Ohio State suspends football coach Urban Meyer for first three games of 2018 season
Meyer was originally placed on paid administrative leave by Ohio State on Aug. 1
Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer has been suspended for the first three games of the 2018 season, university president Michael Drake announced late Wednesday following a lengthy consultation with the Ohio State Board of Trustees. Meyer will be fully suspended through the Oregon State game, meaning he will not be allowed to attend practices or have contact with the team. After that, he will be able to direct practice during the week, but not allowed to coach the team during its games against Rutgers and No. 16 TCU. As part of the suspension, Meyer will forgo six weeks of pay.
OSU also announced that athletic director Gene Smith has been suspended just over two weeks from Aug. 31 to Sept. 16.
"We believe clearly that Urban Meyer did not and does not condone domestic abuse," said Drake. "However, he did fail to take sufficient management action regarding Zach Smith, and he was not as complete and accurate at media day and didn't uphold the high standards and values of the university on that day. Therefore, Urban Meyer is suspended through Sept. 2, 2018, and for the games on the 1st, 8th and 15th. Meyer will forego pay for that time."
The summary of Ohio State's investigation resulting in Meyer's suspension stated that Meyer "failed to act appropriately regarding alleged abuse by Zach Smith of his former wife and related allegations that he misrepresented his knowledge of the alleged events at the Big Ten Media Days."
The investigation also found that Meyer and Gene Smith "failed to adhere to the precise requirements of their contracts when they concluded that they needed to await a law enforcement determination to file charges before they reported the otherwise disputed claims of spousal abuse against Zach Smith, they did so based upon a good faith belief that they did not have sufficient information to trigger a reporting obligation or initiate a disciplinary action in the absence of law enforcement action.
"Other than their misunderstanding of the requirements triggering reporting obligations, neither Coach Meyer nor Athletic Director Smith violated any policy, rules, law or contractual obligation in connection with the alleged domestic abuse claims against Zach Smith."
The decision came down following a two-week investigation into Meyer's handling of domestic violence claims against former Smith, the team's former wide receivers coach. That investigation was.
Meyer made the following statement following the announcement Wednesday evening.
"I know that the impact the events of the last three weeks have had on this institution, an institution I love, and how challenging this has been for our community, our president -- a man I have great respect for -- and for that, I am deeply sorry. I am fully aware that I am ultimately responsible for this situation that has harmed the university as a whole and our department of athletics and our football program. I want to apologize to Buckeye Nation.
"I followed my heart, not my head. I fell short in pursuing full information because, at each juncture, I gave Zach Smith the benefit of the doubt. As I reflect, my loyalty to his grandfather Earl Bruce -- who was my mentor and like a father to me -- likely impacted how I treated Zach over the years. I did not know everything about Zach Smith, what Zach Smith was doing, and I'm pleased that the report made this very clear. However, I should have demanded more from him and recognized red flags. I needed to show more care and concern for the entirety of the situation and the people involved. I should have been more demanding of him in the same way I am of my players, other staff members and myself. I should have done more, and I am sorry for that.
"I did a poor job at media day. It's a big reason why we are here today. I was not being as complete or accurate as I should have been at media day and afterward. But there was no intent to mislead. My role is to set a good example. In this instance, I did not live up tot he university's standards. The suspensions are tough, but I fully except them. I wish I could go back and make different decisions, but I can't. These difficult lessons are a constant reminder of the duties and obligations that I have as a member of this university and this community. I take this responsibility very seriously, and I will do better. I have been a Buckeye my entire life. For the past six years, I've worked diligently to build a program that the great state of Ohio and Ohio State can be very proud of. And I appreciate the opportunity to learn from a mistake, and I will work as hard as I ever have to make our strong program even stronger."
Ohio Stateon Aug. 1 in response to reports from Brett McMurphy detailing the coach's knowledge of a 2015 incident involving Zach Smith. One week earlier, Meyer told reporters at Big Ten Media Days that he had absolutely no knowledge of the incident. Smith was after McMurphy reported a string of domestic violence incidents -- the aforementioned 2015 incident and another in 2009 while at Florida -- involving the assistant and his then-wife Courtney.
During Wednesday's press conference, Meyer said he was not aware of the text messages between Courtney Smith and his wife, Shelley, that McMurphy unearthed. The messages between Shelley and Courtney played a large role in Ohio State's investigation into the incident.
Gene Smith took full responsibility for his actions during the press conference and accepted the consequences handed down by the president. However, when asked about the firing of Zach Smith, the athletic director dismissed the notion that the decision came down when it did based on the new information revealed in McMurphy's report.
"Urban and I had conversations throughout that day, and ultimately, he came to a decision where he wanted to terminate Zach Smith as a result of a number of different things over Zach's tenure," Gene Smith said. "... But it wasn't because of that singular incident."
While on leave, Meyerclaiming he "always followed proper reporting protocols and procedures when I have learned of an incident involving a student-athlete, coach or member of our staff by elevating the issues to the proper channels. And, I did so regarding the Zach Smith incident in 2015. I take that responsibility very seriously and any suggestion to the contrary is simply false."
Smith also claimed that he was unaware of the 2009 incident between Zach and Courtney Smith when he hired him as a member of Meyer's staff at Ohio State.
Meyer did not admit fault in the situation, but did claim that he "failed on many ... fronts" at the Big Ten Media Days to be "clear, compassionate, and most of all, completely accurate" in addressing a personnel issue. He continued: "My intention was not to say anything inaccurate or misleading. However, I was not adequately prepared to discuss these sensitive personnel issues with the media, and I apologize for the way I handled those questions."
Twice, Meyer was asked whether he agreed with Ohio State's decision to suspend him, and he answered the question the same way both times: "I trust and support our president."
Meyer was also asked if he had anything to say to Courtney Smith. "My message is to everyone: I'm sorry we're in this situation," he said. "I'm just sorry we're in this situation."
Co-offensive coordinator Ryan Day has been serving as the Buckeyes' interim coach for the last three weeks and is expected to maintain that role through Week 3 of the 2018 season.
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