Aug. 2 (UPI) — Ohio State placed Urban Meyer on paid administrative leave Wednesday while officials conduct an investigation into when he knew about abuse allegations against a fired assistant coach.
Meyer served as head football coach at the University of Utah from 2003 to 2004.
The head coach fired former wide receivers coach Zach Smith on July 23 after domestic violence allegations related to his ex-wife, Courtney Smith, surfaced. Zach Smith was on Urban Meyer’s staff since 2012.
The Buckeyes’ head coach spoke to reporters the following day at Big Ten Media Day.
Urban Meyer said he received a call regarding an incident in 2009 while Zach Smith was an intern under him at Florida. He said he notified his boss of the allegation but “what was reported wasn’t what happened.” He said he received a text message in July relating to another alleged incident in 2015 that involved Zach Smith, but “there was nothing.”
Meyer said the most recent event was the reason for Zach Smith’s firing. He said at Big Ten Media day that he would have fired him in 2015 had he known about the allegations.
“I was never told about anything,” Urban Meyer said. “Never anything came to light, never had a conversation about it. So I know nothing about it.”
A Delaware County police spokesperson told college football reporter Brett McMurphy that Courtney Smith filed an order of protection against him July 20. In a court filing, she said Zach Smith harassed, stalked and intimidated her, the Columbus Dispatch reported.
Zach Smith also was arrested in 2009 for aggravated battery on a pregnant victim, Alachua County, Fla., court records indicate. That charge was later dismissed. And he was charged with misdemeanor criminal trespassing on July 18 related to an incident in May, McMurphy reported.
On Wednesday, McMurphy published another report, suggesting that Urban Meyer knew about the domestic abuse allegations against his assistant coach in 2015. Courtney Smith provided McMurphy with a series of text messages between herself and other wives of coaches on the Ohio State staff, including Urban Meyer’s wife Shelley Meyer.
Courtney Smith told Stadium and McMurphy that Shelley Meyer told her she was going to “have to tell Urban,” which Courtney Smith agreed she should do. However, Shelley Meyer never specifically confirmed that she told her husband about the matter.
“The university is conducting an investigation into these allegations,” Ohio State said in a statement. “During the inquiry, Urban Meyer will be on paid administrative leave. Ryan Day will serve as acting head football coach during the investigation. We are focused on supporting our players and on getting to the trust as expeditiously as possible.”
Ohio State Vice President and Athletic Director “Gene [Smith] and I agree that being on leave during this inquiry will facilitate its completion,” Urban Meyer said. “This allows the team to conduct training camp with minimal distraction. I eagerly look forward to the resolution of this matter.”
Courtney Smith told Stadium that she thinks Urban Meyer knew about the situation between herself and her husband.
“I do believe he knew and instead he chose to help the abuser and enable the abuser and believe whatever story Zach was telling everybody,” she said.
Zach Smith’s attorney, Bradley Koffel, issued a statement to ESPN saying his client “wants to be as transparent and honest as possible but it is not going to be done today through the media. It will only be after he and his ex-wife are sworn in to testify. Once he gets his chance to tell his side of events, don’t be surprised when it is corroborated by every police who ever responded to Ms. Smith’s calls.”
Former Buckeyes wide receiver Brian Hartline is serving as the team’s interim wide receivers coach.