Ohio State suspends Meyer for three games along with athletic director for mishandling domestic abuse case

By David Wharton

Los Angeles Times

Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer will be suspended for the first three games of the upcoming season as penalty for mishandling of domestic violence allegations against a former assistant.

The decision was announced late Wednesday after a marathon session by university board members, who deliberated behind closed doors from morning until well into the night.

Athletic director Gene Smith will be suspended from Aug. 31 to Sept. 16.

Meyer was placed on administrative leave this month while the university determined what he knew —and when he knew —about accusations leveled against receivers coach Zach Smith over the last nine years.

The coach fired Smith last month, telling reporters he had only recently became aware of the full scope of the situation.

“My words, whether in reply to a reporter’s question or in addressing a personnel issue, must be clear, compassionate and most of all, completely accurate,” Meyer said in a public apology. “Unfortunately … I failed on many of these fronts.”

The controversy dates to 2009, when Meyer was at Florida and Zach Smith was an intern on his staff. After an alleged incident arose between Smith and his former wife, Meyer said he spoke to the couple but took no further action.

“It came back to me that what was reported wasn’t actually what happened,” he said.

Another allegation surfaced in 2015, by which time Meyer had jumped to Ohio State and brought Smith with him. No charges were filed and the incident did not receive public attention.

But this summer, an Ohio judge issued a protective order on behalf of Courtney Smith and the story made its way into the spotlight, thanks mainly to an article by college football reporter Brett McMurphy.

It was at that point Meyer dismissed Zach Smith.

Speaking to reporters at the Big Ten Conference media days, the coach denied any previous knowledge of the 2015 allegation. Smith told a different story.

The former assistant said he had conferred with his boss and Gene Smith at the time. He expressed confusion at Meyer pleading ignorance three years later.

“I don’t know what he was thinking. Not really,” Smith told ESPN. “He knows everything that has gone on in my marriage that he needed to know.”

Ohio State subsequently created a special working group to investigate.

Meyer’s suspension represents a black mark on the record of a coach revered for guiding his teams to an 85 percent winning percentage, including national championships at Ohio State and Florida.