Not long after Urban Meyer issued a statement clarifying and defending his actions in regards to domestic violence allegations against a former assistant, that former assistant spoke up himself.
Zach Smith, the Ohio State receivers coach who was fired July 23 after being charged with violating a protective order against his ex-wife, Courtney, told 105.7 The Zone in Columbus and ESPN he had not committed any acts of domestic violence.
Smith told ESPN that he had conversations with both director of athletics Gene Smith and Meyer about a 2015 domestic violence allegation that has been the catalyst for Meyer being put on administrative leave this week.
“I told (Meyer), ‘Courtney is accusing me that I committed domestic violence. I didn’t,’ ” Zach Smith told ESPN’s Dan Murphy. “I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m going to meet with the investigator to find out what the deal is.
“I told the police anything that happened to her body was a defensive action to remove myself from the situation.”
Zach Smith said Meyer’s response was to look at him and say, “'Zach, if you hit her, you’re fired immediately.’ And I looked at him and I said, ‘Coach, if I hit her, I wouldn’t even be here. I know how you feel about that. If I hit her, I wouldn’t come to work. I would know, it’s over.’”
When the interviewer replied, “And you never hit her?” to which Smith said, “No, I never hit her.”
When Powell police ultimately decided not to press charges, Smith said he relayed that decision to Meyer as well.
Asked if Meyer should have looked into the situation deeper, Smith replied, “He’s not a cop. He’s not a detective. He found out the facts he needed to find out.”
Zach Smith also suggested there was nothing else Meyer or Gene Smith needed to do because the incident was already being investigated by police.
“If the police didn’t know, it’s their job to contact the authorities, but the police knew. That’s who told them.”
When presented with the statement Meyer made defending his handling of the entire situation, Zach Smith said he would be “heartbroken” if Meyer were fired as a result of the situation.
“If that happens, it’s dead wrong,” Smith said. “I know exactly what he knew and exactly what he did. If he loses his job, it would be dead wrong. This is the guy who fired me. It would be a crime.”
In both interviews, Zach Smith admitted there were many problems in his marriage.
He estimated there were eight occasions he left when things were beginning to get violent.
“I would just put my hands up to try to stop anything that was going on, to hold her or move her out of the way so that I could go through the doorway or whatever,” Smith said.
Asked how that would create bruises, he replied, “I guess you’d have to be there. If someone is being aggressive with you and you’re trying to defend your actions with that person and you try to grab their arms to stop aggression and get through a doorway to get out of the situation then it’s very possible. I don’t know what else to tell you.
“All I know is I never hit my wife. I never beat her. Nothing. Now, we had a toxic relationship and I’m at fault as much as she is because I did things I should not have done. I was not a good husband. I wasn’t good, great at it, but I never committed domestic violence.”
Asked to explain a photo Courtney Smith shared with national college football reporter Brett McMurphy that showed her hand bloody from a cut she explained came from a tobacco can, Zach Smith said, “I don’t know if it was because of me. She was in a fit about I don’t know what. She grabbed a can of tobacco that I had. She went to pour it on me, and when I tried to stop her from pouring it on me, I went and closed the can and it sliced her hand.
“I was actually asleep when she came to do this and kind of woke up and just grabbed the can of dip to try to not have it happen, and here we are.”
He said he then helped her repair the wound.
“I was terrified. I didn’t mean to do that,” he said.
When ESPN’s Murphy asked if Smith felt like he had done anything wrong, he replied, “Absolutely I did something wrong every time. I pushed her buttons a lot. I knew how to get her going. Like I said, it was a toxic relationship. Both of us did several wrong things. All I’m trying to put out is there was never… domestic violence on my behalf. I did so many things wrong, and I caused a lot of those situations, but that is two separate discussions.”
Not long after the interview aired on ESPN, McMurphy (the independent reporter who first broke the story) followed up with another report in which he shared a screenshot of a text conversation he indicated was between Zach and Courtney Smith.
In that conversation, he appears to acknowledge having strangled her.
Ohio State has opened an investigation into how Meyer handled the situation.
There’s been no indication how long it might last, but the Buckeyes started preparations for the 2018 season without Meyer on Friday morning.
They are scheduled to practice again Saturday and Sunday before taking Monday off.