s conclusion. “I eagerly look forward to a resolution in this matter,” Meyer said in a statement.

Meyer is 73–8 in six seasons at Ohio State with Big Ten titles in 2014 and ’17 and a national title in ’14. He also won national titles at Florida in 2006 and ’08. Earlier this year, Meyer agreed to a contract extension that would require Ohio State to pay him $38.1 million if he is fired without cause. The university would owe nothing if Meyer were fired with cause. Whether Meyer keeps his job will hinge on the results of investigation.

Reporter Brett McMurphy posted a story Wednesday that heavily quoted Smith’s ex-wife Courtney and showed text messages between Courtney Smith and Meyer’s wife Shelley as well as a text exchange between Courtney Smith and Lindsey Voltolini, the wife of Ohio State football operations director Brian Voltolini. In McMurphy’s story and in an interview with Stadium, Courtney Smith said she believed Urban Meyer knew of her accusations against her ex-husband, whom she divorced in 2016.

Zach Smith was arrested in Gainesville, Fla., in 2009 on an aggravated battery charge stemming from a domestic incident when Smith—the grandson of former Buckeyes coach Earle Bruce—worked for Meyer at Florida. Those charges were dropped, and Courtney told McMurphy she was pressured to drop them by longtime Meyer consigliere Hiram de Fries and by her husband’s parents. On Wednesday, the Cleveland Plain-Dealer obtained nine reports from the police department in the Columbus suburb of Powell, Ohio, that detailed more issues between the Smiths. This includes an accusation of domestic abuse from Oct. 25, 2015 that McMurphy reported on last week shortly before Zach Smith’s abrupt termination. That incident also prompted a text message exchange between Courtney Smith and Shelley Meyer in which Shelley Meyer writes that she’ll need to inform her husband of the accusations. That incident also prompted the text exchange with Voltolini, which suggests Urban Meyer knew of the accusations and had discussed them with Zach Smith. Zach Smith was never arrested or charged in any of the Powell incidents, and his attorney Brad Koffel released a statement to ESPN saying Zach Smith would respond to his ex-wife’s allegations in court.

Last week at Big Ten media days in Chicago, Urban Meyer said he had received a text about the 2015 incident the previous night and that “there was nothing.” Minutes after Meyer made that statement, Powell police confirmed the existence of the police report in question. At issue is whether Urban Meyer knew of the incident before last week—and the extent of what he knew, if he did—and whether he failed to report an allegation that he would be required by Ohio State to report.

According to Ohio State’s sexual misconduct policy, employees who supervise faculty, staff or students are required to report accusations of domestic violence. The university’s policy defines domestic violence this way:

“Conduct that would meet the definition of a felony or misdemeanor crime of violence committed by the complainant’s current or former spouse or intimate partner, a person with whom the complainant shares a child in common, a person who is or has cohabitated with the complainant as a spouse or intimate partner, or individual similarly situated to a spouse under domestic or family violence law, or anyone else protected under the domestic or family violence law of the jurisdiction in which the offense occurred. An individual need not be charged with or convicted of a criminal offense to be found responsible for domestic violence pursuant to this policy.”

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