Urban Meyer’s Fate Unclear as Ohio State Meeting Drags On


COLUMBUS, Ohio — For several hours Wednesday, the Ohio State board of trustees has been meeting behind closed doors to decide what to do about the famed football coach Urban Meyer and what he knew about a domestic violence case involving one of his assistant coaches.

Meyer, one of the most successful coaches in the sport, arrived midmorning at a building just across from the football complex and went inside but, one trustee said, was not attending the meeting there. His wife, Shelley, showed up hours later, too. And in the late afternoon, some eight hours after the board began meeting, the athletic director, Gene Smith, was spotted entering the building, the Longaberger Alumni House.

As evening approached, the clamor of football practice nearby — the season begins Sept. 1 against Oregon State — could be heard under the direction of an interim coach, Ryan Day.

At stake, it seemed, was any disciplinary action the board and President Michael V. Drake would take as a result of a report it commissioned into Meyer’s actions in the domestic violence case involving the assistant coach, Zach Smith, who has been fired.

Meyer has been on paid administrative leave since Aug. 1 after allegations arose in a news report that Meyer knew that Smith had been accused of domestic abuse in 2015. Meyer had initially said he had just learned of the case, but after being put on leave he released a statement saying he misspoke and had “followed proper reporting protocols and procedures” after he had learned of the incident in 2015.

The board on Monday was briefed on the university’s report, written by the former Securities and Exchange Commission chairwoman Mary Jo White and her team from the law firm Debevoise & Plimpton.

Drake is expected to decide Meyer’s fate sometime this week.

Smith was fired July 23 after a report by the independent journalist Brett McMurphy on Facebook said that Smith’s wife, Courtney, had requested a protection order against him and that Smith had also been accused of domestic violence in 2009, when he was an assistant to Meyer at the University of Florida, and in 2015, when they were both at Ohio State.

Courtney Smith, who is now divorced from Zach Smith, had said that Meyer’s wife, Shelley, had extensive knowledge of the abuse allegations in 2015, McMurphy reported. Courtney Smith’s story was supported by text messages, according to the report.

A week earlier, at a news conference for the Big Ten Conference, Meyer said that he had known of the 2009 accusations and that he and his wife had talked with the Smiths after the police investigation. But when confronted with questions about the 2015 incident during the news conference, Meyer said he had learned of the accusations only the night before.

The following week, he retracted that denial, saying in his statement that he had failed to be “clear, compassionate and, most of all, completely accurate” in his previous comments.

Meyer won two national championships at Florida in the 2000s and one at Ohio State after the 2014 season. He also coached at Bowling Green and Utah. His career coaching record is 177-31, with an 11-3 record in bowl games.

At Florida, along with the national championships came a string of players getting into trouble with the law. He left the university in 2010, citing health reasons, but was hired a season later by Ohio State when the team was reeling from a tattoos for cash scandal.

He righted the team quickly, going undefeated in his first season, in which the team was ineligible for bowl games, and then winning the national title in his third. He has not lost more than two games in any of his six seasons in Columbus. Ohio State’s revival has been mirrored by the rise of the Big Ten, which now rivals the Southeastern Conference as the best in the country.

Meyer is set to make $7.6 million this season, among the highest salaries for college football coaches, and his contract runs through 2022.

Ohio State has also been embroiled in a scandal over sex abuse: More than 100 former students have said that Richard H. Strauss, a former university employee and team doctor, had sexually abused them. Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, was an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State while Strauss was there and has faced questions about what he knew. He has denied knowledge of the allegations.

An assistant diving coach has also been accused of being involved in an abusive relationship with a teenage athlete.

Original Article


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