Report: Urban Meyer knew about 2015 domestic violence incident involving ex-assistant

Update: Ohio State announced Wednesday afternoon that coach Urban Meyer has been placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation into his handling of the Zach Smith situation. Offensive coordinator Ryan Day will serve as the head coach in Meyer's absence. 

Original story

When asked at this year's Big Ten Media Days, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said he was unaware of a 2015 domestic violence incident involving former Buckeyes wide receiver Zach Smith and his now ex-wife, Courtney. Specifically, Meyer told reporters at the event in Chicago that he was only informed of the situation right before his appearance. 

"I got a text last night that something happened in 2015, and there was nothing," Meyer told reporters, adding, "I don't know who creates a story like that."

However, Brett McMurphy reported Wednesday -- through a string of interviews and text messages he uncovered -- that Meyer did know about the 2015 incident in which Smith was arrested for felonious assault and domestic violence of his then-wife. 

McMurphy's entire report is obviously worth reading, but the pertinent information includes the following ...

  • Courtney Smith's text messages with Meyer's wife, Shelley, who at one point during a 2015 exchange said, "I am with you! A lot of women stay hoping it will get better. I don't blame you! But just want u to be safe. Do you have a restraining order? He scares me." Courtney added that Shelley was a "frequent texter." 
  • Courtney's communication with wives of other Ohio State assistants and staffers. McMurphy writes that those wives "and a number of Ohio State assistant coaches were aware of Smith's domestic violence issues." Speaking with McMurphy, Courtney said, "All the [coaches] wives knew. They all did. Every single one."
  • A change in the police report for the domestic violence incident on Oct. 26, 2015. Per the Powell Police report, a box was checked indicating Zach Smith had been arrested. However, in a revised report, that arrest box was no longer checked. The PPD told McMurphy "The terminology used by the Police Department was different in the original report (dated 10/26/2015) and inconsistent with what actually occurred." 
  • Courtney telling McMurphy the following: "Zach once told me, if he ever got fired and this all comes out: 'I'll take everyone at Ohio State down with me.'"

Perhaps the most damning piece of information from McMurphy's report is an exchange between Courtney and Lindsey Voltolini in the weeks following the 2015 incident. Lindsey's husband Brian Voltolini is "considered one of Meyer's most loyal staff members," according to McMurphy.  

Courtney: "[Zach's] trying to make me look crazy bc that's what Shelley is saying [he's doing]"
Lindsey: "[Urban] just said [Zach] denied everything" 
Courtney: "I hope urban is smarter than that"
Lindsey: "[Urban] doesn't know what to think"
Courtney: "I don't really care. Ya know"
Lindsey: "Yeah, don't worry about urb"

Meyer said he was aware of a domestic violence incident involving Zach Smith in 2009 when the latter was an assistant at Florida. According to documents, Smith had an altercation with his wife, who was three months pregnant at the time. 

Meyer told reporters in Chicago, "As I do any time, and I imagine most coaches or people in leadership positions, when you receive a phone call, first thing you do is tell your boss. Let the experts do their jobs. We're certainly not going to investigate. It came back to me that what was reported wasn't what actually happened. So Shelley and I actually both got involved with the relationship with that family, and provided counseling, and wanted to help them moving forward." 

Zach was ultimately not charged in the incident, though per Courtney, two of Meyer's closest friends -- Hiram de Fries, who is Meyer's "life coach", and former Ohio State coach Earle Bruce -- asked her to drop charges of aggravated battery of a pregnant victim. The influences of those voices on Meyer are key components to that allegation. Bruce, who passed away in April, was not only an Ohio State great, but Zach's grandfather and a close mentor of Meyer's. 

Moreover, Cleveland.com reports that the Powell police filed nine incident reports between Jan. 1, 2012, and July 26, 2018, involving domestic issues between Zach and Courtney Smith. Those include multiple custody disputes, the aforementioned allegation from Oct. 2015, and a 2017 incident in which neighbors saw Smith looking through the windows of his ex-wife's home and banging on her door at 1:30 a.m.

Smith was fired right before Big Ten Media Days and was replaced on an interim basis by former Buckeyes wideout Brian Hartline. Meyer said the decision was a "tough call" but added that "it was in the best interest of our team." He did not elaborate when asked if the media reports of Smith's past influenced the decision.

"I'm not going to get into that. A decision was made," Meyer said. "The details I'm obligated to give, I gave. The decision was made, it's time to move forward." 

One of Meyer's core values is "treat women with respect." 

With the latest report from McMurphy coming to light, the focus will now be squarely on Meyer to further explain what he did or did not know about Smith's string of domestic violence issues. As of yet, Ohio State has not commented publicly on the report. 

CBS Sports Writer

Ben Kercheval joined CBS Sports in 2016 and has been covering college football since 2010. Before CBS, Ben worked at Bleacher Report, UPROXX Sports and NBC Sports. As a long-suffering North Texas graduate,... Full Bio

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