Ohio State coach Urban Meyer resumed his full-time duties Monday morning, marking the end of his three-game suspension. And for the first time since an investigation began into his handling over domestic violence allegations tied to former assistant coach Zach Smith, Meyer spoke extensively with the media about the situation and moving forward.
In a wide-ranging news conference that lasted 55 minutes, Meyer talked about what he did and didn’t know about the relationship between Smith and his ex-wife Courtney, about the difficult times coaches have dealing with off-field issues and about where he stands with Ohio State.
Meyer started the news conference by apologizing for comments he made at Big Ten Media Days in July, when he denied knowing about allegations of domestic violence in the Smiths’ relationship.
“I want to be really clear that there was zero intent to mislead,” he said.
He discussed his time working with Smith and spoke of the strong reference checks about Smith when Meyer decided to hire him at Ohio State in 2012. When Meyer coached in Florida, Smith was a graduate assistant there, and Meyer had a strong relationship with his grandfather, late Buckeyes coach Earle Bruce.
He said that when he heard of domestic violence accusations in 2015, he told Smith he would be fired on the spot if they were true. But no charges were filed, and Meyer said law enforcement assured him the couple’s issues were related to a messy divorce and not domestic violence.
“My mistake was not asking enough questions” and instead relying on law enforcement, he said.
Through the Smith situation, Meyer said he has learned he needs help dealing with handling off-field issues, adding they have become increasingly more complex as his coaching career has gone on. He said he needs to learn just how far he should go to help a troubled employee
Meyer said a constant refrain in his program is how women should be treated and he regrets Zach Smith’s family had to suffer in any way.
“I’m very sorry. No two children and a wife should have to go through this,” he said.
Meyer, who was raised in Ohio, said he regrets the hits Ohio State’s reputation — as well as his own — have taken throughout this ordeal. His relationship with university president Michael Drake and athletic director Gene Smith is strong, he said, as is his passion for the school.
“My love is unwavering for Ohio State, even more so now.”
Regarding other issues that surfaced in the university’s investigation that led to his suspension, he said he never ordered text messages to be deleted from his phone, and this his wife did not share with him what she knew about domestic violence allegations in 2015. As far as reports of a foggy memory, he said he took “some pretty heavy meds” for a prior medical condition but that his coaching wasn’t affected.
“I’m very healthy. I’ve had cyst issues and one surgery” and takes medication,” the 54-year-old Meyer said.
He thanked co-offensive coordinator Ryan Day, who led the Buckeyes to a 3-0 record as acting head coach, and expressed his pride in the players.
“I knew coach Day was a difference-maker when we hired him. His professionalism and what he’s done is phenomenal,” Meyer said.
Early Monday, before the news conference, Meyer released a statement on Twitter.
“I should have done a better job, and I’ll always regret that I didn’t,” Meyer said about his handling of Smith. “My time away from the program in August gave me a chance to reflect and it gave me a chance to learn a great deal from these events. I want to be clear, I do not — never have and never will — condone domestic abuse.”
Meyer said in his statement this has been an eye opener for him.
“What I’ve learned from this experience will make me a better manager and a better leader. I’m working to ensure I do a better job.
“As I resume handling all my regular duties as Ohio State’s Head Football Coach, I am mindful of the privilege I have been given and all the responsibilities that go with it. I commit to discharging them well as we move forward.”
—Field Level Media