Summary Of Ohio State's Investigation Reveals Many New Details About Zach Smith, Urban Meyer and Gene Smith

By Dan Hope on August 23, 2018 at 1:12 am
Gene Smith and Urban Meyer

Just a couple hours after announcing that Urban Meyer would be suspended for three games and Gene Smith would also be suspended for 17 days without pay, Ohio State released the full summary of its investigation into the conduct of former Ohio State wide receivers coach Zach Smith and how Meyer and Gene Smith handled allegations made against Zach Smith.

The 23-page summary reveals many new details about allegations of misconduct against Zach Smith, as well as how Meyer, Gene Smith and others associated with Ohio State handled those allegations against him.

Urban Meyer May Have Mistakenly Remembered Meeting with Courtney Smith in 2009

Meyer “maintains that shortly after” Zach Smith’s 2009 arrest for aggravated battery against his ex-wife Courtney Smith, who was pregnant at the time, “both Zach and Courtney Smith met with him in his office at Florida to inform him that the arrest of Zach Smith had been based on incorrect information provided to the authorities by Courtney Smith and that, in fact, Zach Smith had not hit or otherwise been violent toward Mrs. Smith. Courtney Smith denies ever meeting with Urban Meyer, although she recalls meeting with Shelley Meyer at that time. Courtney Smith maintains that she has never recanted her allegations to anyone. Zach Smith also recalls that only he met with Urban Meyer, but that Courtney Smith did not. Urban and Shelley Meyer referred the couple to a counselor.”

Investigators found it “more likely that only Zach Smith met with Coach Meyer in 2009, and that Courtney Smith likely did not recant her allegations of abuse at that time to Urban or Shelley Meyer, although it is clear that Courtney Smith decided not to pursue charges and that none were ever filed.” The investigation found that Courtney Smith decided not to file charges after discussions with members of Zach Smith’s family, including his mother Lynn Bruce and grandfather Earle Bruce, and “likely Hiram deFries,” who is currently Ohio State’s special assistant to the head coach.

Urban Meyer Did Not Inform Ohio State of Zach Smith's 2009 Arrest

Meyer did not inform others at Ohio State about Zach Smith’s 2009 arrest, and “explained that he did not do so because no charges were filed and because he believed Zach Smith had not engaged in domestic violence in 2009.” Gene Smith said he did not recall becoming aware of Zach Smith’s 2009 arrest before this July, and the investigation found no evidence that he was previously aware of that arrest, as it did not come up in the background check Ohio State performed on Zach Smith before hiring him in December 2011.

Zach Smith Was Not Arrested Or Charged For Domestic Violence From 2010 To 2018

The investigation “found no evidence of further arrests or any criminal charges filed against Zach Smith for domestic violence” since his 2009 arrest, “although a domestic violence civil protection order was issued against him ex parte on July 20, 2018, which he is contesting.”

No Evidence that Urban Meyer or Gene Smith Knew of Zach Smith's 2013 Arrest for OVI

The investigation found no evidence that Meyer, Gene Smith or anyone else at Ohio State was aware of Zach Smith’s 2013 arrest in Dublin for operating a vehicle while impaired.

Zach Smith and Another Ohio State Coach Were Reprimanded for Attending a Miami Strip Club

The investigation found that Zach Smith “ran up a significant bill at a local strip club along with another OSU football coach and one or more high school coaches” during an out-of-town recruiting trip to Florida in May 2014. “According to an iPhone screen-capture of a checking account statement dated May 8, 2014, Zach Smith spent approximately $600 of his personal funds at a Miami strip club.”

Meyer became aware of that incident, and said he warned Zach Smith that if it happened again, he would be fired; Meyer did not, however, report the incident to Ohio State compliance. Ohio State football operations director Brian Voltolini was also aware of the strip club trip, but the investigation found no evidence that Gene Smith was aware.

Investigators have provided the information obtained in the investigation on that incident "to the Office of University Compliance and Integrity and the Athletic Compliance Office to investigate whether this conduct violated the NCAA legislation." 

Zach Smith Had Credit Card Problems and Was Delinquent on Bills

“From approximately 2014-2016, Zach Smith’s credit cards were declined on at least three to five occasions (and some replacement cards he provided were also declined) when the travel office was booking rental cars for recruiting trips,” the investigation found. Staff members also recalled “that Zach Smith was delinquent in paying for his iPhones and for costs associated with Bowl games.”

OSU Campus Police Notified Ohio State's Title IX Office of the 2015 Incident in Powell

In Oct. 2015, former Ohio State deputy athletics director Miechelle Willis – then the Deputy Title IX Coordinator for the Athletics Department – was informed of Powell Police’s investigation into alleged domestic violence allegations by Zach Smith against Courtney Smith. She “immediately notified” Gene Smith, “who in turn notified Coach Meyer during a football practice that Zach Smith was under investigation for domestic violence and could be arrested at any time.” Gene Smith recalled Meyer “having an immediate and strong negative reaction to this news.”

Gene Smith and Urban Meyer Both Threatened Zach Smith with Firing After Learning of the 2015 Incident

Gene Smith told Zach Smith that he would be fired if charges were filed as a result of Powell Police’s 2015 investigation.

Meyer “assisted in arranging professional counseling for Zach Smith” after learning of the 2015 investigation.

Shelley Meyer Says She Did Not Relay Text Messages From Courtney Smith To Urban

Urban Meyer’s wife, Shelley, who received text messages from Courtney Smith about Zach’s alleged abuse “including a number of photographs that have since become public,” maintained to investigators “that she did not relay Courtney Smith’s expression of fear or allegations of abuse, including the photographs, to Urban Meyer at the time because she had doubts about the veracity of Courtney Smith’s allegations.” Urban Meyer said he did “not recall any discussion with Shelley Meyer about either her or Courtney Smith’s concerns about abuse.”

Investigators, however, “believe it is likely that Shelley and Urban Meyer had at least some communication about these allegations in late 2015 and were concerned about them, although both had doubts about the credibility of Courtney’s claims, based on, among other things, Zach Smith’s denials and their belief that Courtney Smith’s 2009 allegations had been false.”

Gene Smith Suggested Firing Zach Smith Due To Job Performance Issues

“During and after his divorce proceedings in 2015 and early 2016, Zach Smith’s job performance suffered, and he was regularly late to practice and workouts; on other occasions, Zach Smith failed to appear at scheduled recruiting visits at various high schools, despite reporting internally that he had.” Zach Smith recalled “that Meyer warned him that if he continued to be late and otherwise unreliable, he would be fired;” Gene Smith, “who was generally aware of Zach Smith’s performance issues during this time period, suggested that Coach Meyer consider replacing him; Coach Meyer decided not to do so.”

Gene Smith, Urban Meyer Were Unaware Of Other Inappropriate Activities By Zach Smith

Investigators do not believe Meyer or Gene Smith were aware that Smith “engaged in a sexual relationship with a secretary on the football staff who did not report to him,” “took sexually explicit photographs of himself in the OSU football facilities and at other locations, including at the White House on a team visit in April 2015 after winning the 2014 National Championship,” and “had sex-related toys delivered to him at the OSU athletics facilities.”

Urban Meyer Recommended Rehab For Zach Smith, But Gene Smith Was Unaware

“In June 2016, based on medical advice and direction from Coach Meyer, Zach Smith was admitted to a drug treatment facility for addiction to a stimulant prescription drug used to treat ADHD.” Gene Smith was not aware of that.

Urban Meyer, Gene Smith Unaware Of Criminal Trespassing Charge Until It Was Publicly Reported

Neither Meyer nor Gene Smith was aware that Zach Smith was issued a trespass warning by Powell Police on Dec. 17, 2017, after he allegedly entered onto Courtney Smith’s premises while intoxicated. Meyer and Smith did not become aware that he was charged with criminal trespassing on May 12 of this year until his court date was reported publicly on July 20.

Urban Meyer Decided To Fire Zach Smith After Learning Of Domestic Violence Civil Protection Order

Gene Smith initially considered “obtaining counseling for Zach Smith, but did not object to Coach Meyer’s decision to terminate him” on July 23 after learning of the domestic violence civil protection order filed against him on July 20.

“Meyer considered the domestic violence civil protection order to be the first actual evidence that Zach Smith had engaged in domestic violence, even though Zach Smith continues to deny it and is contesting the order.”

Gene Smith Recommended Meyer Say He Was Aware Of 2015 Allegations At Big Ten Media Days 

In a message on July 23, Gene Smith recommended that Meyer should say he was “aware of two legal instances in 2009 and 2015” at Big Ten Media Days on July 24. Ohio State athletic communications director Jerry Emig, however, recommended “that Meyer, with respect to the events of 2015, state ‘[t]here were no charges in 2015 and I really don’t even recall any details,’” to which Meyer did not respond.

Gene Smith and Voltolini both spoke to Meyer after Big Ten Media Days “to tell him that he had, in fact, been aware of the law enforcement investigation involving allegations of abuse against Zach Smith in 2015. Meyer says that he was reminded, to a limited extent, of the 2015 events only in these conversations and maintains that, until that point, he had no recollection whatsoever of the 2015 domestic violence investigation of Zach Smith.”

Urban Meyer Had Conversation With Staffer About Deleting Old Text Messages From His Phone

Following Brett McMurphy’s report on Aug. 1 that suggested Meyer was aware of the domestic violence allegations made against Zach Smith in 2015, Voltolini had a conversation with Meyer on the practice field in which they “specifically discussed how to adjust the settings on Meyer’s phone so that text messages older than one year would be deleted.” When investigators reviewed Meyer’s phone, which Ohio State obtained on Aug. 2, it revealed no text messages older than one year. Investigators could not determine, however, “whether Coach Meyer’s phone was set to retain messages only for one year in response to the August 1st media report or at some earlier time.”

Investigators Blame Memory Issues, But Also Personal Connection To Zach Smith, On Urban Meyer's Inaccurate Responses at Big Ten Media Days

In relation to his responses at Big Ten Media Days that he was unaware of the allegations made against Zach Smith in 2015, the investigation found that “Meyer has sometimes had significant memory issues in other situations where he had prior extensive knowledge of events. He has also periodically taken medicine that can negatively impair his memory, concentration, and focus.”

Investigators also believed, however, “that Coach Meyer was determined not to disclose details at the Big Ten Media Days about matters he deemed ‘personal’ involving Zach Smith, of whom he had always been supportive. In a text message he exchanged with his agent just before Media Days began, Coach Meyer wrote ‘[Zach] was fired for cumulative stuff. I will not tell [the] media.’”

You can read Ohio State’s full investigation summary here.

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