Ohio State’s Meyer defends self, ex-assistant denies abuse

Urban Meyer is insisting that he properly handled 2015 allegations of domestic violence against one of his assistant coaches at the time, though he acknowledged he was not forthright with reporters when questioned last week about the claims.

The assistant Meyer fired, Zach Smith, also spoke up on Friday, denying that he abused his ex-wife, backing his former boss and placing Ohio State’s athletic director into the middle of the picture.

Two days after Ohio State sidelined Meyer and opened an investigation into what its superstar coach knew and did about accusations of abuse made against Smith by his ex-wife, two central figures in this college football drama answered some questions — and left much to be explained.

Meyer posted a statement addressed to Buckeyes fans on Twitter not long after his team, expected to be one of the best in the nation, opened practice for the upcoming season without him. Meyer was put on paid administrative leave Wednesday.

While Meyer’s statement was still being digested, Smith went on Columbus radio station 105.7 The Zone. In the interview , Smith said Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith questioned him during the 2015 football season about the allegations made by Courtney Smith that fall. Police reports were made about two separate incidents, but Zach Smith has never been criminally charged.

Zach Smith was fired last week by Meyer, a few days after his wife obtained a protective order against him.

Smith also did an interview with ESPN. He said he never assaulted his wife and any physical injuries she might have suffered were the result of him defending himself.

He said Gene Smith was alerted by police about the 2015 allegations. Zach Smith said that after speaking to Gene Smith about them, he spoke to Meyer. He said Meyer told him then that he would fire Smith if the head coach found out Smith hit his wife.

“I don’t know what else Urban Meyer could have done,” Zach Smith told ESPN.

The crisis at one of the most storied programs in college football history comes as the school is reeling from a sexual abuse scandal involving a now-dead sports doctor, Richard Strauss.

The Buckeyes open the season at home Sept. 1 against Oregon State. Co-offensive coordinator Ryan Day is acting head coach and there is no timetable for the Meyer inquiry to conclude.

“Over the past several days I have been portrayed as being indifferent to domestic violence and as someone who did not take appropriate action when warranted,” Meyer said.

“Here is the truth: While at the University of Florida and now at the Ohio State University I have always followed proper reporting protocols and procedures when I have learned of an incident involving a student-athlete, coach or member of our staff by elevating the issues to the proper channels. And I did so regarding the Zach Smith incident in 2015. I take that responsibility very seriously and any suggestion to the contrary is simply false.”

COMMENTS