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Was ex-Ohio State coach Zach Smith on the verge of leaving Ohio State in January of 2018?
A large batch of text messages released Friday afternoon relating to Ohio State’s 2018 investigation into Smith’s firing, and the way it was handled by now-former Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer and others at the university, includes messages from Meyer about a potential job opportunity Smith had 19 months ago.
“After much thought, I want u to stay,” Meyer texted Smith on Jan. 18, 2018. “I have personally invested far too much in u to get u in position to take the next step. U need to step away from other situation and let’s go win it all … again.”
Three days later in a text to a redacted recipient, Meyer said that Mike Vrabel had offered Ryan Day a job with the Tennessee Titans and said that Smith, the team’s recruiting coordinator and wide receivers coach, had been offered an offensive assistant job at Alabama.
“Zach smith was offered wr/passing game Coord. At Alabama,” Meyer said in the text. “Went there to talk to Saban. At first thought maybe he should go then decided that all effort I’ve put u to him and it’s Alabama. I told him to stay and he turned it down.”
Another text message from Meyer says that he wanted it leaked that multiple Ohio State assistants had turned down jobs at Alabama.
Smith fired in July 2018
Smith was fired in July of 2018 after his wife obtained a protection order against him. His firing also came after multiple allegations of domestic violence emerged publicly, including one from 2015 that Meyer claimed he didn’t know about at Big Ten media days.
Meyer also said that he didn’t know “who creates a story like that” about a 2015 domestic violence investigation involving the Smiths. As we know now as well, Meyer wasn’t entirely truthful that day.
Meyer was placed on administrative leave on Aug. 1 as an investigation began and suspended for the first three games of the season later that month. He retired from coaching at the end of the season and was replaced at Ohio State by offensive coordinator Day, the man who is now Ohio State’s head coach.
Shelley Meyer: ‘Afraid [Smith] will do something dangerous’
A text message from Meyer’s wife Shelley on the day that Smith was fired revealed that Shelley Meyer was fearful of Smith’s reaction.
“2 things … U can always use [athletic director Gene Smith] as part of reason for not giving the receiver position too. And … I am worried about Zach’s response. He drinks a lot and I am just not sure how stable he will be. Afraid he will do something dangerous. It’s obvious he has anger/rage issues already. Wonder if/when u do make a move you should call Mikki after and tell her to check on him? Not Lynn.”
Smith’s ex-wife Courtney Smith revealed in interviews that she had talked with Shelley Meyer about the abuse she received from Zach in 2015 and had even sent Shelley Meyer photos. Smith also said Shelley Meyer told her in 2015 that she needed to tell Urban.
The Meyers were also aware of an alleged 2009 domestic violence incident between the Smiths while Zach was on Urban’s staff at Florida. No charges were filed regarding that incident.
Investigation: Meyer and Gene Smith ‘failed to take sufficient management action’
Ohio State suspended Meyer on Aug. 23 for the first three games of the season after an independent investigation determined that while Meyer and athletic director Gene Smith (suspended for two weeks without pay) didn’t deliberately cover up allegations against Zach Smith, they failed to act the way they should have.
Investigators came to that determination despite not being able to find messages over a year old on Meyer’s phone after Aug. 2, the day after Courtney Smith said she believed Urban Meyer knew about the allegations against her ex-husband.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports
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