Ohio State denies report that Urban Meyer covered up Zach Smith's use of racial slur toward player

Ohio State issued a strong denial in response to a story published by Brett McMurphy. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Ohio State issued a strong denial in response to a story published by Brett McMurphy. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Ohio State issued a pointed rebuke of a story published by Stadium’s Brett McMurphy earlier Tuesday.

McMurphy’s story detailed the circumstances surrounding the transfer of wide receiver Trevon Grimes, including an allegation that Grimes’ transfer was sparked by an altercation with former Buckeyes’ wide receivers coach Zach Smith during a September 2017 practice.

Scroll to continue with content
Ad

In McMurphy’s story, Grimes’ father alleges that Smith used a racial slur toward his son and that head coach Urban Meyer “knew of” it and “helped keep it quiet.”

Ohio State denies ‘unfounded allegations’

In response, Ohio State said it “unequivocally and vehemently denies” the “unfounded allegations by McMurphy.”

“Any allegations of racism are outrageous and false,” the statement continues. “The university told McMurphy that we have found no evidence to support these allegations. Reporting in this manner is irresponsible, inflammatory and a severe invasion of privacy of a student athlete and his family as well as a baseless personal attack on Coach Meyer. It is regrettable that McMurphy and his employer would use such poor judgment in running this inaccurate story.”

Added Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith: “The accusations made today by Brett McMurphy regarding our coach and the reasons for the transfer of Trevon Grimes are unequivocally false. Urban Meyer embraces diversity and would absolutely never support an environment of racism. It simply isn’t tolerated here. And as an African-American, football player and collegiate administrator, I personally can say that our coaches, student-athletes and support staff know there is no place for any such behavior within our programs, at The Ohio State University or anywhere.”

When speaking with reporters Tuesday afternoon on the Big Ten teleconference, Meyer said the story is “preposterous” and that the university is considering legal action against McMurphy.

“Last week we were made aware that there was a story by this reporter that was going to be printed. Gene and the administration acted. They acted aggressively and got very involved immediately with it,” Meyer said.

“They interviewed up to 10 people. I was kept abreast of it as it was going because my first reaction was like everyone’s around here. I was irate. And our players were over the top irate. They came to see me. They were extremely upset that that kind of accusation would be made about something that is absolutely not tolerated and, quite honestly, the most preposterous thing I’ve ever heard being involved in college athletics.”

Player’s father alleges Zach Smith used racial slur

Grimes’ father, LeBron Grimes, and Dennis Allen, a friend of Grimes, offered an account of what they say happened at practice between Trevon and Smith:

LeBron Grimes said his son told him that “Zach got up in his face and called him a ‘bitch ass n – – – – -’ and said, ‘I should have never recruited you.’ And then Trevon said something to Zach about him messing around with college girls.”

“Trevon told us Zach called him a ‘bitch ass n – – – – -’ and a ‘prima donna’ among other things,” Allen said. “Coaching is coaching. That’s not the way you talk to athletes. When Tre told me he wasn’t getting along with his receivers coach, it was all Zach, mistreating him, calling him (racial slurs).”

University officials and Smith, who was fired earlier this year after allegations of domestic abuse surfaced, both denied this version of events. Many OSU players indicated on Twitter that there was an altercation between Grimes and Smith, but that there was never a racial slur used.

Grimes transferred to Florida

Grimes, a five-star recruit from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, left Ohio State last October for what Meyer said at the time was a “family health issue.” From there, Grimes transferred to Florida and was granted a hardship waiver by the NCAA, making him immediately eligible to play this year for the Gators. He has 17 catches for 194 yards and a touchdown.

McMurphy’s reporting revealed that the NCAA approved the hardship waiver because Grimes’ mother, Leah, “was diagnosed with a debilitating injury/illness (stage IV cancer).”

According to McMurphy, LeBron Grimes alleges that Ohio State said it would allow Trevon to transfer to any school if he “kept quiet” about the practice incident with Smith:

If Trevon remained quiet about the practice altercation, LeBron said, Ohio State would allow him to transfer anywhere. In 2017, coaches could block student-athletes from receiving an athletic scholarship from another school. That rule changed a few weeks ago.

Meyer, Smith and others from Ohio State flew to Florida to visit with Grimes and his mother. Ohio State representatives told McMurphy they made the trip to offer support for Trevon and Leah after her cancer diagnosis. Meyer said Tuesday that they spent “five hours” with her.

“Her and her son were in distress and we went to go spend about five hours with them. Gene was aware. Everybody was aware. It was the right thing to do,” Meyer said. “We’ve done that kind of thing in the past. We would do that again to any player that’s in distress and show support because we love that family so much.”

LeBron Grimes had a different reason for the OSU contingent making the trip:

LeBron Grimes, who was not in town that day: “Trevon threatened them (to go public with the altercation and alleged racial slur) like Zach threatened Trevon (at Ohio State).”

Reporting by McMurphy uncovered many of the incidents involving Smith and his ex-wife, Courtney.  Meyer was suspended three games for his handling of Smith during his tenure on his OSU staff.

Urban Meyer’s full response

Here is Urban Meyer’s full response from the Big Ten coaches teleconference, lightly edited for clarity:

Last week we were made aware that there was a story by this reporter that was going to be printed. Gene and the administration acted. We were getting ready for the Michigan State game. They acted aggressively and got very involved immediately with it. They interviewed up to 10 people. I was kept abreast of it as it was going because my first reaction was like everyone’s around here. I was irate. And our players were over the top irate. They came to see me. They were extremely upset that that kind of accusation would be made about something that is absolutely not tolerated and, quite honestly, the most preposterous thing I’ve ever heard being involved in college athletics.

To see a reporter go after a player and his mother like that, I guess I don’t read enough articles, but to call out his mother and list some of the things that have happened in her past, I just don’t quite understand what that’s all about. And I did read it, I wasn’t going to read it because I knew I’d get asked that question. And then we made a trip to Florida like we would any player. We have in the past to visit a mom that was recently diagnosed with stage IV cancer. Her and her son were in distress and we went to go spend about five hours with them. Gene was aware. Everybody was aware. It was the right thing to do. We’ve done that kind of thing in the past. We would do that again to any player that’s in distress and show support because we love that family so much.

How that became a story I think they were trying to say we made up a story about cancer or something. I’ve never heard of anything like this in my life. We’ve got a big game this week and we’ll move on, but I’m certainly looking into legal action. I just don’t know how that’s allowed. I don’t understand the rules and law of the land to say that you can accuse people of something that did not happen.

More from Yahoo Sports:
49ers cheerleader takes a knee for 2nd time
Nets star suffers gruesome right leg injury
Durant, Green squabble as Warriors lose in OT
NFL Power Rankings: Chiefs sitting pretty, for now

What to Read Next