There’s a lot of information swirling around about the Ohio State football team, Urban Meyer, and the handling of this domestic violence case involving Zach Smith and his now ex-wife, Courtney. In an attempt to help better understand everything, here’s what national and local news sources have been reporting about it all. Let’s not waste any time and dive in—there’s a lot to digest here.
Bill Landis of Cleveland.com reported that Zach Smith was set to go to court on July 18 for a criminal trespass charge from May 12.
From the Cleveland.com report on July 18:
“An incident report obtained by cleveland.com shows that Powell, Ohio police were dispatched to a home just after 8 p.m. on May 12 for a dispute. Smith’s ex-wife is listed as the victim on the report. The report states that there was no forced entry, the victim was not injured and that Smith was not suspected of using alcohol or drugs at the time of the incident. No other details were given.”
On July 23, Bill Rabinowitz and Dean Narciso of The Columbus Dispatch reported that Urban Meyer announced wide receivers coach Zach Smith would be terminated. The firing came quickly after Smith’s ex-wife, Courtney, filed a protection order against him as well as a previous allegation of domestic violence coming to light.
From The Dispatch report on July 23:
“Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer has announced the termination of wide receivers coach Zach Smith,” a brief statement from OSU read. “Coaching staff adjustments will be announced at a later date.”
College football insider Brett McMurphy—get used to seeing that name, he’s one of the national reporters who is deeply involved with the details of this still developing story—reported Zach Smith was charged with a misdemeanor charge of criminal trespass on July 18.
A snippet of the McMurphy Facebook post on July 23:
“On Wednesday [July 18 court date], Zach Smith, 34, also was charged with a misdemeanor charge of criminal trespassing, according to an arrest report from Delaware Municipal Court. The criminal trespassing charge was for dropping their son off at his ex-wife’s house – and not at a pre-arranged public place – which was a violation of an earlier criminal trespass warning. That warning was provided to him on Dec. 19, 2017, according to the criminal complaint.”
The Facebook post didn’t stop there. McMurphy detailed Smith’s lengthy time on the coaching staff with Urban Meyer dating back to 2005 when they were both at the University of Florida where the first reports of domestic violence began in 2009.
McMurphy’s Facebook post again:
“In 2009, when he was a University of Florida assistant, he was arrested for aggravated battery on a pregnant victim, according to a Gainesville Police Department report. Courtney Smith was 8-10 weeks pregnant at the time.
That alleged assault occurred on June 21, 2009 – the Smith’s one-year wedding anniversary. Courtney Smith, however, ultimately decided not to press charges.”
McMurphy also brought to light the 2015 charges against Zach Smith for felony counts of domestic violence and felonious assault against Courtney Smith.
“Smith, 34, was investigated Oct. 26, 2015 by the Powell (Ohio) Police Department on felony counts of domestic violence and felonious assault against Courtney Smith, I learned. The original police report, from 2015, indicated Zach Smith was arrested. The police report released to the media on Tuesday says Smith was not arrested.
The report indicates Courtney Smith, 33, suffered unspecified injuries and “she has been a victim of sustained physical abuse by (Zach Smith).”
The 2015 case has been closed according to a Powell (Ohio) Police spokesperson.”
All of these reports came just one day before Big Ten Media Day (July 24) where Urban Meyer was scheduled to answer questions from reporters in Chicago. This is where the waters get tricky for the head coach. When asked about the 2009 incident, Urban had this to say, according to Paul Myerberg of USA Today.
“What was reported wasn’t actually what happened,” Meyer said of the 2009 incident. “It’s a very personal matter.
“The details that I’m obligated to give, I gave. You’re talking about people’s lives.”
Brett McMurphy, however, had this to say in a tweet:
“Urban Meyer said “what was reported” about Zach Smith from the 2009 arrest at Florida was “not accurate.” All of that information I reported came directly from the police report”
Later in the day, Urban would be asked again about Zach Smith, this time about the 2015 incident.
““I got a text last night that something happened in 2015, and there was nothing,” Meyer told reporters.
“I don’t know who creates a story like that.”
Fast forward to a week later on August 1 when Bill Landis of cleveland.com reports nine incident reports from the Powell police department dating from 2012 to 2018.
“The nine reports handled by Powell police that mention domestic issues show that Courtney Smith was repeatedly talking about the problems with her husband. The reports include:
* A handful of child custody disputes.
* A report from Oct. 21, 2015 indicates Courtney informed police that she felt she was being followed by someone in a black SUV, and shared she was having issues “with her soon to be ex-husband.” That was the first mention of domestic issues found in the reports obtained by cleveland.com.
* Another report from Oct. 26, 2015 details Courtney Smith telling Powell police she wished to file a restraining order against her husband.
* There’s a report from January 5, 2016 in which Courtney Smith was given a speeding warning. Smith shared that she was having domestic issues with her ex-husband that day, and that the City of Powell was aware of it. The report adds that she was crying and visibly upset.
* An incident on December 17, 2017 when Courtney reported neighbors seeing Zach looking through the windows of her home, the windows of her vehicle and banging on the door of her home at 1:30 a.m. No charges were filed from that incident, but Zach Smith was issued a trespass warning.”
Brett McMurphy also released more information regarding the case on August 1 with hefty allegations.
“Text messages I have obtained, an exclusive interview with the victim and other information I have learned shows Ohio State coach Urban Meyer knew in 2015 of domestic abuse allegations against a member of his coaching staff.
Courtney Smith, ex-wife of fired Ohio State assistant coach Zach Smith, provided text messages between her and the wives of Ohio State coaches – including Urban Meyer’s wife, Shelley – showing Meyer’s knowledge of the situation.
Meyer said last week during Big Ten Media Days that he had no knowledge of two alleged domestic violence incidents in 2015 with former assistant wide receivers coach Zach Smith that were investigated by the Powell (Ohio) Police Department.
Meyer said had he known, he would have fired Smith in 2015 – three years before he did last week after I reported the alleged domestic violence.
“All the (coaches) wives knew,” Courtney said. “They all did. Every single one.””
McMurphy notes that seven hours after his report, Urban Meyer was placed on paid administrative leave. Here’s what the university and Urban had to say, via the McMurphy Facebook post.
“”During the inquiry, Urban Meyer will be on paid administrative leave,” according to an Ohio State statement. “Ryan Day will serve as acting head football coach during the investigation. We are focused on supporting our players and on getting to the truth as expeditiously as possible.”
In a statement Meyer said: “(Ohio State athletic director) Gene (Smith) and I agree that being on leave during this inquiry will facilitate its completion. This allows the team to conduct training camp with minimal distraction. I eagerly look forward to the resolution of this matter.””
McMurphy also noted Meyer’s previous responses about the 2015 allegation.
“I was never told about anything. Never anything came to light, never had a conversation about it. So I know nothing about it. I asked people back at the office to call and see what happened, and they came back and said they know nothing.”
As for the numerous reports from national publications calling for the firing of Urban Meyer, McMurphy offered contract violations as a potential justification of firing.
“If Urban Meyer knew about the domestic violence issues, he may have violated his contract and could be fired with cause. The contract says he must “promptly report to Ohio State’s Title IX Coordinator for Athletics any known violations of Ohio State’s Sexual Misconduct Policy (including but not limited to sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, intimate violence and stalking) that involve any student, faculty or staff.”
When asked specifically if he knew of the domestic violence incidents with Zach Smith, or if he had been told of them, Meyer said, “I was never told about anything. Never anything came to light, never had a conversation about it. So I know nothing about it. I asked people back at the office to call and see what happened, and they came back and said they know nothing.”
However, text messages I have obtained sent from Courtney Smith, Meyer’s wife Shelley; and other Ohio State coaches’ wives show Urban Meyer and a number of Ohio State assistant coaches were aware of Smith’s domestic violence issues for several years.”
On the other side, Zach Smith was scheduled to appear in court on August 3, but Dan Murphy reports that date has been moved back to September.
Quick update from Columbus. Zach Smith was due in court tomorrow along with ex-wife, Courtney. That hearing has been pushed until September so both sides can conduct an expedited discovery process.
— Dan Murphy (@DanMurphyESPN) August 2, 2018
Earlier in the week, Bob Evans announced a partnership with Urban Meyer as their “Head Breakfast Coach.” That partnership has been suspended.
Update: Aug. 3, 8:00 p.m.
On Aug. 3, Urban Meyer took to Twitter to release a public statement regarding the situation, which you can read in full below:
— Urban Meyer (@OSUCoachMeyer) August 3, 2018
“I have always followed proper reporting protocols and procedures when I have learned of an incident involving a student-athlete, coach or member of our staff by elevating the issues to the proper channels. And, I did so regarding the Zach Smith incident in 2015. I take that responsibility very seriously and any suggestion to the contrary is simply false.” – Urban Meyer
While it’s certainly deserving of a full read, the above excerpt may be the most important because it (a) seems to indicate Urban Meyer did not violate Title IX and (b) could potentially mean that whoever he did report the incident to may not have reported it to the authorities. Meyer was sure to write that he elevates the issues “to the proper channels,” which is a bit cryptic because there’s no telling who exactly that is.
At 6 p.m. on the same day, Zach Smith appeared on SportsCenter for his first public interview since his firing. There’s plenty of material Smith covered, but perhaps the most surprising is that he claimed to not commit domestic violence.
“I’ve never committed domestic abuse against her … There are thousands of things that I regret when things got volatile … none of them were physical. I was not a great husband.” – Zach Smith”
However, Brett McMurphy certainly has done his homework on this case and has texts seeming to disprove that entirely. Here’s a screenshot from McMurphy’s Twitter that seems to show a conversation between Courtney and Zach Smith wherein Zach admitted to abusing her physically:
Zach Smith told @1057TheZone he never abused Courtney. Here is text message b/w Zach & Courtney when he admits & apologizes for strangling his wife on Punta Cana trip in March 2015 & again in April pic.twitter.com/GjcjWh6mFT
— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) August 3, 2018
This article will be updated as more information becomes available.