A Two-Week Timetable, Accusations of Stealth Editing, and Mary Jo White to Lead – Here's What We Know About the Urban Meyer Investigation

By 11W Staff on August 6, 2018 at 7:32 am
Urban Meyer

Friday evening, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer release a counterpunch of a statement to Twitter.

In his statement, Meyer claimed that he did in fact know about the alleged 2015 incident in which Smith was accused of domestic abuse and that he reported it to the “proper channels.” He went on to say he failed “on many fronts” at Big Ten Media Days in Chicago two weeks ago, and apologized for “the way I handled those questions,” referencing his responses to questions about a 2015 incident involving his then wide receivers coach Zach Smith.

Not long after Meyer issued his statement, Smith appeared on local radio and in a televised interview with ESPN's Dan Murphy, giving his side of the story. In both interviews, Smith said Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith called him away from a recruiting trip in 2015 after allegations of a 2015 domestic incident were known to him.

That was the first indication Gene Smith may have known of the incident, perhaps before Meyer did.

Several more details emerged Sunday, among those a statement from Ohio State saying it expected to conclude its investigation into Meyer within 14 days.

What's is the “investigative team” announced by the university?

Ohio State announced the formation of an investigative team “to be available to provide consultation and advice, and to assist with the communications to the full board on the matter.”

Former Chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Mary Jo White was chosen to lead this team. The task of this team is to provide a report to Ohio State's independent working group with final decisions regarding actions “made by the president of the university in consultation with the Board of Trustees.”

Who is Mary Jo White?

In addition to her work with the SEC, White previously served as the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

She's presently the Senior Chair of Debevoise & Plimpton, a New York-based law firm, and also serves as the leader of the firm's Strategic Crisis Response and Solutions Group.

White has served in similar investigative roles for the NFL, including the “BountyGate” investigation against Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints, allegations of sexual and racial workplace misconduct against Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, and most notably for Ohio State fans, White served on the NFL's outside advisory panel that investigated Ezekiel Elliott, following which the league suspended Elliott for six games.

What about this 14-day timeline?

In the statement the university released Sunday night, Ohio State said “the investigation is expected to be completed within 14 days.”

What's not known is whether Ohio State was referring to the findings of this investigative team, or the ultimate decision of what, if any, actions to take from university president Michael Drake when they mention these 14 days.

Did Brett McMurphy edit his accounts or misrepresent key details in his reporting?

Thanks to a poster on Reddit, a lot of people are discovering that you can view the edit history of public posts on Facebook.

In a long post with supporting screenshots, the poster, who claims to be an attorney in Ohio, lays out how McMurphy, who broke key details of this story, edited a Facebook post to change his claim that Zach Smith had been “investigated and arrested” in an October 2015 incident to say that he was "investigated.”

Thanks to the revision history of McMurphy's post, dated July 23, 2018, it's fairly easy to confirm the claims made by the poster on Reddit. Typically corrections of this magnitude are made in the open with notices explaining the correction. For whatever reason, McMurphy did not do that with his post.

McMurphy did, however, get a comment explaining the difference from Megan Canavan, director of communications for the Powell Police Department: “The terminology used by the Police Department was different in the original report (dated 10/26/2015) and inconsistent with what actually occurred.”

The poster on Reddit is disputing that claim with screenshots, saying s/he has both copies of the incident report, and neither one of them shows that Smith was arrested.

Was Meyer's Media Days response due to questions about 2015 that used the word “arrested?”

It's really hard to say, but probably not. The morning of July 24, hours after Meyer fired Zach Smith, he was approached in a hotel walkway by Bill Landis of Cleveland.com, Tim May of the Columbus Dispatch and Dan Murphy of ESPN.

Landis asked Meyer if he was “aware of alleged incidents with Zach in 2009 and 2015,” May asked about “the revelation from yesterday” and Murphy asked about the “2015 thing.”

Meyer responded, saying, “In 2015, there was nothing. When I first heard that last night, I said, ‘Do some research,’ and there was nothing.”

Later that morning, speaking from the podium, Meyer was again asked about the “inquiry into 2015” and he said, “2015, I got a text late last night something happened in 2015. And there was nothing. Once again, there's nothing – once again, I don't know who creates a story like that.”

In neither of those cases was Meyer asked about whether Zach Smith was arrested in 2015. He was only asked about the incident in vague terms, like "revelation,” “thing,” and “inquiry.”

Further, in his statement released Friday, Urban Meyer apologized for “the way I handled those questions,” not for misunderstanding what was being asked.

What does that mean for McMurphy? For the investigation?

For McMurphy the journalist, this doesn't look great if, in fact, he doesn't have an incident report that mentions an arrest from that night in October 2015. He's spoken extensively of how much research he put into this story and how proud of it he is, but unless he produces a copy of the report that said Zach Smith was arrested, questions will mount, particularly among Ohio State fans.

As for the investigation, don't expect McMurphy's failure to disclose his edits to matter much. In Meyer's statement, he said he was aware of the 2015 incident between Zach and Courtney Smith and that he reported it to the “proper channels.”

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