Ohio State Places Head Coach Urban Meyer on Paid Leave Amid Questions Over Whether he Knew Longtime Aide Was Abusing Wife

NEW ORLEANS, LA – JANUARY 01: Head coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes looks on prior to the All State Sugar Bowl against the Alabama Crimson Tide at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 1, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Urban Meyer, the head coach of Ohio State University’s football team, was put on paid leave as the school investigates accusations that he knew about domestic-abuse allegations against his longtime assistant, Zach Smith, since 2015. “During the inquiry, Urban Meyer will be on paid administrative leave. Ryan Day will serve as acting head football coach during the investigation,” the university wrote in a statement. Meyer, in his own statement, said he was leaving so the football team could “conduct training camp with minimal distraction,” adding that he “eagerly looks forward to the resolution of this matter.” Meyer has said that he had no knowledge of abuse allegations against Smith, who was fired last week and served a domestic-violence civil protection order from his ex-wife, Courtney Smith. Meyer later conceded that he knew about a 2009 accusation involving Smith and his then-pregnant wife. This comes after college football reporter Brett McMurphy obtained screenshots of text conversations between Courtney Smith and spouses of other Ohio State coaches. Urban’s wife, Shelly, told the others that she would notify her husband of the incident and was reportedly supportive of Courtney Smith over the years.

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Ohio State football’s head coach Urban Meyer knew in 2015 about domestic-abuse allegations against Zach Smith, his longtime assistant who was fired last week, according to a report from college-football reporter Brett McMurphy.

McMurphy reportedly obtained screenshots of text messages between Smith’s ex-wife and the wives of other Ohio State coaches that demonstrate Meyer’s knowledge of the situation.

As recently as last week, Meyer said he had limited knowledge of Smith’s domestic-violence history, including two incidents in 2015 that the nearby Powell Police Department investigated.

“I was never told about anything,” Meyer said last week during Big Ten Media Days. “Never anything came to light, never had a conversation about it. So I know nothing about it. I asked people back at the office to call and see what happened, and they came back and said they know nothing.”

Meyer did concede on July 24 that he was aware of 2009 abuse allegations against Smith, when he was on Meyer’s staff at the University of Florida. In that incident, Smith allegedly shoved his pregnant wife against a wall during an argument. He was arrested but never charged, according to Cleveland.com.

Smith, a former wide-receivers coach, recruiting coordinator, and longtime member of Meyer’s staff, was served last week with a domestic-violence civil protection order filed by his ex-wife. Sports Illustrated reports that Smith is now prohibited from going within 500 feet of Courtney Smith for at least five years.

According to the messages cited by McMurphy, Meyer’s wife of nearly three decades, Shelley Meyer, knew about the abuse and was supportive of Courtney Smith over the past several years.

“Shelley said she was going to have to tell Urban,” Courtney reportedly told McMurphy. “I said, ‘That’s fine, you should tell Urban.’ I know Shelley did everything she could.”

“All the (coaches’) wives knew,” Courtney told McMurphy. “They all did. Every single one.”

McMurphy broke the news of 34-year-old Smith’s firing last week, reporting that a Delaware, Ohio, court found Courtney Smith to be “in immediate and present danger of domestic violence and for good cause the following temporary orders are necessary to protect the persons named (Courtney Smith and her two children) in this order from domestic violence.”

According to McMurphy’s reporting last week, Smith was charged last Wednesday with misdemeanor criminal trespassing, and, in previous years, Smith was arrested in 2009 on an aggravated battery charge involving his then-wife.

“Zach once told me,” Courtney Smith told McMurphy, “if he ever got fired and this all comes out: ‘I’ll take everyone at Ohio State down with me.’”

Meyer has led teams to three national championships, including two at the University of Florida and one at Ohio State in 2014. According to USA Today, Meyer is the highest-paid public-university coach in the college game, set to make $7.6 million this season. The Sporting News’ preseason rankings have put the Ohio State Buckeyes at No. 4.

SOURCE: The Daily Beast – Olivia Messer