Urban Meyer is back. As Ohio State passed its final on-field test without him, a 40–28 win over TCU on Saturday in Arlington, Texas, his three-game suspension expired. Monday, he held his first news conference since the university announced his punishment last month for how he mishandled the domestic abuse allegations about former assistant Zach Smith. The nearly hour-long session was mostly a reiteration of what he told ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi in a sit down interview that aired over the weekend during College GameDay.
Most importantly, it showed that the three-time national championship winning coach hasn’t learned enough from his time away from the sideline, making it all about himself rather than victims of domestic violence.
Meyer acknowledged that his actions damaged Ohio State’s reputation—the football program and the university. He acknowledged that he would have fired Smith long ago had he seen the myriad “red flags” he missed. Meyer also acknowledged that he needs to ask more questions in situations of domestic violence.
The Buckeyes head coach said he believes his suspension and ensuing apologies were not because he ignored domestic violence, but because he was trying too hard to help Zach Smith. He gave a similar response when asked by Rinaldi what message his return to work sends to women.
“My apology is not for turning my back on domestic violence,” Meyer said Monday. “My error, and I’ve been accused of this before, is giving people second or third chances.”
When asked if he believes that Courtney Smith was the victim of domestic violence, he said, “I can only rely on the information I receive from experts.” Meyer said he has not reached out to Courtney Smith, explaining that he was advised not to do so during the investigation and still has not spoken with her.
Meyer said that when police informed him of the 2015 incident between Zach Smith and Courtney Smith, he was told that it wasn’t a domestic violence issue and characterized the situation as a “messy divorce with child custody issues.” Yet unfortunately in the case of many domestic violence situations, victims do not always press charges and sometimes drop them—this would have been an example of a “red flag” that Meyer ignored.
Meyer apologized for misstating what he knew about that incident at Big Ten media day, but maintained that he did not intentionally lie. Ohio State’s investigation determined that the false statements made at the time were due in part to memory issues that Meyer deals with from time to time because of medication.
When pressed on this Monday, Meyer said that he is "very healthy" and that memory issues do not impact his ability to coach football.
Meyer was also asked about the saga around whether text messages were deleted. The investigative report states that Brian Voltolini, director of football operations, approached Meyer during practice on Aug. 1—the day he was placed on administrative leave—to discuss whether the media might be able to access his phone. They “specifically discussed how to adjust the settings on Meyer’s phone so that text messages older than one year would be deleted,” according to the report.
Meyer confirmed Monday that Voltolini approached him and asked about his texts, and said he told him there was nothing to worry about. Meyer said an IT person did take his phone to increase storage, however, because it was running out of memory.
“I have never deleted a text message and I have never changed a setting on my phone,” Meyer said. “I would never do that.”
Meyer returns to the sideline Saturday when Ohio State hosts Tulane. He’s 73–8 at Ohio State since 2012, and the Buckeyes are currently a perfect 3–0 with expectations to make a College Football Playoff run.
Now that this initial press conference is out of the way, will it just be business as usual for the program that boasts a talented roster and a Heisman Trophy hopeful at quarterback? If the Buckeyes keep winning, focus on these important issues could unfortunately fade from the spotlight.