10 Things We Learned From the Findings of Ohio State's Investigation

By Kevin Harrish on August 23, 2018 at 1:30 am
The Urban Meyer investigation is complete.

The investigation is complete, the punishments have been handed down, and Ohio State released their findings to the public.

After sifting through the interviews and documents released by the university, here are 10 things we've learned.

1. Urban Meyer and Gene Smith Acted "In Good Faith," But Not Perfectly

The investigation concluded that while Urban Meyer and and Gene Smith acted in "good faith" upon learning of the domestic abuse allegations, they did not act perfectly.

"Coach Meyer and AD Gene Smith, although acting in good faith, did not report the investigation for domestic violence in 2015 to compliance as we believe they should have," White said. "Although law enforcement had not brought charges at the time that coach Meyer and AD Smith became aware of the investigations, the compliance function would have been in the best position to assess whether to conduct an internal investigation into the allegations had they known about them.

In the domestic violence context especially, there are many cases in which abuse takes place but there is no arrest or criminal prosecution," White continued. "And so simply relying on law enforcement to take action in the face of such allegations is not, in our view, an adequate response."

2. Urban Meyer Was Focused on Felony Allegations While Answering Media Day Questions

The investigative committee “did not determine that Urban Meyer deliberately lied” at Big Ten Media Days, and that point was a large portion of their investigation.

Lead investigator Mary Jo White said Meyer "was closely focused on erroneous media reports that Zach Smith had been arrested on felony charges in 2015, which coach Meyer had determined the night before not to have occurred."

This was Meyer's consistent response throughout the investigation, as detailed in the documents released by the university:

As noted, in interviews with the investigation team, Coach Meyer consistently maintained that he had no memory of the 2015 events when he stepped on the podium at Big Ten Media Days and that, as he asserted in the August 3rd message, he was not adequately prepared by his staff to handle those questions. His sole focus, he says, was on the accusation of a felony arrest in 2015, which never happened, and which he understood all of the reporters’ questions to be about – an arrest Coach Meyer knew on July 24th had never occurred, contrary to the erroneous media report of July 23rd .

"But his answer swept more broadly than the falsely reported arrest, and coach Meyer falsely stated that he lacked knowledge of all relevant events regarding alleged domestic violence by Zach Smith in 2015," White continued.

Meyer admits he could have been more forthcoming and honest, and concedes his responses to questions played a big role in how things unfolded.

"I did a poor job at media day. It's a big reason why we're here today," Meyer said. "But there was no intent to mislead."

3. Gene Smith Did Not Know About 2009 Allegations Against Zach Smith

Many questioned the decision to hire Zach Smith at Ohio State in the first place after he had domestic violence allegations against him back in 2009.

Meyer said he knew about those allegations, and he addressed his knowledge of them at Big Ten Media Days. Gene Smith, however, says he was unaware of the allegations when Zach was hired at Ohio State in 2012.

The document released by Ohio State backs this up:

OSU performed a standard background check on Zach Smith prior to his being hired as an Assistant Coach at OSU in December 2011 by Coach Meyer; the background check did not call for or return arrest information, and Zach Smith’s arrest in 2009 was therefore unknown to others at OSU at the time he was hired.

4. Shelley and Urban Meyer Maintain Urban Was Unaware of Texts From Courtney Smith

Brett McMurphy's initial report seemed to suggest Urban Meyer had knowledge of text messages sent to his wife, Shelley, from Courtney Smith.

According to both Urban and Shelley, that is not the case. Meyer said during the Wednesday evening press conference that he was never aware of the text messages McMurphy published.

In documents released by the university, Shelley said she did not share the text messages with Urban because she "had doubts about the veracity" of the allegations, though investigators do find it likely both Urban and Shelley had "at least some communication about these allegations."

From the report:

Shelley Meyer also maintains 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. Coach Meyer also does not recall any discussion with Shelley Meyer about either her or Courtney Smith’s concerns about abuse. Given the closeness of their relationship and Shelley’s concerns, we 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; by late October 2015, Coach Meyer knew of Courtney Smith’s domestic violence complaints against Zach Smith through his knowledge of the 2015-2016 law enforcement investigation.

5. Zach Smith Kept Ohio State and Urban Meyer in the Dark

Documents, along with repeated testimony from Zach Smith and Urban Meyer reveal that Smith intentionally kept a number of things hidden from both Meyer and the school.

This includes his 2018 criminal trespass charge, his 2013 arrest for OVI, a sexual relationship with a secretary on the football staff, lewd photographs taken on a work phone and sex toys delivered to OSU facilities.

Meyer said in his press conference that he did not know about Zach Smith's criminal trespass charge until it was reported in the media.​

"I was very upset that he didn't share that with me," Meyer said. "I made it clear, you have to keep me exactly posted on any situation like this so I can alert Gene (Smith)."

Documents also show Smith did not disclose the arrest for OVI to anyone at Ohio State:

A 2013 arrest for operating a vehicle while impaired; we have seen no evidence that Coach Meyer, AD Smith or anyone else at OSU was aware of this charge.

And also that the investigative team does not believe Meyer or Gene Smith were aware of the sexual relationship, explicit photographs or the sex toys:

During this same period, as recent news reports have noted and other information shows, Zach Smith was: (1) engaged in a sexual relationship with a secretary on the football staff who did not report to him; (ii) 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 (iii) had sex-related toys delivered to him at the OSU athletics facilities. Although certain members of the football staff were aware of these issues to some degree, we do not believe Coach Meyer or AD Smith were aware of them.

6. The Decision to Fire Zach Smith Came After Civil Protection Order

Though Urban Meyer was upset about the criminal trespass charge and the fact that Zach Smith had not disclosed it to him, Meyer and Gene Smith allowed Zach Smith to remain on staff while they monitored the situation.

Meyer said the decision to fire Zach Smith came after he learned of a "restraining order" against Zach Smith.

"That's when termination entered my mind," Meyer said. "First of all, the seriousness of a restraining order and also again the fact that I made very clear that you keep me posted and alert me to any situation. And he did not do that."

Meyer said he made the decision to fire him later that day.

7. Investigators Found No Messages Older Than One Year on Urban Meyer's Phone

The documents released by Ohio State indicate that investigators were unable to find any messages on Urban Meyer's phone older than one year.

The document states that after the Aug. 1 article from Brett McMurphy was released, Meyer and Brian Voltolini discussed how to adjust settings so that text messages older than one year would be deleted:

Upon seeing this report when it first came out (at about 10:17 a.m.), Brian Voltolini, who was on the practice field with Coach Meyer went to speak with him, commenting that this was “a bad article.” The two discussed at that time whether the media could get access to Coach Meyer’s phone, and specifically discussed how to adjust the settings on Meyer’s phone so that text messages older than one year would be deleted. 

Investigators were unable to determine if the absence of messages older than a year is due to a previous phone setting or a reaction to Brett McMurphy's Aug. 1 report.

The document did state, however, that "it is nonetheless concerning that his first reaction to a negative media piece exposing his knowledge of the 2015-2016 law enforcement investigation was to worry about the media getting access to information and discussing how to delete messages older than a year."

8. Zach Smith Attended a Strip Club on a Recruiting Visit, Ditched Other Recruiting Visits

Documents detail multiple issues related to Zach Smith's recruiting visits.

In one 2014 instance, documents released by the university state that Smith, along with another unnamed Ohio State assistant and a high school coach, spent $600 of his own personal funds at a Miami strip club. When Urban Meyer learned of this event, he revised the 2014 coaches manual:

Coach Meyer became aware of this incident, although he maintains not the amount of the expenditure, and reprimanded Zach Smith, warning him that if it happened again, he would be fired; Coach Meyer also revised the 2014 Coaches’ Manual to include a “morality clause” instructing staff to “[a]void strip clubs or venues that would embarrass The Ohio State University” and prohibiting “pornography . . . on any university issued computer, phone, IPad, etc.” Coach Meyer did not, however, report this incident to Athletic Compliance. We have provided the information obtained by the Independent Investigation of this incident to the Office of University Compliance and Integrity and the Athletic Compliance Office to investigate whether this conduct violated the NCAA legislation. We found no evidence that AD Smith was aware of this incident.

Other instances involved Zach Smith failing to appear at multiple recruiting visits while falsely reporting that he had. This was during his divorce proceedings in 2015 and 2016.

During and after his divorce proceedings in 2015 and early 2016,3 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; Coach Meyer was made aware of these issues and Zach Smith recalls that Meyer warned him that if he continued to be late and otherwise unreliable, he would be fired; AD 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.

9. Investigators Found No Evidence Suggesting a Title IX Violation

Early speculation on this situation was that Urban Meyer's job status would hinge on potential Title IX violations, but investigators found no evidence suggesting any such violations.

From the document released by the university:

The investigation has not discovered evidence in connection with Zach Smith’s alleged commission of domestic violence suggesting any Title IX violation. And we note that the designated Title IX Coordinator for Athletics (Miechelle Willis) was the first person in the Department to learn of the 2015-2016 law enforcement investigation. Gene Smith ensured that Ms. Willis remained apprised of the relevant facts as discussions relating to the investigation continued.

10. Earle Bruce Did Speak to Courtney Smith

The report released by Ohio State indicates that Earle Bruce did speak to Courtney Smith following the 2009 incident, and it's likely current Ohio State staffer Hiram deFries did as well.

"Courtney Smith decided not to pursue charges following discussions with members of at least Zach Smith’s family, including his mother and grandfather, Earle Bruce (former OSU head coach and mentor to Coach Meyer), and likely Hiram deFries."

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