Report: Text messages suggest Urban Meyer knew of domestic abuse allegations in 2015

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer speaks at the Big Ten Conference NCAA college football Media Days in Chicago, Tuesday, July 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Annie Rice)
Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer speaks at the Big Ten Conference NCAA college football Media Days in Chicago, Tuesday, July 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Annie Rice)

Text messages exchanged between Courtney Smith, the wife of former Ohio State wide receivers coach Zach Smith, and other wives of Ohio State football staff members, including Shelley Meyer, the wife of head coach Urban Meyer, show the widespread knowledge of the abuse Courtney was suffering at the hands of Zach.

Among the exchanges, reported in great detail by college football reporter Brett McMurphy, is a Nov. 5, 2015 conversation between Courtney and Lindsey Voltolini, the wife of Brian Voltolini, OSU’s director of football operations who has been one of Meyer’s staff members dating back 15 years. The exchange shows that Meyer was likely aware of a 2015 incident where Courtney accused Zach of domestic violence.

Here is that exchange, via McMurphy:

Courtney: “(Zach’s) trying to make me look crazy bc that’s what Shelley is saying (he’s doing)”
Lindsey: “He (Urban) just said he (Zach) denied everything”
Courtney: “I hope urban is smarter than that”
Lindsey: “He (Urban) doesn’t know what to think”
Courtney: “I don’t really care. Ya know”
Lindsey: “Yeah, don’t worry about urb”

Meyer said last week he wasn’t aware of the 2015 incident

Last week at Big Ten Media Days, Meyer, a day after firing Smith, said he was not aware of that incident.

At Big Ten Media Days, Meyer acknowledged he was aware of an incident involving the Smiths from 2009, when Meyer was the head coach at Florida and Smith was a staff intern. But Meyer denied knowledge of the 2015 incident, which involved Zach Smith being arrested on felony counts of domestic violence and felonious assault against Courtney, who says Zach shoved her against a wall with his hands around her neck.

Meyer was quick to dismiss the validity of the 2015 allegation.

“I got a text late last night that something happened in 2015 and there was nothing,” Meyer said. “I don’t know who creates a story like that.”

Brad Koffel, Zach Smith’s attorney, released the following statement to ESPN later Wednesday:

“Zach Smith wants to be as transparent and honest as possible but it is not going to be done today through the media. It will only be after he and his ex-wife are sworn in to testify. Once he gets his chance to tell his side of events, don’t be surprised when it is corroborated by every police who ever responded to Ms. Smith’s calls.”

Text messages: Urban Meyer’s wife spoke with Courtney often

In his report, McMurphy detailed years of abuse, which came to light after Zach Smith was charged with misdemeanor criminal trespass in May, leading to Courtney Smith obtaining a protection order against Zach. Courtney filed for divorce in Nov. 2015.

McMurphy spoke to Courtney Smith in his reporting. She says Shelley Meyer, Urban’s wife of 28 years, was aware of the abuse.

From McMurphy:

Courtney said Shelley Meyer, Urban’s wife of nearly three decades, knew about the abuse that begin [sic] in 2009, continued in 2015 and culminated with Zach Smith being served a domestic violence civil protection order last week.

Courtney said she and Shelly often discussed Zach’s domestic violence.

“Shelley said she was going to have to tell Urban,” Courtney said. “I said: ‘That’s fine, you should tell Urban.’ I know Shelley did everything she could.”

One 2015 text exchange between Courtney and Shelley Meyer shows the extent of Shelley’s knowledge of the alleged domestic abuse and that she was concerned for Courtney’s safety.

Shelley: “I am with you! A lot of women stay hoping it will get better. I don’t blame you! But just want u to be safe. Do you have a restraining order? He scares me”
Courtney: “Restraining orders don’t do anything in Ohio-I tried to get protection order which is what started this whole investigation. And that should go through soon finally. It’s hard bc you have to prove immediate danger. Legal system is tough. Basically you have to prove he will kill u to get protective order”
Shelley: “Geesh! Even w the pics? Didn’t law enforcement come to your place ever??”

Courtney offered further details in an interview with Stadium, saying she first informed Shelley Meyer and the spouses of other OSU coaches in 2015. She did not confirm with Shelley if Shelley told Urban.

Zach Smith’s connection to Urban Meyer runs deep

Smith walked onto the Bowling Green football team coached by Meyer in 2002. The two reunited with Meyer bringing Smith on as an intern at Florida in 2005 and he remained on the UF staff in various low level roles until 2009. From there, he had full-time roles at Marshall and Temple before Meyer hired him to be Ohio State’s wide receivers coach in 2012. In 2015, Smith was given the additional title of recruiting coordinator.

Smith is the grandson of former Ohio State head coach Earle Bruce, a father figure to Meyer. Just last week at Big Ten Media Days, Meyer said Bruce, who died in April, was “the strongest relationship I’ve ever had other than my father.”

According to Courtney, following the 2009 incident, where Zach was arrested for aggravated battery on a pregnant victim, Bruce and Zach’s mother drove all the way down to Florida from Ohio to speak with Courtney. Another Meyer confidant, Hiram de Fries, also spoke with her. Courtney says they all asked her to drop the charges filed against Zach.

From McMurphy:

On a July morning in 2009, Courtney Smith sat across the table from de Fries, a former attorney and Shell Oil executive. Courtney said de Fries pressured her to drop the charges.

“He said ‘if you don’t drop the charges, Zach will never coach again,’ ” Courtney said. “ ‘He’s never hit you before. He was drinking. He’ll probably never do it again. You should think about giving him a second chance.’”

Ultimately, Courtney said she relented to de Fries and didn’t press charges. Courtney had convinced herself this would never happen again. She was wrong.

What happens next?

Meyer, one of the most successful coaches in college football, is going to have a lot of explaining to do, and it’s fair to wonder whether his job could potentially be in jeopardy.

At the very least, McMurphy’s reporting should spark a Title IX investigation.

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