Ohio State University head coach Urban Meyer may have known about abuse allegations against former wide receivers coach Zach Smith, according to a report from a college football insider.
Smith was fired last week after it was reported that his ex-wife Courtney filed for a domestic violence restraining order that was granted.
Meyer denied knowing about the 2015 allegations against Smith at Big Ten Media Day last Tuesday, July 24.
“I can’t say it didn’t happen because I wasn’t there. I was never told about anything. Never anything came to light, never had a conversation about it. So I know nothing about it,” Meyer said. “If I did, I would have made a change, you know, or I would not have done it. So obviously I made a decision that we were gonna move forward with him on our staff.”
Brett McMurphy, formerly of ESPN, says he obtained text messages from Courtney Smith that appear to show Meyer’s wife Shelley had talked with her about the abuse.
“I am with you!” says a message purportedly sent from Shelley Meyer to Courtney Smith in 2015. “A lot of women stay hoping it will get better. I don’t blame you! But just want u to be safe. Do you have a restraining order? He scares me.”
In a video posted by Stadium Video, Courtney Smith said she did not know if Shelley Meyer ever told her husband about the alleged abuse.
“Shelley said she was going to have to tell Urban. I said, ‘That’s fine, you should tell Urban.’ I know Shelley did everything she could,” Smith says in the interview.
Other alleged texts with Lindsey Voltolini, wife of football operations director Brian Voltolini, appear to confirm Meyer knew. McMurphy posted a photo of one text that he said was between Courtney Smith and Lindsey Voltolini. Here is a segment of the alleged exchange.
Smith: “(Zach’s) trying to make me look crazy bc that’s what Shelley is saying (he’s doing),”
Voltolini: “He (Urban) just said he (Zach) denied everything.”
Smith: “I hope urban is smarter than that,” says Smith.
Voltolini: “He (Urban) doesn’t know what to think.”
Smith: “I don’t really care. Ya know.”
Voltolini: “Yeah, don’t worry about urb.”
Smith’s attorney, Brad Koffel, provided a statement to ESPN’s Dan Murphy:
Zach Smith wants to be as transparent and honest as possible but it is not going to be done today through the media. It will only be after he and his ex-wife are sworn in to testify. Once he gets his chance to tell his side of events, don’t be surprised when it is corroborated by every police who ever responded to Ms. Smith’s calls.
Smith was accused of aggravated battery on his then-pregnant wife in 2009 while he was a graduate assistant on Meyer’s staff at Florida. The charge was dropped because of insufficient evidence, and Meyer brought Smith along when he took over Ohio State before the 2012 season.
“In 2009 Zach was an intern, a very young couple,” Meyer said at Big Ten Media Day. “As I do many times, most coaches and people in leadership positions, you receive a phone call, first thing you do is tell your boss, let the experts do their jobs. We’re certainly not going to investigate.
“It came back to me that what was reported wasn’t actually what happened. And Shelley (Meyer’s wife) and I actually both got involved because of our relationship with that family and advised for counseling and wanted to help as we moved forward.”
The Smiths got divorced in 2016. Asked if Smith’s firing had anything to do with the allegations becoming public, Meyer acknowledged it was a factor.
“I really don’t care about that,” Meyer said. “I try to stay focused on what’s the most important thing. That’s our players and our team.”
NBC4 has reached out to attorneys for Zach and Courtney Smith, as well as to Courtney Smith directly.
NBC4 has also reached out to The Ohio State University for comments from Urban Meyer, athletics director Gene Smith, and university president Michael Drake.