What we know and what we don't in Ohio State controversy involving Urban Meyer, Zach Smith
Digesting the unfolding story of Urban Meyer and what he may or may not have known about Zach Smith
Ohio State football cannot escape the headlines -- for all the wrong reasons. Coach Urban Meyer is on paid administrative while OSU investigates what he knew and when he knew it regarding former wide receivers coach Zach Smith and his 2015 domestic abuse incident.
And with Smith first college football's biggest story of the year. What exactly did Meyer know about the list of domestic violence allegations against Smith -- and when did he know it? Who else knew? What's next? Those are just some of the questions that don't have answers yet in this evolving story.on Friday -- along with a near-simultaneous -- there's plenty to unpack in what is suddenly
As we keep track of every step, it's time to stop and look at what we know and what we don't at this point.
What we know
1. Urban Meyer lied: We just don't know to what capacity. The simple fact is Meyer not only denied any knowledge of Smith's 2015 domestic violence incident during Big Ten Media Days, he was Meyer said. "I've never had a conversation about it. I know nothing about it. First I heard about that was last night … and I asked some people back at the office to call and say what happened, and they came back and said they know nothing about it." Meyer then added "There was nothing ... Once again, I don't know who creates a story like that.". "I was never told about anything and nothing ever came to light,"
Except ... Meyer did know something prior to his appearance in Chicago. He admitted as much in his lengthy Brett McMurphy's bombshell report.on Friday. He even went so far as to say he "always followed proper reporting protocols" in such matters and "did so regarding the Zach Smith incident in 2015." (The statement conveniently does not provide an explicit date of when Meyer knew about it.) In his own interview with ESPN, Smith said he and Meyer had a conversation about the incident in 2015, which would seemingly corroborate
Lying to the media isn't a great look, but it's not a fireable offense. What the lie potentially means could be, however. Meyer has already changed his story once, eliminating any remaining shred of believability he might have had -- which was already close to zero anyway.
2. This is only the beginning: When Meyer denied knowledge of Smith's 2015 incident, it was largely taken at face value, even if somewhat skeptically. That's not the case now. Throughout this week, media requests have unsealed court documents of past incidents involving Zach and Courtney Smith. Many of the details of these incidents are extremely disturbing. And now there are more questions than answers, some of which we'll get to below.
But know this: Ohio State placed Meyer on paid administrative leave because he lied. Now, the school has to wipe the white board clean and start from the beginning as it investigates this matter. As McMurphy tweeted, a special working group has been created to kick-start the investigation. As for where they might start, recall that Courtney Smith told McMurphy that "All the [coaches] wives knew. They all did. Every single one." A lot of people will be questioned before this thing is done.
3. What happened between the Smiths is tragic: At the end of the day, this is a domestic violence case. What ultimately happens with Meyer, athletic director Gene Smith and the 2018 Buckeyes is really not all that important by comparison. That a woman was allegedly repeatedly abused by her partner, or that a man's reputation is at stake, is the overriding matter. Remember: The 2015 case is still open. Hopefully, the truth will be uncovered in time because right now there's a laundry list of allegations against Zach Smith dating back several years. While all of these are still allegations, there's some potential evidence in Courtney's favor, including pictures of bruises and an apparent text message exchange between her and Zach.
And if anyone wonders why it took so long for Courtney to come forward, consider her story in 2009 when Zach, then a graduate assistant at Florida, was arrested for domestic abuse while she was pregnant. That's when two of Meyer's closest friends, Hiram de Fries and former Ohio State coach (and Zach's grandfather) Earle Bruce, supposedly pressured her into dropping charges. Again, this is her version, but being pressured into letting things slide is, if nothing else, consistent with other accounts of gender violence. And while Zach to this day remains uncharged, it doesn't necessarily mean he's innocent, either, although he very well could be. In the eyes of the law, at least, he certainly is until proven otherwise.
All of this is to say what has happened over the better part of a decade is tragic and that shouldn't be lost in this story.
What we don't know
1. The timeline of who knew what and when: Consider this a catch-all because, right now, far less is known than what is unknown. It starts, of course, with Meyer -- but it doesn't end there. Shelley Meyer, who works at Ohio State as an instructor in the College of Nursing, was a friend of Courtney's. Text message exchanges between the two show Shelley was well aware of Zach's alleged behavior. As Urban's wife, what she shares with her husband is obviously of great interest to the university's investigation.
This extends past the Meyers, too. All assistant coaches, their wives, and even Ohio State administrators are going to be front and center because many of them have responsibilities to report this type of information. Gene Smith will also certainly be of interest given that, according to Zach, he was aware of the 2015 incident after being notified by Powell police. As such, the communication between Gene and Urban becomes extremely important.
2. Why Zach Smith was kept on Ohio State's staff for so long: The short answer is because, according to Smith's interview, he was never arrested or charged in the 2015 incident. OK ... but if Meyer knew about it, why wouldn't he be more invested in it like he was in 2009? "He wanted to know what really happened from me and then he let the police do their job," Zach told ESPN. "You can't have a head coach doing investigating when there's investigators doing investigating."
So one of the most powerful and influential people at the state's flagship university, who already rehired the guy arrested for domestic abuse once before, can't look into the situation more closely because someone else is? He's Urban Meyer. He can do whatever he wants. And if Meyer really did believe Zach Smith, why wait nearly three full years to suddenly make a change?
3. What's next for AD Gene Smith? As with any major story, potential repercussions tend to move out in a ripple effect. Whereas focus was almost squarely on Meyer just a couple of days ago, Friday's statements by Urban and Zach move it over to Gene. If that wasn't a coordinated effort, it sure felt like one -- although Gene's involvement was always a natural follow-up question.
Zach says Gene knew about the 2015 incident. Did he know before Urban? What kind of conversations did the athletic director and coach have about Zach? While many columns have been written about Urban's fate, it's worth questioning what Gene's outlook is as well. Does this result in one person getting fired? If so, who? Or would it potentially be both?
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