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Ohio State

Meyer explains Smith firing: Change needed to be made

CHICAGO — Urban Meyer said he was aware of the domestic violence arrest of assistant coach Zach Smith in 2009, but the Ohio State head coach didn’t know the full scope of the incident report, which included details about Smith abusing his then-pregnant wife, Courtney.

“It was a young couple,” Meyer told a group of reporters. “He was an intern for us. Any time I get a phone call or something like that, I tell my boss and let the experts do their job. It came to me what happened, we advised them counseling and moved forward. There were no charges, and what was reported was not what was told to me afterwards.”

Smith, Ohio State’s wide receivers coach, was fired Monday, three days after his ex-wife filed a protective order against him and on the same day that the details from the 2009 incident were revealed by college football reporter Brett McMurphy. According to the police report, Smith grabbed Courtney, who was 8-10 weeks pregnant, by her T-shirt and shoved her against the wall, though no charges were filed.

WATCH: Urban Meyer on Zach Smith

Meyer described firing Smith as a “tough call” and something he did “in the best interest of our team.” 

One of the stated core values of Meyer’s teams at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida, and Ohio State has been to treat women with respect. When asked where Smith’s actions fell, Meyer said, “There's a difference between a mistake and core values. Mistakes are correctable.” 

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Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer speaks at the Big Ten Conference NCAA college football Media Days in Chicago, Tuesday, July 24, 2018.

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The civil protection order, filed in Delaware County, details a history of domestic violence allegations against Smith, the grandson of former OSU coach Earle Bruce. The protection order, which doesn’t allow Smith within 500 feet of his ex-wife, says Courtney “is in immediate and present danger of domestic violence and for good cause the following temporary orders are necessary.”

Eleven Warriors also reported Monday that there was a 2015 allegation against Smith. Meyer said he was unaware of that incident.

RELATED: Ohio State fires Zach Smith, but Urban Meyer still has explaining to do

“There was nothing,” Meyer said. “I don't know who creates a story like that.” 

But Tuesday the Powell (Ohio) Police Department confirmed that Smith was investigated for felony counts of domestic violence and felonious assault in October, 2015, and menacing by stalking in November. No charges were filed. 

Smith’s attorney, Brad Koffel, said in a tweet that “OSU was put in a corner by the unfounded accusations of an ex-wife who weaponized 9-1-1 many times over the years. Many ex-husbands know exactly what is going on here as well as every single police officer that ever responded to their home.”

Asked why he hired Smith in 2012 after knowing about the 2009 incident, Meyer said he felt comfortable with the information he had. 

“My comments about '09, obviously a long time ago, but whenever you get an accusation you contact your superior and wait to find out what happened,” Meyer said. “You let the people do their jobs. You let, I guess, the course to run its course and find out and ask them, because they're experts.

“It came back to me. We found out what happened, according to both parties, according to everything. We met with them. There were no charges. Everything was dropped. There was a very young couple and I saw a very talented coach, and we moved forward.”

Meyer said Ohio State will name a new receivers coach this week. The expectation is that offensive quality control assistant Brian Hartline, a former OSU wide receiver who played seven years in the NFL, will be promoted.

“This is a very unique situation,” Meyer said. 

Sports writer Nick Piotrowicz contributed to this report.

Contact Kyle Rowland at krowland@theblade.com, 419-724-6110, or on Twitter @KyleRowland.

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