Last week Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer denied knowing his former wide receiver’s coach, assistant Zach Smith, had been accused of domestic abuse by his wife in 2015. But earlier today former ESPN reporter Brett McMurphy uncovered text messages between Smith’s wife, Courtney, and other Ohio State coaches wives about the alleged domestic abuse which proves, according to McMurphy, that Urban Meyer knew about the domestic violence and did nothing.
Urban Meyer in danger of being fired at Ohio State. Breaking down story details https://t.co/f3nLZCxv7l
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) August 1, 2018
Included in those text messages was Shelley Meyer saying she was going to have to tell Urban Meyer about the allegations.
“All the (coaches) wives knew,” Courtney said. “They all did. Every single one.”
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.
Courtney said Shelley Meyer, Urban’s wife of nearly three decades, knew about the abuse that begin in 2009, continued in 2015 and culminated with Zach Smith being served a domestic violence civil protection order last week.
Courtney said she and Shelley often discussed Zach’s domestic violence.
“Shelley said she was going to have to tell Urban,” Courtney said. “I said: ‘That’s fine, you should tell Urban.’ I know Shelley did everything she could.”
One 2015 text exchange between Courtney and Shelley Meyer shows the extent of Shelley’s knowledge of the alleged domestic abuse and that she was concerned for Courtney’s safety.
Shelley: “I am with you! A lot of women stay hoping it will get better. I don’t blame you! But just want u to be safe. Do you have a restraining order? He scares me”
Courtney: “Restraining orders don’t do anything in Ohio-I tried to get protection order which is what started this whole investigation. And that should go through soon finally. It’s hard bc you have to prove immediate danger. Legal system is tough. Basically you have to prove he will kill u to get protective order”
Shelley: “Geesh! Even w the pics? Didn’t law enforcement come to your place ever??”
During Big Ten Media Days last week, Meyer was asked about the importance of wives helping coaches on and off the field, and how Shelley has impacted his coaching life.
“She’s always weighed in as my best friend and soul mate,” Urban said. “She’s been right there with everything. Especially when you’re dealing with – not who’s going to carry the ball on third down, she has an opinion on that too – we chat about people. She has a great spirit. A great love of people. Her heart is always in the right place. She’s phenomenal. Absolutely I rely on her.”
Two weeks after the Oct. 25, 2015 incident, a Nov. 5, 2015 text exchange between Lindsey Voltolini and Courtney shows Meyer talked to Zach Smith about the incident.
Lindsey is the wife of Brian Voltolini, considered one of Meyer’s most loyal staff members. Brian is Ohio State’s football operations director and has been part of Meyer’s staffs for 15 seasons at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida and Ohio State.
Courtney: “(Zach’s) trying to make me look crazy bc that’s what Shelley is saying (he’s doing)”
Lindsey: “He (Urban) just said he (Zach) denied everything”
Courtney: “I hope urban is smarter than that”
Lindsey: “He (Urban) doesn’t know what to think”
Courtney: “I don’t really care. Ya know”
Lindsey: “Yeah, don’t worry about urb”
Despite that common knowledge throughout the Woody Hayes Athletic Complex, Smith remained on Ohio State’s staff for six seasons until he was fired July 23 – only after I initially uncovered and reported earlier that day that Smith had a long history of domestic violence abuse allegations against Courtney.
Included in the ugly story? Threatening text messages sent from Zach to Courtney:
Zach texted Courtney: “The past 3 months. You were going to try to give me a chance a week ago and now, even though I have done NOTHING WRONG since then, you’re done with me. I will kill that bitch and everyone involved. For ruining my life. I am getting myself right and getting punished. F— all of you.”
Zach to Courtney: “Just know that now… I will find you when your out. I will come seek the douche your with. I will f— him up to the point that no one will recognize him”
So why would a coach at the top of his profession, jeopardize his entire career and legacy – and ignore his core values – because of a sense of loyalty to former mentor Earle Bruce?
“Zach once told me,” said Courtney, “if he ever got fired and this all comes out: ‘I’ll take everyone at Ohio State down with me.’ ”
Just, holy cow.
This report is extraordinarily well done. Ohio State, if they had any sense of decency at all, would fire Urban Meyer today. At the very least they should have to suspend him for the season to conduct an independent investigation into these allegations.
I have several thoughts that I want to share right now with you guys. But before I do that, it’s worth noting that Brett McMurphy, who was on Outkick on Friday to talk about this story, will be on Outkick tomorrow morning at 820 et to talk about this story, the reporting that went into it, and what comes next.
Let’s dive in:
1. There are massive Title IX issues at play here for both Urban and Shelley Meyer.
Under the Ohio State employee handbook all employees would be obligated to report allegations of domestic assault by other employees. That’s especially the case for Urban Meyer, who is Smith’s superior, and for Shelley Meyer, who is also an Ohio State employee.
As McMurphy reports: “Shelley Meyer is a registered nurse and instructor of Clinical Practice at the Ohio State University College of Nursing. She too is bound by Title IX standards.”
That’s why I believe Ohio State will have to fire Urban Meyer before this story is finished.
Leaving aside the morality of his decision making, he violated his obligations as an Ohio State employee, lied to his bosses, and has now been caught lying to his bosses about it.
2. Urban Meyer is caught in a total lie.
The minute this 2015 allegation went public, Urban Meyer was in trouble.
His best bet was probably to admit he knew about the allegations, but because no charges were filed he didn’t want to fire someone over allegations.
The problem with that?
If Meyer admitted he knew about these allegations at all, he would have had an obligation to report them to his Ohio State bosses who could have then referred them to the Title IX office. Remember, even if Smith wasn’t charged with a crime, the standard for culpability under Title IX is the significantly lower preponderance of the evidence standard.
It’s unlikely Smith would have been able to continue at Ohio State.
Even if Ohio State determined Title IX wasn’t implicated because Courtney isn’t a student or employee herself, this is still a messy situation. All allegations of domestic abuse should be shared with requisite authorities, not handled internally by a coaching staff.
Remember, this also isn’t the first allegation of domestic abuse involving this couple. Meyer and his wife are on the record as knowing about domestic abuse for this couple that extends as far back as 2009. So we’re not talking about a one-time incident, this is an ongoing issue of domestic violence that Urban Meyer chose to ignore and chose to keep quiet rather than sharing with his bosses.
Given the significant threats of violence made to this woman and her children, Urban Meyer risked their health, safety, and potentially their lives by failing to act on the information he had.
3. This is FAR worse than what Ohio State fired Jim Tressel for.
You’ll recall that Jim Tressel was fired for not following up on allegations about free tattoos and rental cars and then lying about his knowledge of these circumstances.
Here, you have an allegation that a sitting head coach ignored multi-year issues of domestic violence in order to keep a coach on his staff. When confronted with that information, moreover, Meyer lied to his bosses, the media, and the fans about whether he knew about potential criminal conduct on his staff.
Caught in that lie, now Ohio State is going to continue to employ Meyer?
There’s just no way to justify this other than by pointing to Meyer’s successful record as a head coach. Virtually every other coach in America would be fired today over these allegations and details.
4. How about ESPN firing Brett McMurphy so that he breaks this story on his Facebook page?!
I have to put this in here because it’s so insanely stupid of ESPN to fire the people they did and keep the people they did.
Brett McMurphy has consistently broken the biggest stories in college football over the past decade. Yet ESPN fired him, AND IS STILL PAYING HIS SALARY UNTIL EARLY AUGUST, so he isn’t allowed on their network’s air and as a result he just broke the biggest story in college football in several years on his Facebook page.
On his Facebook page!
You think ESPN, which is dealing with collapsing viewership and a collapsing business, might be able to use McMurphy today instead of debating LeBron James vs. Michael Jordan for the 9,000th consecutive day?
5. So how could Urban Meyer keep his job here?
I think the only way he keeps his job is if throws all the blame to his wife and claims, despite all the text message evidence to the contrary, that she never told him about any of these allegations. Meyer’s wife, of course, would have to lie and say she never told him anything and every other wife on the Ohio State coaching staff, as well as every other assistant coach, would have to lie too and say they never told Urban about any of this. (That would be despite the text message conversations saying Urban knew).
This is a huge conspiracy of lies which could collapse if even one person is honest.
But that’s the only way I see Urban Meyer keeping his job here.
And even then is anyone going to believe that a maniacal, controlling coach who insists on micromanaging everything in his program didn’t know about one of his assistant coaches allegedly abusing his wife when every other person in the program, as well as many wives and, likely, police officers, did know about these allegations? (If you think Urban Meyer didn’t talk with police officers about this investigation then you’re crazy. Police officers in college towns talk to the coaches about these allegations all the time).
This strains credulity even more when we also know that Meyer knew about the prior instances of domestic violence. So you really believe that no one ever told Urban Meyer about these issues in 2015?
But the only way he saves his job is if he throws his wife out to take all the blame and claims no one ever told him. And then, this is significant, there’s no ironclad way to prove he knew that emerges in the days, weeks and months ahead.
But is that very likely? Especially in this day and age of email and text messages? Isn’t it highly probable that even with these denials Urban Meyer would get caught in yet another lie by evidence yet to be uncovered?
Can Ohio State take that risk?
I don’t think so.
That’s especially the case when Urban Meyer has tried for years to claim that he didn’t know about anything bad that happened at Florida during his tenure there. Remember the claim that Florida was only going to recruit the top 1% of 1%? That only made sense if Urban was referring to the top 1% of the top 1% of felons. This is a guy who managed to keep Aaron Freaking Hernandez eligible.
Come on, Urban Meyer is a great coach, but he’s always tried to portray himself as a great person too. That’s been where Urban has been proven to be a phony hypocrite again and again. The truth is this, Urban Meyer, like most top coaches, will do whatever it takes to win.
Which is why Urban Meyer’s only real recourse here might be to throw himself on public mercy, admit to everything, say that he chose to believe his former assistant coach given no charges had been filed, and hope that he’s successful enough that Ohio State will merely suspend him and not fire him.
Regardless of the path, it’s going to get ugly for Meyer and Ohio State.
This is just the beginning.
Because when all is said and done, I don’t see any way Urban Meyer is still the head coach at Ohio State.