Urban Meyer: 'I was not suspended because I knew about or condoned’ abuse allegations

Yahoo Sports
Urban Meyer won’t coach in each of Ohio State’s first three games of the season. (Getty Images)
Urban Meyer won’t coach in each of Ohio State’s first three games of the season. (Getty Images)

Suspended Ohio State coach Urban Meyer released a statement Friday to “clarify” things he said were being said in the wake of his suspension.

Meyer’s statement focused on three parts from Ohio State’s investigation into the handling of abuse allegations against former assistant coach Zach Smith. After the investigation was complete, Ohio State said Meyer would not coach the first three games of the season and athletic director Gene Smith would be suspended from Aug. 31-Sep. 16.

Meyer says he wasn’t suspended because he knew of abuse allegations against Smith

Meyer’s statement itself was brief and largely contained excerpts from Ohio State’s 23-page report following the investigation. The first point Meyer claims to be refuting is that he knew of or condoned abuse allegations against Smith, who had worked for him at Florida before coming to Ohio State in 2012.

Smith was accused of domestic violence in 2009 and in 2015. Meyer knew of both of those accusations and the report noted that both Meyer and Gene Smith did knew about the 2015 allegation at the time as had been previously reported.

A number of OSU Athletic Department personnel, including but not limited to Coach Meyer and AD Smith, emphasized the critical importance of there being an actual arrest or charge filed or court order issued to determine whether there has been conduct that violates or potentially violates the law or the OSU sexual misconduct policy, necessitating a report to departmental compliance and the University Office of Compliance and Integrity.

It is well-established in the area of domestic violence and sexual abuse that complainants frequently – indeed, in the overwhelming majority of cases – may decide not to come forward or may cease to pursue charges when there has, in fact, been domestic violence or abuse. While current OSU policies and contracts do not require an arrest or formal charge for a violation or potential violation of law or policy to trigger reporting obligations and investigations, a number of the witnesses we spoke to seemed to regard that as a requirement in matters involving law enforcement. Certainly, that appears to be the case here where Coach Meyer and AD Smith believed Zach Smith’s denials in the absence of affirmative law enforcement action on Courtney Smith’s complaints. OSU may wish to review its policies and procedures to make its reporting requirements clearer and to implement appropriate training to reinforce them so that they are better understood and followed in the context of law enforcement investigations and in the absence of legal action.

Meyer: I did not lie at Big Ten Media Days

The report said it couldn’t conclude that Meyer did not “deliberately lie” when he said a report about a 2015 abuse allegation against Zach Smith was “nothing.” Meyer made those comments July 24, a day after Smith was fired. Smith was fired hours after the existence of those allegations became public.

In a statement Aug. 3, Meyer blamed his inaccurate comments at Big Ten Media Days on inadequate preparation.

“The power of what I say and how I say it, especially regarding sensitive and serious domestic issues, has never been more evident than now,” Meyer’s statement said. “My words, whether in a reply to a reporter’s question or in addressing a personnel issue, must be clear, compassionate and most of all, completely accurate. Unfortunately, at Big Ten Media Days on July 24 I failed on many of these fronts. My intention was not to say anything inaccurate or misleading. However I was not adequately prepared to discuss these sensitive personnel issues with the media and I apologize for the way I handled those questions.”

Meyer: I was at fault for not taking action against Zach Smith sooner

Meyer ended his statement with a third part from the report about how he took too long to take action against Zach Smith. He said Aug. 22 when the school announced his punishment that he was “fully aware” that he was “ultimately responsible for this situation.”

He did not directly apologize to Courtney Smith during that announcement. His Friday statement leads with a note that he stands by his apology to Zach’s ex-wife and their children.

“I am fully aware that I am ultimately responsible for this situation that has harmed the university as a whole and the department of athletics and our football program and Buckeye Nation. I followed my heart and not my head,” Meyer said Aug. 22. “I fell short in pursuing full information because at each juncture I gave Zach Smith the benefit of the doubt.

“As I reflect, my loyalty to his grandfather Earle Bruce, who was my mentor, likely impacted how I treated Zach over the years. I did not know everything about Zach Smith, what Zach Smith was doing and I am pleased that the report made this very clear. However I should have demanded more from him and recognized red flags.

“I did a poor job at media day. That’s a big reason why we’re here today. I was not being as complete or accurate as I should have been at media day and afterward. But there was no intent to mislead. My role is to set a good example and in this instance I did not live up to the university’s standards.”

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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