Ohio State places coach Urban Meyer on 'administrative leave' pending investigation

Ohio State has placed coach Urban Meyer on administrative leave, the school announced late Wednesday. The announcement is a response to a report showing Meyer knew about a 2015 domestic violence incident involving former wide receivers coach Zach Smith despite the head coach's previous denial at Big Ten Media Days. 

"The university is conducting an investigation into these allegations," Ohio State said in a statement provided to CBS Sports. "During the inquiry, Urban Meyer will be on paid administrative leave. Ryan Day will serve as acting head football coach during the investigation. We are focused on supporting our players and on getting to the truth as expeditiously as possible."

Meyer also released a statement to CBS Sports through the university. "Gene and I agree that being on leave during this inquiry will facilitate its completion," Meyer said. "This allows the team to conduct training camp with minimal distraction. I eagerly look forward to the resolution of this matter."

Brett McMurphy reported Wednesday -- through a string of interviews and text messages he uncovered -- that Meyer did know about the October 2015 incident in which Smith was arrested for felonious assault and domestic violence of his then-wife, Courtney Smith. The couple separated the summer before and legalized their divorce the following year. 

The report contains screenshots of text messages and graphic pictures that purportedly detail a pattern of abuse ranging from physical violence to text message threats made by Zach to Courtney. In text message conversations with Shelley Meyer, Urban's wife and confidant, Courtney discusses Smith's behavior and received sympathy and shock from Shelley, who referred to Smith as "scary." 

Later Wednesday, Courtney said in an interview with Stadium that Shelley proposed talking to Meyer about the incidents. 

"I told Shelley. I sent her some pictures," Courtney said. "I spoke to her on the phone. She said she was going to have to tell Urban. I said, 'That's fine. You should tell Urban. You can't have someone like this coaching young men.'"

Courtney added that Shelley, who is an instructor in Ohio State's College of Nursing, never confirmed that she had spoken to her husband about what she had learned. However, Courtney told Stadium "I do believe he [Meyer] knew." 

McMurphy's report also suggests that Meyer wasn't the only coach on staff who knew of Smith's behavior.

"All the [coaches] wives knew," Courtney told McMurphy. "They all did. Every single one."

Those conversations in McMurphy's report directly contradict Meyer's comments one week before in Chicago.

"[Regarding] 2015, I got a text late last night something happened in 2015," Meyer said on July 24. "And there was nothing. Once again, there's nothing – once again, I don't know who creates a story like that."

Smith was fired July 23 after McMurphy first reported the 2015 incident and another in 2009 when Smith was on Meyer's staff at Florida. Smith was investigated for battery of Courtney, who was pregnant at the time, in 2009. Cleveland.com reported Wednesday that there were nine separate incidents involving the pair between Jan. 1, 2012, and July 26, 2018. Included in that report was a Dec. 2017 incident in which neighbors reported Smith peering in the windows of his ex-wife's home and car at 1:30 a.m. and even "banging" on the door of the home.    

In a statement to ESPN, Bradley Koffel, Zach's attorney, said: "Zach Smith wants to be as transparent and honest as possible but it is not going to be done today through the media. It will only be after he and his ex-wife are sworn in to testify. Once he gets his chance to tell his side of events, don't be surprised when it is corroborated by every police who ever responded to Ms. Smith's calls."

With Meyer on leave, the next question will concern his future as the coach of the Buckeyes. It's worth noting that Meyer's recent contract extension agreement from April contains provisions that require him to "promptly report to Ohio State's Deputy Title IX Coordinator for Athletics any known violations of Ohio State's Sexual Misconduct Policy (including, but not limited to, sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, intimate violence and stalking) that involve any student, faculty, or staff that is in connection with a university sponsored activity or event." 

The provision defines a "known violation" as a "violation or an allegation of a violation of Title IX that Coach is aware of or has reasonable cause to believe is taking place or may have taken place."

The section adds that Meyer could be terminated with cause if he fails to promptly and properly report "any known violations of Ohio State's Sexual Misconduct Policy (including, but not limited to, sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, intimate violence and stalking) that involve any student, faculty, or staff that is in connection with a university sponsored activity or event."

At the time of the announcement, Meyer's contract had not yet been signed by the university's chief financial officer. That, along with other specifics like location of the alleged sexual misconduct, could affect the outcome of Ohio State's investigation. 

College Football Writer

Barrett Sallee has been a member of the sports media in various aspects since 2001. He is currently a college football writer for CBS Sports, while also hosting on ESPNU on SiriusXM Radio channel 84, the... Full Bio

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