COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State University football coach Urban Meyer was suspended for three games without pay in the wake of an investigation into exactly what he knew about spousal abuse allegations leveled against former assistant coach Zach Smith, the university announced Wednesday night.
Athletic Director Gene Smith was suspended without pay from August 31 to September 16, according to a summary of the investigative findings and university actions.
“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 summary said.
Meyer said he wanted to apologize to Ohio State fans.
“I’m fully aware I’m ultimately responsible for this situation,” Meyer said. “I followed my heart and not my head. At each juncture, I gave Zach Smith the benefit of the doubt.”
The school said that Meyer is suspended through September 2, 2018, and for the games on September 1, 8, and 15 without pay. Smith is suspended without pay from August 31-September 16.
The announcement followed an 11-hour meeting held by the Ohio State University Board of Trustees discussing the job status of the famed football coach and three-time national championship winner.
Ohio State put Meyer on paid leave August 1, saying it wanted to investigate exactly what he knew about the allegations leveled against former assistant coach Zach Smith.
Ohio State fired Smith on July 23, three days after he was served with a civil protection order on behalf of his ex-wife, Courtney Smith. She has accused her former husband of abuse, including domestic violence in 2009 and 2015.
The day after Smith’s firing, Meyer told reporters that he knew about the 2009 allegation, but didn’t know about the 2015 allegation.
Then Courtney Smith told Stadium, a sports network, that she told Shelley Meyer about the alleged 2015 incident that year — leading to speculation about whether the coach did know.
Ohio State, already embroiled in separate scandals involving alleged sex abuse by a now-deceased athletics doctor and a diving coach, put Meyer on leave and formed a group led by a former Securities and Exchange Commission chairwoman to conduct an investigation.
Meyer later said that he had been inadequately prepared to discuss the issue in late July, and that he had “followed reporting protocols and procedures … regarding the Zach Smith incident in 2015.”
Zach Smith told ESPN on August 3 that he indeed discussed the 2015 incident with Meyer as police investigated the matter. Meyer told him that “if I find out you hit her, you’re done,” Smith recalled to ESPN.
Meyer said Wednesday his relationship with Earle Bruce, the former coach and Meyers’ mentor, likely impacted his judgment. Bruce was Zach Smith’s grandfather.
“I did not know everything about Zach Smith and what Zach Smith was doing and the report made this clear,” Meyer said. “I should have been more demanding of him, as I am of my players. … I should have done more.”
Smith and Meyer both said the coach “could have done a better job” at a Big Ten media day, when he said he knew about the 2009 incident involving Smith, but not the 2015 incident.
“He was not as complete and accurate on media day and didn’t uphold the standard of the university on that day,” Smith said.
Meyer has one of the best college football winning percentages of all time, with 188 wins and only 34 losses in 17 years.