Ohio State Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer has been placed on administrative leave. The school is currently investigating whether Meyer knew about allegations that assistant coach Zach Smith was abusing his then-wife, Courtney.
Meyer fired Smith last week. Smith is accused of abusing his wife multiple times over a six-year span, dating back to his time as a member of Meyer’s Florida Gators staff.
The domestic voilence came to public attention after Smith was charged with misdemeanor criminal trespassing in May. Courtney Smith later obtained a restraining order that prevents Zach from coming within 500 feet of her.
Ryan Day Will Serve as Interim Coach
Ohio State announced that they are currently “conducting an investigation into these allegations.” Ryan Day, the team’s offensive coordinator, will take over head coaching duties while Meyer is on leave.
An Ohio State press release reads: “We are focused on supporting our players and on getting to the truth as expeditiously as possible.”
Meyer also released his own statement: “[Athletic director] Gene [Smith] and I agree that being on leave during this inquiry will facilitate its completion. This allows the team to conduct training camp with minimal distraction. I eagerly look forward to the resolution of this matter.”
How Much did Meyer Know about the Abuse?
However, Meyer has been quick to deny any knowledge about domestic abuse since then. Text messages obtained by college football reporter Brett McMurphy, along with an interview from Courtney Smith, suggest otherwise.
Ohio State is currently examining text messages exchanged between Courtney and other wives of the Buckeye coaching staff. Urban’s wife, Shelley, sent particularly damning messages that indicate she knew Courtney was suffering from domestic violence. One text even shows a bruised Courtney after a run-in with Smith.
2015 Text Indicates that Meyer Knew of Continued Domestic Violence
McMurphy’s report includes a Nov. 2015 text conversation between Courtney and Lindsey Voltolini, wife of OSU director of football operations Brian Voltolini. Although a third-hand account, the text conversation makes it seem as if Meyer indeed knew of Zach and Courtney’s abusive relationship.
Here’s the text exchange in question:
- Courtney: “(Zach’s) trying to make me look crazy bc that’s what Shelley is saying (he’s doing)”
- Lindsey: “He (Urban) just said he (Zach) denied everything”
- Courtney: “I hope urban is smarter than that”
- Lindsey: “He (Urban) doesn’t know what to think”
- Courtney: “I don’t really care. Ya know”
- Lindsey: “Yeah, don’t worry about urb”
Courtney also detailed conversations that she had with Shelley Meyer.
“In 2015, I spoke to Shelley. I sent her some pictures. I spoke to her on the phone,” Courtney explained.
“Shelley said she was going to have to tell Urban. I said, ‘That’s fine. You should tell Urban. We can’t have somebody like this coaching young men.’ ”
Shelley would continue to check in on Courtney to see if she was alright from time to time. But Courtney admits that she doesn’t know for sure whether Shelly ever told her husband.
“She would reach out to me, ask me how I’m doing, tell me she’s worried and that if I needed anything she was there,” said Courtney. “When somebody is crying out for help, I believe the coach and the coach’s wife have a duty. They have a duty to do something. To help.”
Courtney Smith added that she believes Shelley did talk with Urban about the matter. But she has no concrete proof of the allegations.
“I hope in the future he never turns his head away again,” she said. “I know Shelley did everything she could. I firmly believe that.
“She was very supportive. She never made me feel uncomfortable. She never made me feel like I was a threat by telling her these things.
“I believe [Urban] knew. Instead he chose to help the abuser. Nobody from the university came to me and asked me for my side of the story. That’s a problem. It needs to change.”
Why wouldn’t Meyer Fire Smith Earlier if He Knew?
In 2002, Zach walked onto the Bowling Green team coached by Meyer. The latter would bring Smith on as an intern with the Gators in 2005.
Zach remained with the team in different roles during that time. He later received coaching positions at Temple and Marshall before again joining Meyer as the Ohio State receivers coach in 2012.
That said, this long-term relationship — along with Meyer having received mentoring from Bruce — may have played a role in avoiding the truth, if this is indeed the case.
Meyer has been head coach of the Buckeyes since 2012. He’s compiled a 73-8 record since then and won the 2014 national title. The 54-year-old also won titles at Florida in 2006 and 2008.
Ohio State’s 2018 Odds with Meyer’s Career in Jeopardy
Urban Meyer could very well be fired if there’s enough evidence to suggest that he knew about Smith’s continued abuse of Courtney. But even with Meyer’s future in jeopardy, it doesn’t appear to be affecting Ohio State’s national championship odds.
The Buckeyes currently sit with the third-best odds of winning at +600, according to GTBets. Alabama (+225) and Clemson (+575) are the only schools ahead of them.
Assuming Meyer does indeed get fired, though, it could change these odds. However, futures bettors should wait for the outcome of the investigation before taking anything as a guarantee.