Urban Meyer shifted uncomfortably in his seat as Ohio State’s lead investigator Mary Jo White revealed some of the findings of the investigation into the handling of the Zach Smith scandal. It was clear on his face Meyer would have chosen to be anywhere else on the planet.
Can you blame him?
The university’s report pulled back the cover on the 54-year-old head coach’s handling of the situation and — along with the subsequent press conference — revealed, with stark clarity, something many have known for years: Meyer is a deceitful coward.
If you think I’m being harsh you clearly haven’t slogged through all 23 pages of the report released Wednesday night. It reveals that at every turn, Meyer and the rest of Ohio State’s administration had one goal above all others: protect the football program and its head coach.
Meyer knew about Smith’s 2009 domestic violence incident, one the investigators said they believed Courtney Smith never recanted. (That incident happened after a party at the Meyer’s house earlier in the evening, according to the report). Meyer and his wife Shelley met with Zach Smith about it, but somehow decided not to inform anyone at Ohio State about the incident when Smith was hired in 2011. A subsequent background check done by the university did not “call for or return arrest information.”
When Meyer first set his eyes on Brett McMurphy’s article that all but proved the head coach knew about the 2015-16 law enforcement investigation into Smith’s conduct, his reaction was troubling. Rather than admit a mistake, express concern or publicly come clean, he talked with a football staffer about deleting his text message history so the media couldn’t obtain it. Specifically he wanted to change the settings so messages older than a year would be wiped off the phone.
When Meyer turned his phone over to Ohio State, it had no text messages more than a year old on it.
The timeline of Smith’s firing is also revealing. When informing his staff that Smith was being let go he told them to have, “Zero conversation about Zach’s past issues.” That proves the entire staff knew Smith was a problem, likely for an extended period of time.
Meyer’s wife, Shelley, contacted her husband later that night and said:
“I am worried about Zach’s response. He drinks a lot and I am just not sure how stable he will be. Afraid he will do something dangerous. It’s obvious he has anger/rage issues already.”
If any normal human got that message, he would immediately call his wife, calm her down and work out what steps to take to make sure nothing terrible happened. That could involve contacting law enforcement, informing Courtney Smith of the situation, or at least telling his wife he would get in touch with Zach Smith and make sure he wasn’t going to do anything drastic.
Urban Meyer never responded to that text.
Later that same night, Meyer saw additional media reports about Smith’s arrests in both 2009 and 2015 and he reached out Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith and other athletic department personnel. He claimed he didn’t know about those instances (we now know he did) and his concern wasn’t for the alleged victim or her children, it was how he should answer questions about it at Big Ten Media Days. His concern was, “Need some guidance here so when I speak to the media I’m not wrong.”
Hey Urban, how about you tell the damn truth, however ugly it may be?
Zach Smith was not spared in the report. This section is simply incredible:
In the course of our review, as the factual discussion in this summary reflects, we identified a pattern of troubling behavior by Zach Smith: promiscuous and embarrassing sexual behavior, drug abuse, truancy, dishonesty, financial irresponsibility, a possible NCAA violation, and a lengthy police investigation into allegations of criminal domestic violence and cybercrimes. Repeatedly, Zach Smith’s conduct was met with reprimands and warnings by Coach Meyer, but never a written report, never an investigation and no disciplinary action until July 23, 2018.
It’s clear Meyer knew all of this for years and never did anything about it. He knew Smith was a trainwreck yet allowed him to stay on staff, continued to pay him a hefty salary and enabled his behavior by refusing to issue punishment.
Maybe the best part of the report was the revelation that, no, Meyer didn’t “lie” to the press at Big Ten Media Days, he just forgot what he knew. You see, he takes a medication that causes significant memory loss at times.
Does anyone on the planet actually believe that? Seriously?
This whole thing was a joke and it was designed to justify putting Meyer back on the field as soon as possible. As things stand he’ll be sidelined for three games, then slither back onto the field at Ohio Stadium on September 22.
Let’s review this, shall we?
When Meyer found out about the 2009 incident what did he do to help prevent a recurrence? Nothing.
When his wife was worried about Smith potentially being violent or dangerous again, did Meyer act? No. Instead he worried about what to say to the press so it didn’t look like he was lying. In the end, he failed at that too.
When a story proving he lied at Big Ten Media Days surfaced, did he step up and be a man, admitting to his mistake? Nope, he worried about deleting text messages and covering his own ass.
When caught in a lie, did Meyer step up and take responsibility? No, he claimed his medication made him forget things.
Heroes and men of substance step up and make decisive, difficult decisions in times of crisis. Meyer shrunk from that responsibility at every turn. His concern was only for himself and whatever tattered legacy he may have left.
During the press conference, Meyer took questions and it did not go well. Given the chance to address Courtney Smith, the woman at the center of this scandal, Meyer did something he’s loathe to do on the field. He punted.
He could have reached out, apologized for not acting faster, for not taking her claims seriously in 2009 or for not firing her ex-husband sooner when it was clear to everyone how unstable he was. He could have wished her and her children the best and taken responsibility for enabling Zach Smith’s behavior for years. Instead, Meyer directed his answer to “everyone involved in this” and said “I’m sorry we’re in this situation.”
Seriously? You’ve had weeks to prepare for a question you absolutely knew was coming and you came up with that? Hell, Meyer should be fired solely for that answer.
Watching Meyer Wednesday night was instructive. As he sat there melting into an ill-fitting grey suit on that dais, the real man inside that rigid carcass was revealed. What we saw was not a proud leader of men willing to take on all comers. Instead, the fleshy puddle left in front of us was a shrinking violet delicately avoiding any semblance of responsibility.
Meyer was finally exposed as nothing more than a feckless coward.