Lentz: Domestic Violence in College Football not “Urban” Legend

Details on the Urban Meyer situation at Ohio State University.

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Lentz: Domestic Violence in College Football not “Urban” Legend

Urban Meyer on the sidelines during 2013 match-up with University of Michigan. Ohio State won 42-41 in a wire-to-wire thriller.

Urban Meyer on the sidelines during 2013 match-up with University of Michigan. Ohio State won 42-41 in a wire-to-wire thriller.

By Adam Glanzman (Flickr: asg.fbc.vsOSU.11.30.131225 copy) [CC BY 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

Urban Meyer on the sidelines during 2013 match-up with University of Michigan. Ohio State won 42-41 in a wire-to-wire thriller.

By Adam Glanzman (Flickr: asg.fbc.vsOSU.11.30.131225 copy) [CC BY 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

By Adam Glanzman (Flickr: asg.fbc.vsOSU.11.30.131225 copy) [CC BY 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

Urban Meyer on the sidelines during 2013 match-up with University of Michigan. Ohio State won 42-41 in a wire-to-wire thriller.

Eric Lentz, Sports Editor

2018’s biggest college football story all started on July 23 from former ESPN college football insider Brett McMurphy’s Twitter feed. McMurphy tweeted, “Another domestic violence allegation has surfaced against Ohio St WR coach Zach Smith,” and provided a link to a post on McMurphy’s Facebook page. There, he has columned and reported since he was a victim of ESPN’s mass layoffs in April 2017. The post detailed that a domestic violence civil protection order was filed against Smith on July 20, 2018. 50 minutes after McMurphy’s report, Zach Smith was fired.

This is not Zach Smith’s first time being associated with domestic violence claims, nor his second. There are reports by Brett McMurphy that detail incidents between Smith and his then-wife Courtney Smith in 2009 and 2015. The original post from McMurphy goes into much further detail on what was reported by the victim along with photographic evidence and text message conversations.  While some might find it disturbing, it is pretty condemning evidence against Smith; although, at this point, it isn’t even a question on whether he did it or not.

At first glance, the headline, “OSU WR Coach, Zach Smith, Fired After Domestic Assault Allegations,” would not warrant much thought other than the obvious “he-deserved-it”s. If it was that simple, it would not still be a topic of discussion more than a month later.

Urban Meyer is one of the best coaches in college football right now and has the Ohio State Buckeyes ranked #5 in the college football preseason rankings. He previously coached at the University of Florida before moving to Columbus in 2012. He’s had Zach Smith on his staff for eleven total seasons across both schools (2005-09 Florida, 2012-2017 Ohio State). There is obvious history between the two.

After McMurphy broke the story on July 23, Meyer spoke at Big Ten Media Day on July 24 saying, “2015? I got a text late Monday night about a report saying something happened in 2015, and there was nothing. Once again, there’s nothing. Once again, I don’t know who creates a story like that.”

In an October 26, 2015 report, Powell Police Department said, “The victim, Courtney Smith, reports a domestic incident happened last night at her home, and she has been a victim of sustained physical abuse by Zach Smith.”

Meyer even doubled down on his plea of being ignorant to the situation and raised many more questions in the process. Meyer was asked if it was a mistake having Smith around his players for six years at Ohio State. Smith was a part of Meyer’s staffs for 11 seasons at OSU and UF.

Meyer replied, “If I did know about the 2015 incidents, I would have made a change, or I would not have done it. Obviously, I made a decision on Monday. We were going to move forward on our staff.”

Meyer was also asked if he was aware of the 2009 incident and found no evidence of the 2015 incidents, why Smith was ultimately fired on Monday?

“That ship has sailed,” Meyer said. “This is about all the players here.”

Screenshot of Brett McMurphy’s thoughts of Meyer’s responses at Big Ten Media Days via Twitter.

Why would Meyer go this far to protect Smith? It sure wasn’t because of a lack of qualified replacements. There are many coaches who could have easily done what Smith did or better as a WR Coach. It wasn’t because he genuinely was not aware of the situation. The 2015 incident was during the middle of the season; coaches and staffs literally spend every waking moment with each other. It would have come up. Maybe it was because they were genuinely good friends and Meyer thought he knew the good side of him. After all, they spent at least 11 years together. Either way, it is certainly unwarranted. Then again, it is very possible that Smith knew something on Meyer that was dirty enough to keep around.

Meyer was eventually placed on a leave of absence from the football team on August 1, so the University could run an investigation. It was not an investigation on Smith but on Meyer, and how much he actually knew on the incidents, and how much he lied. Sure enough, two days after the investigation began, Meyer admitted to lying about his knowledge of the 2015 incident and that he was not “prepared” for the questions at Big Ten Media Days. Also, remember that “photographic evidence” I mentioned above that sent to Shelley Meyer, a psychiatric nurse, from Courtney Smith after what happened in 2015? There was no way that Meyer didn’t know about the incident.

A press conference was finally scheduled on August 22, and a lot could be said of it. First of all, Urban Meyer is suspended the first three games of the season. He will miss games against Oregon State (a projected 2-10 team), Rutgers (projected 4-8 team), and TCU (projected 7-5  team). He will be fully suspended through the Oregon State game, but after that, he will be allowed to direct practices during the week leading up to match-ups. There is truly no risk here. At worst, the Buckeyes would go 2-1 in that span of time. Secondly, if you watched the press conference, the impression of a guy who felt genuinely apologetic was far from how Urban acted. He never even mentioned “Courtney Smith”; he apologized to “Buckeye Nation” as if they were the real victim here. A reporter even brought her up and they still didn’t apologize to her personally until August 24, 2018 via Urban Meyer’s Twitter page.

I like how Paul Finebaum said it: “Instead of showing an ounce of remorse, he came off like this was a hostage video. Like guns were off camera to his head. He never looked up. His behavioral attitude was utterly bizarre, and I was dumbstruck by that. And even more by that, the fact that he couldn’t utter Courtney Smith’s name, to me, shows what this was all about. This was a good ole boy club at Ohio State and many other places and they looked the other way… He sold his integrity. And Ohio State still has one of the great football coaches in modern history. But at what price?”

At what cost will real issues continue to be pushed aside for something as interim as a football game?

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