Urban Meyer just released a lengthy statement that, as far as I can tell, makes two key points:
1. He lied to the media at Big Ten media days last week, when he was asked about assistant coach Zach Smith’s domestic violence accusations.
2. He did not lie to his bosses, or cover anything up. In fact, he has “always followed proper reporting protocols … and I did so, regarding the Zach Smith incident in 2015.”
This may be a smart P.R. play—lying to the media doesn’t hurt a man’s approval rating like it once did. It may also be a wise strategy for saving Meyer’s job. And not incidentally: it may be absolutely true. Would Meyer really claim now, in the middle of the firestorm, that he followed proper protocols in 2015 when he actually did nothing? That would be beyond brazen.
And yet, there are still so many questions, and Ohio State cannot easily wedge the answers into a press release.
Start here: If Meyer followed proper protocol in 2015, why wasn’t Smith fired then? At that point, Ohio State knew of at least two accusations of domestic violence against Smith. One came in 2009, when Smith worked for Meyer at Florida and was accused of assaulting his pregnant wife Courtney. The other came in 2015. How many accusations of domestic violence does it take to get fired from Meyer’s staff? For that matter: was Smith disciplined at all in 2015? There is no indication thus far that he was.
Maybe Meyer and Ohio State can produce a good explanation for why Smith stayed on staff in 2015. Maybe they can even claim he was disciplined. But that just begs another question: Why was Smith fired last month? Ohio State can try to cite an immediate cause: a domestic-violence civil protection order filed against Smith in July 20 of this year after he was accused of criminal trespassing. But that news did not immediately lead to Meyer firing Smith. When it came out, Ohio State issued a no-comment: "We are not going to comment at this time on the situation regarding Zach Smith. This is a personnel matter and we don’t typically discuss such matters publicly. We are continuing to monitor.”
The real reason Smith was fired seems to be national college football reporter Brett McMurphy’s report about the 2015 incident. But what does that have to do with anything? If Ohio State followed proper protocols in 2015, why would the school retroactively punish Smith once it became public? And if Ohio State knew about the 2015 incident and the 2009 incident, then why did it issue a no-comment in July? That would mean that Ohio State knew about three domestic-violence accusations against Smith (including the criminal trespassing) and did not immediately dismiss him.
What is Meyer’s defense for that?
And actually, there were more than three accusations, whether Ohio State knew or not. Cleveland.com found nine police reports involving Zach Smith and Courtney Smith. Some include serious individual acts, like a Dec. 2017 accusation that neighbors saw Zach “ looking through the windows of her home, the windows of her vehicle and banging on the door of her home at 1:30 a.m. Others just reinforced the seriousness of the situation, like Courtney Smith getting pulled over for speeding and telling officers she was having domestic issues with her husband. Still: Nine reports.
Did Ohio State know about those? If not, why not?
Now, back to Meyer’s statement. Maybe lying to the media is a smart play-call in 2018, but the nature of Meyer’s lies should disturb anybody paying attention. Let’s remember what he actually said.
He claimed he learned about the 2015 incident after McMurphy reported it. And so he looked into it. And: “There was nothing… I don’t know who creates a story like that.” This, even though text messages show that Meyer’s own wife suggested Courtney Smith get a restraining order against her ex-husband.
So Urban Meyer, head coach at Ohio State, sat at a table, well aware that one of his coaches had been accused of domestic violence three times, and said, of one of those incidents, “I don’t know who creates a story like that.”
He also spoke about the 2009 incident, when Smith was accused of assaulting his pregnant wife. And what he said was: “what was reported wasn’t actually what happened.” And anyway, Zach and Courtney Smith were a “very young couple” at the time.
See, Meyer did not just lie about his knowledge of the 2015 incident. He minimized and distorted multiple serious accusations of domestic violence. It’s nice that he copped to the lie, but that’s not the end of the story. Not even close.