Ohio State Places Urban Meyer On Paid Administrative Leave, Ryan Day To Serve As Acting Head Coach

By Dan Hope on August 1, 2018 at 6:12 pm
Urban Meyer

Ohio State has placed coach Urban Meyer on paid administrative leave, and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Ryan Day will serve as acting head coach during Meyer's absence, the university announced in a statement on Wednesday night.

"The university is conducting an investigation into these allegations," Ohio State associate vice president for university communications Chris Davey said in the statement. "During the inquiry, Urban Meyer will be on paid administrative leave. Ryan Day will serve as acting head football coach during the investigation. We are focused on supporting our players and on getting to the truth as expeditiously as possible."

Meyer also released a statement saying he supports the university's decision.

"Gene (Smith, Ohio State athletic director) and I agree that being on leave during this inquiry will facilitate its completion," Meyer said. "This allows the team to conduct training camp with minimal distraction. I eagerly look forward to the resolution of this matter."

The statement from Ohio State comes hours after a report by Brett McMurphy that suggested Meyer was aware of the allegations made against former Ohio State wide receivers coach Zach Smith by his ex-wife Courtney in 2015, which Meyer previously denied knowledge of at last week's Big Ten Media Days.

Meyer did acknowledge at last week's Big Ten Media Days that he was aware of an incident involving Zach Smith in Gainesville, Florida in 2009, when he was arrested for allegedly assaulting Courtney, who he was married to and 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, and hire him as a member of his first Ohio State coaching staff in 2012.

"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."

Courtney told McMurphy, however, that she was pressured not to press charges after the 2009 incident 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.

Following a 2015 incident in which Courtney told Powell Police "that a domestic incident happened last night at her home and that she has been a victim of sustained physical abuse by the suspect," Courtney shared text message exchanges with McMurphy on Wednesday in which he had spoken with Meyer's wife, Shelley, as well as with Lindsey Voltolini, the husband of Ohio State director of football operations Brian Voltolini, that suggested Meyer was aware of that 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”

Meyer said last week that he was "never told about anything and nothing ever came to light" in regards to the 2015 incident. Meyer was also adamant that he and the university "handled it the right way" when asked whether he had any regrets about his decisions regarding the Smith situation.

In an interview with Stadium on Wednesday afternoon, however, Courtney said she believed Meyer was aware of the abuse she reported against Zach.

"With Shelley Meyer being aware of everything that was going on and saying that she was going to have to tell Urban, do you think that he knows about all of this?" Stadium interviewer Kristen Balboni asked Courtney.

"I believe he did," Courtney responded.

Ohio State is set to begin fall camp on Friday, and will open its season exactly one month from Wednesday, when it hosts Oregon State on Sept. 1.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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