Heat ratchets up as Urban Meyer, Zach Smith try to pass the buck in confounding media tour

Gene Smith, your move?

Actually, the respected Ohio State athletic director has our sympathy after a confusing, confounding media tour put on late Friday by his coach and a former assistant.

You thought paid administrative leave was bad? Or an ugly divorce with allegations of abuse? Smith now has to sift through a growing scandal that has become metastatic.

Disgraced former wide receivers coach Zach Smith asked us to believe the neck of his ex-wife ran right into his hands.

"Defensive action [by me]," he labeled the bruises and battering as depicted in Facebook photos posted by college football reporter Brett McMurphy on behalf of Zach's ex-wife Courtney.

At about the same time, Gene Smith's disgraced coach, Urban Meyer, released a statement saying he followed "proper reporting protocols" regarding a 2015 domestic incident involving Zach Smith and Courtney. That was in direct conflict to what he told reporters 10 days ago at the 2018 Big Ten Media Days.

"There was nothing," Meyer said that day of Zach Smith's alleged battering of Courtney from three years ago.

Meyer didn't stop there. He went on to disparage the actual reporting of the incident by McMurphy. "I don't know who creates a story like that," Meyer said.

For the record, that's going from "nothing" to I-did-everything-by-the-book-and-reported-whatever-there-was-to-report-to-my-boss in a span of just over a week.

One quick question: What exactly is proper protocol?

One quicker question: By saying that, did Meyer just throw his AD under the bus suggesting his boss somehow didn't act properly?

This is a man in Gene Smith who deftly handles one of the largest athletic enterprises in the country. But if he has to fire Meyer, it would be the second such Buckeyes football coach to get The Big Haircut in Columbus, Ohio, since 2011.

Remember Jim Tressel?

This, then, is beginning to be a trend.

What we have now is a sordid scandal taken to the next insidious level. The main participants have chosen to wage war through the media. The only innocent seems to be Courtney Smith, whose bravery continues to shine through this mess.

Meanwhile, in the statement Meyer provided via his Twitter account, the coach defended himself with or without the consent of his employers while on paid administrative leave during an ongoing investigation.

(Hint: There was probably no consent from Ohio State. It probably wants these sort of questions answered to their faces in private across a fine burnished oak conference table with lawyers present.)

Back to poor Gene Smith. The dual media tours by Meyer and Zach Smith did seem to indicate the AD had been told everything in 2015.

Zach told ESPN he was summoned to discuss "this felonious domestic assault accusation" in 2015 by Gene. He also said Meyer discussed the incident with him that year -- confirming Meyer knew about it three years ago as opposed to just days ago as he originally claimed -- and threatened to fire him if he was found to have hit his wife.

Should the university have followed up despite Zach not being charged?

"That's not their job. Their job is not to call someone who is accusing another person of something," Zach said.

Meyer's essentially changed his story in saying he reported the 2015 incident up the chain of command.

Let's take a knee here for a second. A man who largely invented the modern spread offense said in Friday's statement he was "not adequately prepared to discuss these sensitive personnel issues."

Feel free to choose your version of the truth.

Lying to the media in a Chicago hotel ballroom isn't necessarily a fireable offense. But those ballroom doors don't shut Meyer in. His words conveyed through the media were sent to millions of people, including Ohio State fans, regents and administrators, coaching peers, the Big Ten conference and college athletics as a whole.

Whatever Meyer spouts, he says to the world.

Meanwhile, Zach lamely defended himself and whatever happened within his tumultuous marriage.

"We had a toxic relationship, volatile relationship," he told ESPN. "We definitely needed to split up. We needed to divorce."

But did he hit his wife? Absolutely not, Smith countered. That despite bruises around his wife's neck and a bloody hand appearing on Facebook, which he claimed were a result of defensive restraint.

And even if Zach did hit her, hey, it's nobody's business but theirs.

"No one did anything illegal," he said. "This should stay behind closed doors so my kids don't have to see it."

Because it stayed behind closed doors, Zach, is why we're having this conversation. The marital-problems-are-private argument doesn't make sense either.

You're a highly-paid state employee whose actions -- as they affect the taxpayers who fund your salary -- absolutely deserve scrutiny.

Smith's never-laid-a-hand-on-her claim took a direct hit in real time on Twitter. As Smith was defending himself Friday, McMurphy tweeted a screenshot of a text message conversation. It appeared to show Smith admitting he strangled his wife while on vacation.

Where do we go from here? Hopefully to a higher moral ground.

One thing is for sure: The school's investigators have been given one hell of a head start. They have a lot of reading material to catch up on. 

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Dennis Dodd has covered college football for CBS Sports since it was CBS SportsLine in 1998. He is one of only seven media members to attend all 16 BCS title games and has chronicled conference realignment... Full Bio

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