Ohio State coach Urban Meyer insisted Friday that he followed proper reporting protocols regarding domestic violence allegations against an assistant coach in 2015, defending himself and his storied career in his first extensive comments since he was put on paid leave earlier this week amid a university investigation.
Meyer posted a statement addressed to Buckeyes fans on Twitter on Friday as his team, expected to be one of the best in the nation, opened practice for the upcoming season without their coach.
The university is investigating what Meyer knew about allegations made by the ex-wife of Zach Smith, who was fired last week by Meyer — and what the coach did about it.
“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.”
At Big Ten media days last week, Meyer said he knew of an incident involving the Smiths in 2009 and that he and his wife, Shelley Meyer, addressed it with the Smiths. He was also asked about a 2015 incident alleged by Courtney Smith, who also said she told Meyer’s wife about those incidents.
“I can’t say it didn’t happen because I wasn’t there,” Meyer said at the time. “I was never told about anything and nothing ever came to light. I’ve never had a conversation about it. I know nothing about it. First I heard about that was last night. No, and I asked some people back at the office to call and say what happened and they came back and said they know nothing about it.”
Meyer said his intention at media day was not to say anything inaccurate and he apologized.
“The power of what I say and how I say it, especially regarding sensitive and serious domestic issues, has never been more evident than now. My words, whether in a reply to a reporter’s question or in addressing a personnel issue, must be clear, compassionate and most of all, completely accurate,” Meyer said. “Unfortunately at Big Ten media days on July 24th, I failed on many of these fronts. My intention was not to say anything inaccurate or misleading. However, I was not adequately prepared to discuss these sensitive personnel issues with the media, and I apologize for the way I handled those questions.”
Meyer said he will fully cooperate with investigators. There is no timeline for the inquiry.
Meyer has been at Ohio State for six seasons, going 73-8 with a national championship in 2014 and two Big Ten conference titles. He earlier won two national titles at Florida, where Smith was also part of his staff.
Ohio State’s policy on sexual misconduct says anyone who supervises faculty, staff, students or volunteers has a duty to report “when they receive a disclosure of sexual misconduct or become aware of information that would lead a reasonable person to believe that sexual misconduct may have occurred involving anyone covered under this policy.” Domestic violence is one of many definitions of sexual misconduct in the policy.
A clause in Meyer’s new contract, which raised his salary to $7.6 million this year and runs through 2022, also requires him to “report to Ohio State’s Title IX athletics any known violations” of the sexual misconduct policy involving students, faculty or staff at the risk of being fired with cause. Firing Meyer without cause would cost Ohio State a nearly $40 million buyout.
Co-offensive coordinator Ryan Day is acting head coach of the Buckeyes. On Thursday, Ohio State barred media access to players and coaches until at least Monday.