Twelve hours after Ohio State’s executive session began Wednesday morning, the university announced its decision: Urban Meyer is staying in Columbus.
Meyer will be suspended for the Buckeyes’ first three games of the 2018 season for his involvement in the Zach Smith domestic abuse saga at Ohio State, while athletic director Gene Smith will be suspended from Aug. 31 to Sept. 16.
Meyer will miss Ohio State’s games against Oregon State, Rutgers and TCU and return to the sidelines against Tulane on Sept. 22. The three-time national champion will coach the Buckeyes when they travel to face Penn State on Sept. 29 at Beaver Stadium.
“I followed my heart and not my head. I fell short in pursuing full information because at each juncture, I gave Zach Smith the benefit of the doubt,” Meyer said to a room full of reporters at the Longaberger Alumni House in Columbus. “As I reflect, my loyalty to his grandfather, Earle Bruce, who was a mentor and like a father to me, likely impacted how I treated Zach over the years. ... I should have demanded more from him and recognized red flags.”
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This wraps up an ugly timeline of events, which started on July 23 when college football reporter Brett McMurphy shed light on Smith’s domestic abuse history. According to the report, the former Ohio State and Florida assistant coach was arrested in 2009 for aggravated battery and in 2015 for domestic violence and felonious assault against his now ex-wife, Courtney. No charges resulted from either situation.
Hours after McMurphy’s report, Smith, Ohio State’s wide receivers coach, was fired.
However, a day later, on July 24 at Big Ten media days, Meyer denied knowing about the 2015 incident, which he later admitted was a lie.
“I did a poor job at media day,” Meyer said. “It’s a big reason why we’re here today. I was not being as completely accurate as I should have been at media day and afterward. But there was no intent to mislead.”
Added Mary Jo White, lead investigator in the Ohio State probe: “Despite Coach Meyer’s clear awareness and monitoring in 2015 of the law enforcement investigation of Zach Smith for domestic violence, we ultimately did not conclude that Coach Meyer deliberately lied during his comments at Big Ten media days.”
The two-time Big Ten champion was placed on paid administrative leave on Aug. 1 after another McMurphy report. McMurphy revealed screenshots of text conversations between Courtney Smith and Lindsey Voltolini, the wife of Ohio State’s director of football operations, that suggested Meyer knew of the 2015 allegations.
Meyer released a statement two days after being placed on leave, claiming he has “always followed proper reporting protocols” when it comes to incidents of domestic abuse. “And I did so regarding the Zach Smith incident in 2015,” the coach continued. “I take that responsibility very seriously and any suggestion to the contrary is simply false.”
After Courtney Smith and Zach Smith met with Ohio State officials, the university announced that its six-person panel concluded its investigation on Aug. 19.
And as planned, the panel made its findings public on Wednesday.
“I’m fully aware that I’m ultimately responsible for this situation,” Meyer said. “I want to apologize to Buckeye nation.”