Ohio State head football coach Urban Meyer has been suspended for the first three games of the 2018 season for his mishandling of the domestic violence accusations towards former wide receiver coach Zach Smith.
Athletic Director Gene Smith is also suspended without pay from August 31 to September 18.
The university released the following statement
“Although Urban Meyer nor Gene Smith condone or covered up the alleged domestic abuse by Zach Smith, they failed to take sufficient management action relating to Zach Smith’s misconduct and retained an assistant coach who was not performing as an appropriate role model for OSU student-athletes,”
Meyer will be able to return to coaching on September 3 but is not allowed to coach against Oregon State, Rutgers and TCU. His first game eligible to return will be against Tulane on September 22.
Lead investigator Mary Jo White said Wednesday evening that the investigation including interviewing 40 witnesses including some who were interviewed multiple times.
Over 60,000 statements of Urban Meyer’s text messages were reviewed and the investigation focused on Meyer, Smith as well as Zach and Courtney Smith as the main people in the investigation.
White added that Meyer knew of Zach Smith’s domestic violence activity and Gene Smith informed Meyer of the 2015 incident in September of that year. She also added that Meyer impressed the investigation committee with his respect for women and the core values of the football program and that Gene Smith also shared that as well.
Ryan Day, who has been the team’s acting head coach since August 1 when Meyer was placed on administrative leave will continue in that role during Meyer’s suspension. Day is Ohio State’s offensive coordinator.
Gene Smith issued this statement during a Wednesday evening press conference
“I want to express my sincere apologies for the situation that we have before us. I fully support the findings of the report and the subsequent actions that the university has taken.”
Urban Meyer issued this statement during the same press conference
“I want to apologize to Buckeye Nation. I followed my heart, not my head. At each juncture, I gave Zach Smith the benefit of the doubt.
I did a poor job at media day. It’s a big reason why we’re here today but there was no intent to mislead.
I appreciate the opportunity to learn from a mistake and I’ll work as hard as I ever have to make our strong program even stronger.”
Meyer also admitted that his decision making towards Smith was affected by his loyalty towards the late Earle Bruce, Zach Smith’s grandfather and former Ohio State head football coach who Meyer was a graduate assistant under in the 1980s.
When asked by a reporter if he should’ve been suspended, Urban Meyer responded “I trust and support our president.” Judging by the look on Meyer’s face, you can tell that he didn’t want to accept this suspension handed down by the school.
While some would likely say that this saga is completely over, history will tell us that more could be surfaced so I would like to think more to this situation will surface through the media in the coming days and weeks.
If Meyer and Smith didn’t handle protocol the proper way, then a suspension was and is necessary.
I know there’s Buckeye fans out there angry that Meyer has to serve a suspension for something he didn’t commit.
There’s a responsibility to being a head coach and essentially a “CEO” of a football program such as Ohio State and that he is at the top of the food chain in Columbus and when you had someone like Zach Smith being accused of something as horrible as domestic violence and you don’t act on it quickly, it’s a bad look on Urban Meyer as a person and also a bad look on the school and football program.
Clearly Meyer has a loyalty to Earle Bruce and his family and he did admit that his loyalty to Bruce made him vulnerable towards what Smith was doing but that’s no excuse for someone potentially committing domestic violence. Thankfully Meyer finally put that to the side when he fired Smith last month.
People don’t have to like the suspension but the school needed to do something and couldn’t let anyone go unpunished in this situation because the school would have received heavy scrutiny from the media among others.