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ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi posed a simple thought: Who respected and protected Courtney Smith?
Urban Meyer took a deep breath, stared ahead and waited for an answer to appear. None came.
“That’s a tough question,” Meyer finally said after a long pause. “Now that all the information is out, now that I know more.”
The scene is just a handful of telling moments from ESPN’s sit-down with Ohio State’s head coach — who returned from his three-game suspension on Sunday. In a seven-minute excerpt of a longer interview, Meyer provided insight into why he handled the Zach Smith domestic abuse allegations with such carelessness and details mistakes he made along the way.
‘I probably should have fired him’
Sticking to his common message throughout this whole process, Meyer kept reiterating that he wished he had known and done more.
Asked why he hired Zach Smith at Ohio State after previously knowing about incidents between him and Courtney Smith at Florida in 2009, Meyer admitted he made an error in judgement.
“I wanted someone with familiarity with my offense and Zach seemed like a guy that was doing very well,” Meyer said. “I checked on him and did background checks with the coaches he worked with. He had very high marks. It was a bad decision.”
But Meyer wasn’t able to say why he didn’t tell Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith about the 2009 incident and instead took ownership for keeping Smith on his staff for so long.
Meyer claims he never knew about texts
One of the more troubling details in Ohio State’s investigation of the Zach Smith incidents is that Meyer’s wife Shelley had been texting with Courtney Smith back in 2009 saying that she feared Zach.
When pressed about that, Urban Meyer had no answer.
“The first time I heard of those texts were just recently in the last month.” Meyer told Rinaldi. “Shelley did not share those texts with me.”
Still, one of the more striking moments in the interview’s excerpt came when Rinadli questioned Meyer’s — and Ohio State’s — commitment to the coach’s stated values of honesty and respect towards women.
“I still hold those values so firm, so strong,” Meyer said. “I apologize for the perception that I don’t.”
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