In an interview with WOSU’s All Sides on Thursday, Ohio State president Michael Drake said the university’s investigation of Urban Meyer is ongoing and that no set deadline is in place for its conclusion, despite the projected two-week timetable that the university announced on Aug. 5.
“That's the projected goal,” Drake said of the two-week timetable, which would end Sunday. “The investigation is underway as we speak. It will be finished when it is finished. The most important thing is to get good information so we can make the right decisions going forward.”
Drake also hinted, though, that the investigation is moving at a pace that should soon lead to a resolution.
“Where we are now is that it is underway and we brought in Mary Jo White from New York with a law firm that had done large-scale, significant investigations over many years,” Drake said. “She's an experienced prosecutor and then a partner in a major national law firm. They're handling the investigation. I understand that things are moving at pace, so stay tuned.”
“The investigation is underway as we speak. It will be finished when it is finished. The most important thing is to get good information so we can make the right decisions going forward.”
While Drake is not involved in the investigation himself, he and Ohio State’s Board of Trustees will ultimately make the decision on whether Meyer will retain his job as the Buckeyes’ head football coach, and he said he is pleased with the investigative team they have in place, led by White and the law firm Debevoise & Plimpton LLP.
“What I'm pleased with is, in consultation with the board, we brought in a really outstanding team,” Drake said. “There's a great deal of interest in this investigation so we wanted to make sure we had really good information and there's time pressure. We wanted to make sure we had that information as quickly as possible.”
Drake said he was also pleased with the independent working group, led by former Ohio Speaker of the House Jo Ann Davidson, that the university assembled to oversee the investigative team.
“What we were looking for, really, were citizens who had broad experience and who were as unbiased as we could find, and who brought with them the respect of their careers and their wisdom, and she's a perfect choice for that,” Drake said. “We are really pleased she was able to do that. There are five other members of the panel as well and their job is to help coordinate the investigation with the outside firm, but the investigation is being done by the outside firm. I think Speaker Davidson is a fine choice.”
Ohio State launched its investigation of Meyer on Aug. 1, placing him on paid administrative leave, after a report by Brett McMurphy suggested that Meyer was aware of domestic violence allegations made against former wide receivers coach Zach Smith in 2015, which he previously denied knowledge of at Big Ten Media Days. Two days later, Meyer released a statement in which he said he "followed proper reporting protocols" after learning of the 2015 incident and apologized for his answers at Big Ten Media Days.
Drake declined to directly answer, however, when asked if lying to the media could be considered a fireable offense.
"What we're doing is an investigation to try to find out exactly what happened, why, what the context was, etc.," Drake said. "I'm going to wait until I know those things before I make conclusions. I'm doing my best possible job to keep an open mind. And, as I said, stay tuned."
Drake also did not directly answer when asked why Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith was not also a focus of the investigation in addition to Meyer.
"I will say that the team is investigating this particular set of circumstances and I don't know all the questions they're asking or how they're going about it," Drake said. "I'm waiting until they come forward with information and we'll try to use that information to make the best decisions we can."