Urban Meyer: Exceptional Football Coach, Even Better Con Artist

Staff Writer: Michael Brown

Congratulations, Ohio State. When every single person expected you to do the wrong thing, you proved them right.

For those that don’t know, Urban Meyer is the head football coach at Ohio State University. He’s a very accomplished coach, with national championship titles at both Florida and Ohio State. It’s no secret that he is great at what he does. It’s also no secret that he is a great liar.

In 2015, Zach Smith, one of Meyer’s assistants at Ohio State, abused his then-wife, Courtney Smith. Courtney Smith wasn’t silent about it, obviously. She communicated with Meyer’s wife Shelley, who sympathized with Courtney Smith. It was at this point you would assume Shelley would inform Urban, who would then report it, and Zach Smith would be fired. But that isn’t what happened.

I think, before I go on berating Urban, I should mention that, as bad a person that Urban Meyer is, Zach Smith is far worse. He’s a cruel man, and he belongs behind bars. He abused his wife in 2009 as well, while he and Urban were at Florida. Urban actually reported that one, though.

So, flash forward from 2015 all the way to July 23, 2018. College football insider Brett McMurphy reported the 2015 incidents involving Zach Smith. Urban immediately fired Smith. Ironically, the Big Ten Media Days were the next day, and, as one would expect, Urban was asked a plethora of questions about the firing of Smith. Meyer, responding to allegations regarding his knowledge of the situation, responded, “There was nothing, I don’t know who creates a story like that.” He claimed he had just found out about it the night before (McMurphy’s report).

This did not last, though. McMurphy dropped another report about a week after Big Ten Media Days, suggesting that Meyer lied, and that he definitely did previously know about Zach Smith’s 2015 incident. McMurphy tweeted, “Text messages I have obtained, an exclusive interview [with] the victim & 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 despite his denial last week.” This sent shockwaves throughout the world of college football, and Ohio State immediately placed Meyer on administrative leave so it could perform its investigation of the situation.

This report was alarming, in some ways, but not exactly surprising. Some of the text messages McMurphy mentioned were between Courtney Smith and Shelley Meyer.

Texts between Shelley Meyer (grey) and Courtney Smith (blue) discussing the abuse situation. PHOTO CREDIT: Courtney Smith, Brett McMurphy

Any rational person might find it hard to believe that Urban’s wife knew about the violence all the way back when it happened, and Urban somehow never found out? Courtney Smith even said, “Shelley said she was going to have to tell Urban…I said: ‘That’s fine, you should tell Urban.’ I know Shelley did everything she could.” I don’t really think Shelley was the one to blame here. It doesn’t seem logical that she wouldn’t have told Urban. These aren’t things that spouses typically keep from each other.

McMurphy also released photos Courtney Smith provided him with, detailing some of the injuries she suffered at the hands of Zach Smith.

Photos of injuries suffered by Courtney Smith. PHOTO CREDIT: Courtney Smith, Brett McMurphy

I asked Woodstock High School junior Tess Cope about these photos, and what she thought of them, and she said, “This should not be allowed. This is unacceptable and no human should have to deal with this

Many Ohio State fans were not pleased with McMurphy. Many gathered to protest his findings, in support of Meyer. I guess they believed that he was just fake news? I’m not totally sure.

protest

Ohio State fans gather outside the stadium to protest in support of Urban Meyer. PHOTO CREDIT: SportingNews

I asked Woodstock junior Zakwan Khan if Ohio State fans had a right to be angry, and he said, “Oh no, definitely not. Ohio State fans that are willing to overlook the disgusting actions of Zach Smith and Urban Meyer clearly value football over human decency. Their morality only comes from football wins. I’m glad Brett McMurphy broke the news. Zach Smith and Urban Meyer were employees of an institution funded by the government and taxpayers. The taxpayers had every right to know that an institution was using their hard earned money to cover up such disgusting actions off the field just so they could choke [against] Penn State on the field.” Sheesh. Can’t put it any better than that.

Ohio State finally concluded its “investigation” in roughly three weeks. They found that Meyer “knew of Courtney Smith’s domestic violence complaints against Zach Smith through his knowledge of the 2015-2016 law enforcement investigation.” The investigation summary also said, “Upon seeing this report when it first came out (at about 10:17 a.m.), Brian Voltolini [director of football operations], 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.”

You hear that, and you think, alright so they fired him, right? No, they didn’t. Instead, Meyer was suspended for just three games, Oregon State, Rutgers and TCU, two of which would be easy wins (Oregon State and Rutgers), and two of which he would be allowed to coach the team in practice the week leading up to the game (Rutgers and TCU). It’s difficult to understand how that was all they gave him. It’s obvious they value football success over moral obligations, but how were they able to justify it? It’s mind-boggling.

WHS junior Hayden Rieder (an Ohio State fan) commented on the deleted text messages, “It’s completely normal and I see nothing wrong with it. I can pretty much guarantee that I won’t be able to find any texts on my phone from that long ago. Plenty of people delete their messages for extra storage or just because they want to. It doesn’t really seem to me like a very incriminating piece of evidence, and I would like to see a little bit more before I believe he deleted them to hide whatever he was talking about.”

He also said of the suspension length, “A three week suspension is good enough for something that was wrong to do, but was not [firing-worthy]. Urban obviously did not commit any criminal actions committed by Zach Smith, but saw him as family and felt he needed to protect him. From what it seems like to me, Meyer did not know 100 percent what was going on and had only heard rumors about Zach Smith’s actions. Because of that, Meyer decided to hold on to the coach for longer than he should have, and has paid the price for it.”

Most would have been quite as sympathetic towards Meyer, but “most” are also not Ohio State fans. It’s true that we really don’t know everything, but just about everything we do know points in the direction of Urban being guilty. WHS junior Caitlin Callahan disagreed with Rieder, claiming that, “His punishment should have been much [harsher] than it was.”

After Ohio State announced its findings, the university held a press conference on August 22, and Meyer spoke to the media. This is when things went even further south for Meyer. He came off as childish in his press conference, acting as if he was the victim part of the time. He refused to mention Courtney Smith’s name, yet apologized to “Buckeye Nation” multiple times. Finally, when asked what he would say to Courtney Smith, he replied, “I’m sorry we’re in this situation.” Really? That’s what you would say?

 

urban

Urban Meyer speaking at the press conference on August 22. PHOTO CREDIT: Paul Vernon, AP

Urban caught a lot of flak for his words at the press conference. As bad as the situation already was for him, it had somehow gotten worse. A couple of days later, he tweeted this statement:

“Dear Buckeye Nation:

My heart is heavy today as I witness the toll that events of the past week have taken on the Buckeye Family and the university community that I love so dearly.

When I stand before the 105 young men in our football program and talk about core values and doing the right thing and respecting women, it is not lip-service. I genuinely believe that we have an obligation to help develop the young men in our charge into positive change agents and that responsibility rests with me.

Over the past several days, I have been portrayed as being indifferent to domestic violence and as someone who did not take appropriate action, when warranted. While over three decades of coaching I have learned to ignore how others define me, I do feel it necessary to share the truth with the Buckeye family.

Here is the truth: While at the University of Florida, and now at The Ohio State University, 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.

The power of what I say and how I say it, especially regarding sensitive and serious domestic issues, has never been more evident than now. My words, whether in a reply to a reporter’s question or in addressing a personnel issue, must be clear, compassionate and most of all, completely accurate. Unfortunately, at Big Ten Media Days on July 24th, I failed on many of these fronts. My intention was not to say anything inaccurate or misleading. However, I was not adequately prepared to discuss these sensitive personnel issues with the media, and I apologize for the way I handled those questions.

I understand that there are more questions to be answered and I look forward to doing just that with the independent investigators retained by the University and I will cooperate fully with them. At the appropriate time, I will also address the questions and speculation in a public forum. But for now, out of respect for the ongoing inquiry, I will refrain at this time.

Please know that the truth is the ultimate power and I am confident that I took appropriate action. As I stated above, I deeply regret if I have failed in my words. As the son of an amazing woman and the husband to another and, as the father of two incredible young women, those who know me best know the admiration and respect I have for all women. Our core values are just that—values that do not ever waver.

I ask that you continue to support the incredible coaches and student-athletes in our program, and I look forward to rejoining them soon.

Sincerely,

Urban”

That’s a decent apology, so kudos to whoever wrote it, whether it was Urban or not. Nevertheless, it was all too late, and, really, this all just seems like a horrible situation that wasn’t treated with nearly the care that it should have been. Not only did Urban Meyer not report a member of his staff who was abusing his then-wife, he then went on to tell media that he had no recurrence of these events.

But, he got away with it, receiving a very weak suspension. Now one has to wonder how much this will tarnish the outstanding coaching career he has had. Time will tell.

 

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