Following its announcement Wednesday that coach Urban Meyer would be suspended for the first three games of the 2018 season, Ohio State released the complete findings of its independent investigation into Meyer and the school's handling of allegations made against former wide receiver coach Zach Smith by his ex-wife Courtney Smith.
The 23-page document sheds some light on the situation and outlines the events that led to the suspensions of Meyer and Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, as well as the dismissal of Zach Smith.
Findings on Urban Meyer
- When Gene Smith and Urban Meyer first learned -- on the morning of July 23 -- of the reports about the domestic violence civil protection order issued against Zach Smith on July 20, Meyer decided to fire Smith. However, before making that decision, Gene Smith thought that having Zach Smith seek counseling would be the best decision but agreed with Meyer when he said he wanted to fire his assistant.
- In a text message, Meyer told a "venerated OSU athlete" that the situation between Zach and Courtney Smith was "he said she said and 2 kids involved." As Meyer admitted in the press conference, he told investigators that his relationship with mentor Earle Bruce may have affected his impartiality in dealing with Zach Smith, Bruce's grandson.
- Gene Smith and director of football operations Brian Voltolini were both surprised by Meyer's comments at Big Ten Media Days. The night before his press conference, Meyer was involved in a group text with Smith, Voltolini, Ohio State assistant AD Jerry Emig and director of player development Ryan Stamper about media reports surrounding Zach Smith that led to his dismissal.
Meyer texted "I know nothing about this," about a report about a 2015 "felony arrest" of Smith. Meyer admitted to being aware of the 2009 incident. Meyer wrote, "need some guidance here so when I speak to media I'm not wrong." After learning from Stamper that there was no record of Zach Smith being arrested in 2015, Meyer texted "Stamp just confirmed there was no arrest in 2015."
When questioned about the report of the incident with Smith in 2015 during Big Ten Media Days, Meyer said he knew nothing about it. In the days following Meyer's press conference, both Smith and Voltolini told Meyer "he had, in fact, been aware of the law enforcement investigation involving allegations of abuse against Zach Smith in 2015."
- Investigators learned that Meyer "has sometimes had significant memory issues in other situations where he had prior extensive knowledge of events. He has also periodically taken medicine that can negatively impair his memory, concentration and focused." They accepted that as a legitimate reason for him not remembering past events, such as the details of the 2015 incident.
- It was found by investigators that Meyer did not violate "policy, law or contractual obligation" by failing to report Zach Smith's 2009 arrest at Florida upon his hiring at Ohio State, though investigators admit "it would have been better" for him to do so.
- Meyer and Gene Smith claim they did not believe they had reporting obligations regarding Zach Smith's 2015 incident "because there was no charge or arrest" or violation of the law in connection with it. Investigators believe the claims of Meyer and Smith were "in good faith" but were too narrowly focused around law enforcement action.
- Upon Brett McMurphy's Aug. 1 report alleging Urban Meyer knew about Courtney Smith's allegations of abuse in 2015, Voltolini approached Meyer on the practice field. The two discussed "whether the media could get access to Coach Meyer's phone and specifically discussed how to adjust the settings on Meyer's phone so that text messages older than one year would be deleted." In a subsequent review of Meyer's phone, the investigators were unable to recover text messages older than one year.
Though the investigators could not determine whether messages were actually deleted following the conversation with Voltolini, the findings stated the following: "It is nonetheless concerning that [Meyer's] first reaction to a negative media piece exposing his knowledge of the 2015-2016 law enforcement investigation was to worry about the media getting access to information and discussing how to delete messages older than a year."
Furthermore, a request was made by Ohio State's senior associate general counsel to Voltolini and director of internal football operations Amy Nicol on July 25 to review Meyer's phone following an open records request made by student newspaper "The Lantern." That request, which came a week before Voltolini's conversation with Meyer, was never fulfilled.
Findings on Zach Smith
- The investigation said of Smith: "We identified a pattern of troubling behavior by Zach Smith: promiscuous and embarrassing sexual behavior, drug abuse, truancy, dishonesty, financial irresponsibility, a possible NCAA violation, and a lengthy police investigation into allegations of criminal domestic violence and cybercrimes. Repeatedly, Zach Smith's conduct was met with reprimands and warnings by Coach Meyer, but never a written report, never an investigation and no disciplinary action until July 23, 2018. While we do not doubt that Coach Meyer respects women and is dedicated to fostering an environment of respect for women in his program, his apparent blind spot for Zach Smith seems to have impaired his judgment and his management of the behavior of at least one of his assistants."
- Investigators obtained a screenshot of a checking account statement from May, 2014 showing Smith spent $600 of his personal funds at a Miami strip club among the many sordid details about Zach Smith's behavior ...
- Meyer maintains he met with both Zach and Courtney Smith in his office at Florida following Smith's 2009 arrest. Meyer says the couple told him that the arrest had been based on incorrect information provided to the authorities by Courtney Smith and that Zach Smith had never hit her or been violent toward her. Courtney Smith denies the meeting ever happened, though she remembers meeting with Shelley Meyer, Urban's wife, at the time. She also says she never recanted her allegations. Zach Smith remembers meeting with Meyer but says Courtney did not. Urban and Shelley Meyer referred the couple to see a counselor after the incident.
- Zach Smith's job performance suffered during his divorce proceedings in 2015. He was regularly late to practice and team meetings. He also failed to appear at recruiting visits at various high schools while claiming that he had been there. Meyer warned Smith that continued problems would lead to his dismissal. Gene Smith recommended to Meyer that he fire Zach Smith that year.
- Shelley Meyer sent a text to her husband after Zach Smith's dismissal say she was worried how Smith would respond to the decision because "he drinks a lot and I am just not sure how stable he will be. Afraid he will do something dangerous. It's obvious he has anger/rage issues already." Meyer didn't respond to the message.
If you wish to read the 23-page document in its entirety, you can do so by clicking here.