COLUMBUS – Urban Meyer said he watched only the good plays as he viewed Ohio State’s win over TCU at home during the final game of his three-game suspension last Saturday night.
Some people would say that’s what got him suspended in the first place – he saw the good but didn’t see or hear or pay enough attention to the bad stuff.
Meyer met the media covering Ohio State football on Monday for the first time since the Big Ten Football Media Days on July 25 in a press conference that was a departure from his typical Monday interactions with the media both in content and in length, with little discussion of football in the 56 minutes he was behind the lectern.
He was able to coach the team in practice for the last two weeks but was suspended from coaching OSU’s first three games by the university for what an independent investigation believed was mishandling of domestic violence allegations against former wide receivers coach Zach Smith.
Smith’s ex-wife, Courtney, has accused him of domestic violence but no charges have ever been filed against him for that. The first of those accusations dates back to 2009 when Smith was a graduate assistant for Meyer at Florida and there was another in 2015, three years after Meyer hired Smith as OSU’s receivers coach.
Whether Meyer changed anyone’s mind with his answers Monday is debatable. People who thought he wasn’t tough enough on Smith or that Ohio State wasn’t tough enough on Meyer probably still think the same way. And people who believe Meyer’s penalty was too harsh or that he should not have been reprimanded at all probably will hold fast to that opinion.
Meyer apologized for what he described as his inaccurate answers to media about Zach Smith’s situation and apologized to Ohio State for any damage it might have suffered from this situation.
“I want to be really clear that there was zero intent to mislead. I did not answer questions with the accuracy I should have,” he said.
“My apology is to Ohio State. I made a mistake. But my apology is not for turning my back to domestic violence. I want to be so clear about that. If I was ever aware or made aware or told that there was domestic violence taking place I would have fired him (Smith) immediately.”
Referring to a 2015 accusation of domestic violence by Zach Smith against Courtney Smith, Meyer said, “What I was hearing from law enforcement was that this was not domestic violence, that this was a very nasty divorce and child custody issues were involved but that it was not domestic violence.
“I erred in going too far to try to help a guy with work-related issues. And as the investigation took place, these other behaviors were showing up that I had no awareness off. So once again, I can only do what I can do. I apologize. But there was no intent to mislead and no intent not to be truthful with everybody, including this university. I went too far. That’s why I was suspended.
“Did I turn my back on domestic violence? Not one bit. I erred in going too far to try to help a guy with work-related issues,” he said.
Some other things Meyer said:
* After calling hiring Smith in 2012 “a bad decision” during an interview on ESPN on Sunday, he said on Monday, “When I was hiring him, I believed I hired the right guy. In hindsight, I did not hire the right guy.
* The investigation’s report, which resulted in Meyer’s suspension, said he’d had memory problems and difficulty remembering specifics about other issues, but Meyer said on Monday that he is healthy.
“I’m very healthy,” Meyer said. “I’ve had cyst issues in my head over the years and I’ve had a couple procedures and one surgery and some very intense medicine.”
* Meyer said a report that he had discussed how to eliminate old text messages from his cell phone was inaccurate.
“Several times throughout the investigation and recently I’ve been asked about the deleted text messages or changing settings on my phone. I’ve never deleted a text message, I’ve never changed a setting on my phone.”
“My phone started locking up throughout the spring, so an IT person would take my phone and do whatever he did to increase the storage capacity. I found out, in late spring is what I was told, that he had changed my setting to one year.”
– After learning that Zach Smith and then Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman had taken a high school coach to a strip club, Meyer said he would fire them if they did it again.
“When I was told what had happened I was extremely upset. I called them into my office immediately. I told them they would be fired if it ever happened again. That day I instituted a morality clause. I’ve been told it takes place in other places. I don’t care. It’s Ohio State and we don’t do that,” he said.
—Meyer said he believes some damage has been done to the reputation of Ohio State’s football program by the controversy of the last two months.
“I think there was (damage). I’ve already had conversations with our recruits and the families of our players. We sent out several letters to the families. But to say there wasn’t damage, there was.”