Ohio State University has decided to suspend head coach Urban Meyer for three games at the beginning of the 2018 OSU football season. This follows a paid administrative leave during which the school investigated Meyer's mishandling of domestic abuse allegations made against former assistant coach Zach Smith.
Zach Smith was fired on July 23 after he was served a civil protection order on behalf of his ex-wife, Courtney Smith. The order, which was signed July 20, is effective until 2023. It prohibits Zach Smith from going within 500 feet of his ex-wife.
College football reporter Brett McMurphy detailed a series of domestic violations against Smith dating back from 2009 to 2015.
After Smith was fired, Meyer was asked about the allegations during the Big Ten Conference Media Day.
Meyer said he and his wife were aware of an incident involving Zach and Courtney Smith in 2009 while they were still married. Meyer said he and his wife, Shelley Meyer, "actually both got involved because of our relationship with that family and advised counseling and wanted to help as we moved forward."
A special board was formed to investigate Meyer's conduct. Throughout the investigation, more than 40 witnesses were interviewed. The board also reviewed more than 60,000 emails and 10,000 texts, in addition to relevant media reports, police reports, court filings, employment contracts, OSU rules, NCAA and Big Ten rules and applicable state and federal laws.
As a result of the inquiry, the board found that Meyer was aware of the allegations of domestic violence against Smith, and while he made significant misstatements about his knowledge of the allegations at the Big Ten Media Days, he did not deliberately lie in order to keep Smith on the coaching staff in the face of evidence of domestic violence by Smith. Investigators also felt he showed "a sincere commitment to the respect for women core values that he espouses and tries to instill in his players," the university said.
The independent counsel also believed that if Meyer ever came to learn or believe that Smith had physically abused his now ex-wife, he would have fired Smith on the spot.
OSU President Michael Drake said the board deliberated for ten hours on Wednesday before making a decision. Ultimately, the board decided Meyer failed to take sufficient action as a manager toward Smith and felt he did not uphold the high standards of the university.
Meyer is suspended without pay for the first three games on Sept. 1, 8 and 15.
In a press conference Wednesday night, Meyer said he appreciates the opportunity to learn from his mistake and will work hard to make the OSU football program better.
Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith was also suspended starting Aug. 31 - Sept. 16.