Urban Meyer investigation: Ohio State’s full report reveals more questions

Ohio State's preliminary release of findings from an investigation of football coach Urban Meyer revealed some important answers following a month of uncertainty.

The publication of the full report later Wednesday night offered more insight into what investigators discovered.

The full report also raised more questions.

Here are more significant details of the full report:

1. All the bad things Zach Smith did. 

During a press conference late Wednesday night, Meyer admitted ignoring red flags from his receivers coach — the grandson of Earle Bruce, Meyer’s mentor.

The full report revealed just how many times Meyer had to look past to keep Smith on staff for so long.

"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 cyber crimes." 

Investigators learned Smith missed recruiting visits, was regularly late to practice, had an affair with a football staff secretary, took sexually explicit photos of himself at the White House and the OSU football facilities and had sex toys delivered to him at the office.

Meyer was not aware of all of those activities, but he did reprimand Smith for being “late and otherwise unreliable” and was aware Smith entered rehab for addition to prescription drug problem in 2016.

Meyer also knew Smith ran up a $600 bill at a strip club in Florida on a recruiting trip in 2014 and was accompanied by at least one high school coach. The head coach’s response was to ban such activities in the future and warn Smith he would be fired if it happened again.


2. So why was Zach Smith finally fired in July? 

This is a question that has burned for nearly a month, and his continued presence on the staff became even more curious in light of the damming report from the independent working group.

Meyer said he ultimately decided to terminate Smith in July due to an accumulation of events and because Smith failed to inform him he faced a trespassing charge from a disputed child exchange with his ex-wife.

Smith was also served with a domestic violence civil protection order, something that represented “actual evidence” (as the report author puts it) of wrongdoing in Meyer’s eyes. That is in contrast to incidents in 2009 and ’15 when Smith’s then-wife, Courtney, accused him of abusing her. In 2009, she ultimately was convinced to drop charges, and in ‘15 charges were never brought.


3. Did Meyer delete texts from his phone? 

The report also notes a curious response from Meyer upon learning of an Aug. 1 media report accusing him of knowing about the 2015 domestic violence allegation against Zach Smith.

After hearing about the story from staff member Brian Voltolini, the two discussed adjusting the settings on Meyer’s phone so it would only save text messages from the past year.

"Our review of Coach Meyer's phone revealed no messages older than one year, indicating that at the time it was obtained by OSU on Aug. 2, Coach Meyer's phone was set to retain text messages only for that period, as Coach Meyer and Brian Voltolini discussed. We cannot determine, however, whether Coach Meyer's phone was set to retain messages only for one year in response to the Aug. 1 media report or at some earlier time. It is nonetheless concerning that his first reaction to a negative media piece exposing his knowledge of the 2015-2016 law enforcement investigation was to worry about the media getting access to information and discussing how to delete messages older than a year." 

The investigators also note being unable to retrieve text messages from certain witnesses, including Voltilini, Zach Smith and OSU director of athletics Gene Smith.

4. What Shelley Meyer knew. 

The report confirmed Meyer’s wife was in contact with Courtney Smith about the incident in 2015, noting, “Shelley Meyer was generally supportive toward Courtney Smith and express concern.”

However, Shelley Meyer apparently told the investigators she did not share concerns or photographs with her husband “because she had doubts about the veracity of Courtney Smith’s allegations.”

Both Meyers maintained they did not discuss the allegations in 2015, but the committee expressed skepticism there.

"Given the closeness of their relationship and Shelley's concerns, we believe it is likely that Shelley and Urban Meyer had at least some communication about these allegations in late 2015 and were concerned about them, although both had doubts about the credibility of Courtney's claims, based on, among other things, Zach Smith's denials and their belief that Courtney Smith's 2009 allegations had been false; by late October 2015, Coach Meyer knew of Courtney Smith's domestic violence complaints against Zach Smith through his knowledge of the 2015-2016 law enforcement investigation." 

5. Urban Meyer has “memory issues.” 

In digging into what the head coach knew about the 2015 incident and how he handled questions about it at Big Ten Media Days in Chicago, the committee uncovered a surprising detail about the head coach.

"We also learned during the investigation that Coach Meyer has sometimes had significant memory issues in other situations where he had prior extensive knowledge of events. He has also periodically taken medicine that can negatively impair his memory, concentration, and focus." 

The committee considered those factors when considering if Meyer intentionally lied when asked about what he knew of the 2015 allegations against Zach Smith.

"Weighing all of the evidence available to us, including Coach Meyer's answers and demeanor when questioned during the Independent Investigation, we find, first, that Coach Meyer, at Big Ten Media Days, misstated his lack of knowledge of all relevant events regarding alleged domestic violence by Zach Smith in 2015. Second, although it is a close question and we cannot rule out that Coach Meyer was intentionally misleading in his answers, we do not ultimately find that he was. He clearly misspoke and made misstatements, but the reasons that happened are complex. Coach Meyer did not, in our view, deliberately lie." 

Based on the results of the investigation, Meyer was suspended without pay until Sept. 2. He also must miss the first three Ohio State games.

OSU director of athletics also received a two-week suspension without pay for not reporting allegations against Zach Smith to the university’s compliance department.

About the Author