CHICAGO – When Ohio State made the decision to fire wide receivers coach Zach Smith on Monday after several allegations of past domestic violence came to the surface, one of the biggest unanswered questions was whether Urban Meyer knew about those allegations.
Meyer answered Tuesday that he knew about some, but not all, of those allegations.
During his press conference at Big Ten Media Days on Tuesday in Chicago, Meyer said he was aware of the incident involving Smith when both were at Florida in 2009. According to a police report obtained by Eleven Warriors, Smith was arrested for battery on a pregnant victim after an altercation with his then-wife, Courtney Smith, who was three months pregnant at the time.
Courtney, however, declined to file charges at the scene, and Meyer decided to stand by Zach, who was a graduate assistant for the Gators at the time.
"In 2009, Zach was an intern," Meyer said. "As I do any time, and I imagine most coaches or people in leadership positions, when you receive a phone call, first thing you do is tell your boss. Let the experts do their jobs. We’re certainly not going to investigate. It came back to me that what was reported wasn’t what actually happened. So Shelley and I actually both got involved with the relationship with that family, and provided counseling, and wanted to help them moving forward."
Meyer said he was unaware, however, of an allegation made against Zach in 2015. According to a police report obtained by Eleven Warriors, Powell Police were dispatched to Zach and Courtney’s home after Courtney reported "that a domestic incident happened last night at her home and that she has been a victim of sustained physical abuse by the suspect." Meyer, however, said he was unable to find any information about that incident after receiving a text message about it on Monday evening.
"I got a text last night that something happened in 2015, and there was nothing," Meyer said.
Both of those allegations surfaced publicly on Monday, three days after Courtney filed a domestic violence protection order against Zach with Delaware Police. That came two days after he appeared in Delaware Municipal Court on a charge of criminal trespassing, to which he has pleaded not guilty.
Since his arrival at Ohio State, Meyer has repeatedly said that violence against women is unacceptable for anyone associated with his program. A sign inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center lists three of Meyer’s core values below the word "Decisions": "Honesty," "Treat Women With Respect," and "No Drugs, Stealing, Weapons."
Asked specifically why he fired Smith, Meyer declined to delve into specifics, describing the situation as a "very personal matter."
"It was in the best interest of our team," Meyer said. "It wasn't just my decision, it was a group effort with some of the people that I rely on."
Meyer did say, though, that his core values were related to his decision.
“There's a difference between a mistake and a core value. Mistakes are correctible. Core values are who you are," Meyer said. "Core values are very strong. So that was a big part of it.”
Ohio State has not yet announced Smith’s replacement, but Meyer said Tuesday that he expects an announcement to be made later this week. Lettermen Row's Austin Ward has reported that the Buckeyes will hire Brian Hartline as the interim wide receivers coach, but Meyer declined to confirm Tuesday.