Former Ohio State wide receivers coach Zach Smith doesn’t believe he did that should have warranted his firing last Monday.
But while he made that clear on Friday, when he conducted interviews with several media outlets for the first time since he was fired, Smith also made it clear that he doesn’t hold that against Urban Meyer.
While it was Meyer, as Smith’s supervisor, who had to ultimately make the decision to terminate Smith’s employment as Ohio State’s wide receivers coach, Smith remains adamant that Meyer – who was placed on paid administrative leave on Wednesday as the university launched an investigation into his knowledge and handling of domestic violence allegations against Smith – should not lose his job.
"I’d be heartbroken for Ohio State, for the players, for him and his family because it’s not right," Smith said in an interview with ESPN’s Dan Murphy that aired Friday on SportsCenter. "If he loses his job, it’s flat wrong."
Smith said that Meyer was aware of the allegations that were made against Smith in 2015, when his ex-wife Courtney Smith 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.” Zach said repeatedly on Friday, however, that he “never committed domestic abuse” against Courtney, and Meyer – who said in a statement on Friday that he went through the proper channels in reporting what he learned about those allegations, after previously denying knowledge of them at last week’s Big Ten Media Days – believed Zach’s side of the story, though he did issue Zach a stern warning.
"He looked at me and said, 'I swear to God, Zach, if I find out you hit her, you’re done. You’re fired,'" Zach said he recalled Meyer telling him in 2015.
Whether Meyer should have taken Zach at his word – as Zach's story contradicts with what Courtney said in interviews with Brett McMurphy and Stadium on Wednesday – and whether he should have looked into those allegations more closely are questions that will likely continue to be considered as Ohio State continues its investigation. But Zach, who said he actually learned of the 2015 allegations against him when he received a call from Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, said he does not believe it was Meyer’s responsibility to investigate those allegations any further than he did.
"He’s not an investigator, he’s not a cop, he’s not a detective," Zach said of Meyer. "It was already being investigated by police. And the administration knew that there was an investigation. So what is he to do?"
“If he loses his job, it’s flat wrong.”– Zach Smith on Urban Meyer
While neither Meyer, Gene Smith nor anyone else affiliated with the university has commented specifically on what they learned about the 2015 allegations, Zach’s maintained innocence and Urban’s revelation that he was aware of those allegations leads to another question: Why, exactly, was Zach fired last week when he remained employed after those allegations were initially made? Zach, however, said he does not hold the decision to fire him against Meyer, because he believes the public perception of the situation after those allegations surfaced forced Meyer and the university’s hand.
"I know why I was terminated, and I don’t think I did anything that warranted it," Zach said in an interview with 105.7 The Zone. "But the problem was that it was going to be unfair for those players at Ohio State, and for the fans, for the whole university, to go through the media uproar that came from all of this. It was the move they had to make. I don’t think they were wrong in doing it. I don’t think I deserved it, but I don’t think that they were wrong."
Considering that Zach is no longer an Ohio State employee and the circumstances under which his tenure with the Buckeyes ended, his support of Meyer might ultimately have no bearing on the decision the university makes about Meyer’s future.
The jury is still very much out on whether Zach is telling the truth about his relationship with Courtney. Zach said Friday that he never initiated violence with Courtney, though he did acknowledge that there were occasions where "things got out of hand, and (Zach) had to defensively kind of restrain her and move her and get out of the situation."
"There was aggression in the relationship, but anything I ever did to her was a defensive action," Zach said. "And it was simply to restrain her or remove myself from the situation, which I did probably eight times in our marriage, where I would try to calm it down, try to get it to not be an aggressive situation, and I would go to my car and drive to work and sleep at work, just to get out of the situation.
"All I know is I’ve never hit my wife. I’ve never hit her, I’ve never beat her, nothing," Zach continued. "Now we had a toxic relationship, and I am at fault as much as she is in everything. Because I did things I shouldn’t have done, I was not a good husband, I wasn’t great in this. But I never committed domestic violence, and I never hit her."
Asked about a picture Courtney sent to McMurphy in which she appeared to have blood on her hand, Zach said that resulted from an altercation in which he accidentally cut her with a tin of tobacco while trying to defend himself.
"She grabbed a can of tobacco that I had and she went to pour it on me, and when I put my hand up to stop her from pouring it on me, I closed the can and it sliced her hand," Zach said. "And anybody that has ever seen a can of tobacco, those metal cans are sharp."
Shortly after Zach’s interview with 105.7 The Zone, McMurphy posted a text message exchange between Courtney and Zach in which Zach appeared to admit to and apologize for grabbing his wife by the neck on two occasions in 2015. When asked about that exchange by Murphy, however, Zach denied those allegations and questioned the validity of the text messages.
Asked Zach Smith about this just now. He said he does not recall any altercation between him and Courtney Smith in Punta Cana. He said he had not seen the published image of the text but did not believe it was credible. https://t.co/re4cdsUpYO— Dan Murphy (@DanMurphyESPN) August 4, 2018
In regards to Meyer, though, Zach was unwavering in stating that Ohio State should stand by his former boss, and that people should believe that Meyer – who said in his statement Friday that he was "confident that (he) took appropriate action" – did what he was supposed to do.
"That was as heartfelt, honest, true a statement as I've ever heard, and that's who he is right there," Zach said. "I hope people will take it for gold."