New Report Suggests Urban Meyer, Ohio State Knew About Long History of Zach Smith Abuse Allegations

By Dan Hope on August 1, 2018 at 11:36 am
Zach Smith

A report published Wednesday morning by Brett McMurphy revealed new details about the allegations made against former Ohio State wide receivers coach Zach Smith in 2009 and 2015 and suggests that Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer was aware of the allegations made against Smith in 2015, which he denied at last week's Big Ten Media Days.

Smith's ex-wife, Courtney Smith, told McMurphy that she exchanged text messages with Meyer's wife, Shelley, and Lindsey Voltolini, the wife of Ohio State director of football operations Brian Voltolini, following a 2015 incident in which Courtney alleged that Zach – separated from Courtney at the time – assaulted her in her home.

“He took me and shoved me up against the wall, with his hands around my neck,” Courtney said. “Something he did very often. My (then 3-year old) daughter was clinging to my leg. It obviously registered with him what he was doing, so he took my (then 5-year old) son and left. So I called the police.”

McMurphy's report does not contain direct evidence that Meyer, who said last Tuesday that he was "never told about anything and nothing ever came to light" in regards to the 2015 allegations against Zach, knew about the incident. A conversation between Courtney and Lindsey Voltolini, however, implied that Lindsey had talked to Urban about the incident.

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”

"All the (coaches) wives knew," Courtney told McMurphy. "They all did. Every single one."

Courtney Smith also told McMurphy that in 2009, when Zach was arrested for allegedly assaulting Courtney in Gainesville, Florida, that she was pressured not to press charges by former Ohio State head coach Earle Bruce – Zach's grandfather – and Hiram de Fries, a close friend of Meyer who holds the title of special assistant to the head coach at Ohio State.

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.

Courtney told McMurphy that Zach continued to abuse her after that incident.

“When we came to Columbus and after I had my daughter (in 2012), things got really bad,” Courtney said. “I believed his life was spiraling out of control. He was only 28 when he got (the Ohio State job), his grandmother died. Maybe it was the stress but he was emotionally and physically abusing. Pushing me against the wall, putting his hands around my throat. There were so many instances. It’s hard to recall all of them.”

Courtney said she left Zach on June 6, 2015 – but the violence and harassment didn’t stop, including the incident on Oct. 25, 2015 and a Nov. 9, 2015 menacing by stalking charge against Zach by the Powell Police.

According to McMurphy's report, Courtney was granted a restraining order against Zach on Nov. 10, 2015.

Two days later – on Nov. 12, 2015 – after years of abuse, verbal intimidation, threats, bullying, bruised and beaten body parts, according to police reports, text messages and photos, Courtney filed for divorce.

In a video interview published by the sports network Stadium, Courtney said she did not tell Shelley Meyer or any of the other coaches' wives about physical abuse from Smith until 2015, after she and Zach were legally separated. From that point forward, Courtney said she remained in touch with Shelley, though she said Shelley did not ever tell her that she told Urban about what Courtney had told her.

Ohio State fired Zach Smith last Monday, after the allegations made against him first became public and three days after Courtney Smith filed a domestic violence protection order against him. 

Meyer said last Tuesday that he was aware of the allegations made against Smith in 2009, when Smith was a graduate assistant for Meyer at Florida, but Meyer decided to keep Smith on his staff and later hire him at Ohio State.

"In 2009, Zach was an intern," Meyer said last week. "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."

Smith's attorney, Brad Koffel, released a statement to ESPN's Dan Murphy on Wednesday.

"Zach Smith wants to be as transparent and honest as possible but it is not going to be done today through the media," Koffel told Murphy. "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."

Ohio State did not immediately respond to a request for comment on McMurphy's report. 

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.

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