COLUMBUS — Aug. 3 is a day that won’t soon be forgotten in Columbus or across the state of Ohio.
In a two-hour span, Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer released a statement on Twitter apologizing for his comments at Big Ten media days regarding the 2015 domestic abuse allegations against former wide receivers coach Zach Smith, while reaffirming that he took the necessary steps to report what he knew to proper authorities.
Meanwhile, Smith did a media tour, appearing first on a Columbus radio station and then ESPN’s SportsCenter.
“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,” Meyer wrote. “And, I did so regarding the Zach Smith incident in 2015."
Meyer was placed on paid administrative leave Wednesday. A special, independent board, which will investigate Meyer, was announced by Ohio State’s board of trustees Thursday.
Minutes after Meyer released his statement, Smith appeared on the radio denying that he ever committed physical abuse against his ex-wife, Courtney.
"There was never domestic abuse," Smith said. "I never hit her, I never got arrested, never got charged, I got investigated twice, and no charges came about because I didn't do anything physically to harm her."
Zach Smith was arrested in 2009 as an assistant on Meyer's staff at the University of Florida after Courtney, who was pregnant at the time, called police and alleged he threw her into a wall. In October and November of 2015, the Powell Police Department investigated Zach Smith for potential domestic violence and stalking incidents, but no charges were filed in either 2009 or ‘15.
In November, 2015, Courtney Smith obtained a restraining order. Two days later, she filed for divorce.
Smith was fired July 23 when the police reports from 2009 and 2015 were unearthed. That came after Courtney Smith received a domestic violence civil protection order July 20. A court hearing scheduled for Friday in Delaware County regarding that order was postponed.
Speaking in the radio interview Friday, Smith claimed that Gene Smith was aware of the 2015 domestic abuse allegations, for the first time drawing the Ohio State athletic director into the situation.
“I found out about the allegation because I was out recruiting on a bye week,” Zach Smith said on 105.7 The Zone. “Gene Smith called me and said, ‘Zach, you need to get on the next plane home. Your ex-wife is accusing of you abuse.’”
Zach Smith said he believes the Powell Police Department notified the university of the situation, not Meyer.
"If [Urban] loses his job, it's flat wrong," Zach Smith said on SportsCenter. “And this is the guy who fired me. It would be a crime.”
In the eight-paragraph statement, which Meyer address to “Buckeye Nation,” he said, “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 defined 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.”
Meyer’s punishment stems from a statement made at Big Ten media days July 24 — one day after Smith was fired — denying that he knew anything about the alleged incidents in 2015.
“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,” Meyer wrote in his statement. “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."
When Zach Smith asked about photos obtained by college football reporter Brett McMurphy of Courtney Smith featuring cuts and bruises she allege came from domestic incidents, he said he restrained Courtney Smith when squabbles got out of hand and called the 2009 arrest in Gainesville, Fla., “an argument gone bad.”
Following that incident and again in 2015, Meyer, according to Smith, said, “I swear to God, Zach, if I found out you hit her, you’re done.”
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