Urban Meyer addresses firing of Zach Smith, was aware of alleged 2009 domestic violence incident

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Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer watches their NCAA college spring football game Saturday, April 14, 2018, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)
Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer watches their NCAA college spring football game Saturday, April 14, 2018, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

Urban Meyer addressed the elephant in the room Tuesday morning at Big Ten Media Days.

On Monday evening, Meyer fired Zach Smith, a longtime assistant of his, after multiple instances of alleged domestic violence involving Smith and his ex-wife emerged. Most recently, Smith, Ohio State’s wide receivers coach, was charged with misdemeanor criminal trespass in May. That led to Smith’s ex-wife obtaining a protection order against him.

Meyer told reporters that firing Smith was a “tough call,” but was “in the best interest” of the team.

Two past domestic violence allegations surface, Meyer aware of one

According to Brett McMurphy, the protection order, which was issued last week, prohibits Zach Smith from being within 500 feet of his ex-wife, Courtney. In the ruling, the court said Courtney is “in immediate and present danger of domestic violence” and the conditions of the protection order are “necessary to protect” Courtney and her children “from domestic violence.”

After news of the protection order, two other allegations of domestic violence surfaced — one from 2009, and another from 2015.

On Tuesday, Meyer said he was aware of the 2009 incident, which took place when he was the head coach at Florida and Smith was a staff intern. In that incident, police were dispatched to the scene after Courtney, who was pregnant, accused Zach, who was arrested, of shoving her against a wall.

Meyer said after learning of the incident, he informed his boss and he later was informed that “what was reported is not actually what happened.”

However, Meyer says he was not aware of the alleged 2015 incident. Per McMurphy, Smith was arrested Oct. 26, 2015 “on felony counts of domestic violence and felonious assault” against Courtney Smith. The two were still married at the time. According to Delaware County (Ohio) online court records, Courtney Smith filed for divorce on Nov. 12, 2015. She also filed a motion for a temporary restraining order that day.

Meyer said he became aware of the 2015 allegation on Monday night.

“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.”

Tuesday afternoon, McMurphy confirmed that police had investigated Smith for felony assault. He was never charged.

Here is video of Meyer addressing all three incidents:

Meyer would not give details about the process that led to Smith’s firing

If Meyer was so quick to seemingly dismiss the validity of both incidents, why did he decide to fire Smith?

Meyer was asked specifically if Smith was fired because the allegations became public. He said that played a role, but did not offer many specifics into the decision-making process.

“I’m not going to get into that. It’s a very personal matter. The decision was made. I think the details that I’m obligated to give, I gave. You’re talking about people’s lives, et cetera, so the decision was made. It’s time to move forward,” Meyer said.

“We are in a public world. I try not to operate, especially when you’re talking about personnel and people, making things because it became public. But to say that doesn’t have something to do with it, it does a little bit. I’m one of those ones where I really don’t care about that. I try to stay focused on what’s the most important thing. That’s our players and our team. But I do understand the value. Ohio State University is bigger than all of us. So you have to do what’s right by them. And the timing, it wasn’t just my decision. It was a group effort on several people that I rely on.”

Smith and Meyer go back nearly 20 years

Smith walked on to the team at Bowling Green when Meyer was the Falcons’ head coach in the early 2000’s. From there, he and Meyer reunited at Florida in 2005. Smith worked on the Gators staff as a quality control coach and later a graduate assistant from 2005 to 2009.

After stops at Marshall and Temple in full-time roles, Smith became Meyer’s wide receivers coach at Ohio State when Meyer accepted the job in 2012. In 2015, Smith rose to the role of recruiting coordinator.

Rumors have circulated indicating Brian Hartline, a former OSU receiver who spent seven seasons in the NFL, is in line to succeed Smith. Hartline is already on staff as a quality control coach. Meyer said Smith’s replacement would likely be named later in the week.

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