COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State on Wednesday night suspended head football coach Urban Meyer for the first three games of this season after a two-week investigation found that he mishandled domestic assault allegations made against former Buckeyes assistant coach Zach Smith and misrepresented what he knew about the situation in a public statement in July.
Meyer was suspended without pay and banned from interacting with the football team through Sept. 2. He can rejoin the team at that point, but he will not be able to coach in games against Oregon State, Rutgers and No. 16 TCU.
Meyer said Wednesday his allegiance to former mentor and Buckeyes coach Earle Bruce, Zach Smith’s grandfather, clouded his judgment and caused him to miss red flags about the former assistant’s behavior.
“I followed my heart and not my head,” Meyer said in a news conference. “… I gave Zach Smith the benefit of the doubt.”
Ohio State also suspended athletic director Gene Smith without pay for more than two weeks. His suspension will take effect Aug. 31 and will finish Sept. 16. Smith said he failed as a leader to alert others to red flags about Zach Smith’s conduct after he learned that police were investigating accusations of domestic abuse in 2015.
“Although neither Urban Meyer nor Gene Smith condoned or covered up the alleged domestic abuse by Zach Smith, they failed to take sufficient management action relating to Zach Smith’s misconduct and retained an Assistant Coach who was not performing as an appropriate role model for OSU student-athletes,” the school said in a statement outlining the investigation’s findings.
“Permitting such misconduct to continue is not consistent with the values of the University and reflects poorly on Coach Meyer, Athletic Director Smith, and the University. Their handling of this matter did not exhibit the kind of leadership and high standards that we expect of our Athletic Director, Head Coach, Assistant Coaches and all on the football staff.”
Following Wednesday night’s announcement of the suspensions, Ohio State released a 23-page document detailing all of the investigation’s findings.
Though the school said in its outline of findings that Meyer did not attempt to cover up any of Zach Smith’s actions, the findings call into question Meyer’s behavior after a story by college football reporter Brett McMurphy that detailed allegations against Smith made by his ex-wife, Courtney, that included a series of text messages.