Columbus, Ohio – Early Wednesday morning damning evidence against Urban Meyer were released from reporter Brett McMurphy.
According to the report, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer knew details about domestic abuse allegations against assistant coach Zach Smith.
At the Big Ten Media days this year, Coach Meyer denied any knowledge about those allegations.
Below is the full text from Brett McMurphy’s Facebook page in which he goes through, in detail, the timeline of incidents:
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Text messages I have obtained, an exclusive interview with the victim and other information I have learned shows Ohio State coach Urban Meyer knew in 2015 of domestic abuse allegations against a member of his coaching staff.
Courtney Smith, ex-wife of fired Ohio State assistant coach Zach Smith, provided text messages between her and the wives of Ohio State coaches – including Urban Meyer’s wife, Shelley – showing Meyer’s knowledge of the situation.
Meyer said last week during Big Ten Media Days that he had no knowledge of two alleged domestic violence incidents in 2015 with former assistant wide receivers coach Zach Smith that were investigated by the Powell (Ohio) Police Department.
Meyer said had he known, he would have fired Smith in 2015 – three years before he did last week after I reported the alleged domestic violence.
“All the (coaches) wives knew,” Courtney said. “They all did. Every single one.”
Ohio State may be in violation of Title IX, which states: discrimination on the basis of sex, can include sexual harassment, rape, and sexual assault. A college or university that receives federal funding may be held legally responsible when it knows about and ignores sexual harassment or assault in its programs or activities.
The Ohio State University’s sexual misconduct policy also may have been violated. Included in the Employees Duty to Report section it says:
“anyone who supervises faculty, staff, students, or volunteers” is responsible “in addition to the requirement of reporting incidents of sexual assault, the following members of the university community have an additional obligation to report all other incidents of sexual misconduct, when they receive a disclosure of sexual misconduct or become aware of information that would lead a reasonable person to believe that sexual misconduct may have occurred involving anyone covered under this policy. These individuals must report the incident within five work days of becoming aware of such information.”
When asked specifically if he knew of the domestic violence incidents with Zach Smith, or if he had been told of them, Meyer said, “I was never told about anything. Never anything came to light, never had a conversation about it. So I know nothing about it. I asked people back at the office to call and see what happened, and they came back and said they know nothing.”
However, text messages I have obtained sent from Courtney Smith, Meyer’s wife Shelley; and other Ohio State coaches’ wives show Urban Meyer and a number of Ohio State assistant coaches were aware of Smith’s domestic violence issues for several years.
Courtney said Shelley Meyer, Urban’s wife of nearly three decades, knew about the abuse that begin in 2009, continued in 2015 and culminated with Zach Smith being served a domestic violence civil protection order last week.
Courtney said she and Shelley often discussed Zach’s domestic violence.
“Shelley said she was going to have to tell Urban,” Courtney said. “I said: ‘That’s fine, you should tell Urban.’ I know Shelley did everything she could.”
Shelley Meyer is a registered nurse and instructor of Clinical Practice at the Ohio State University College of Nursing. She too is bound by Title IX standards.
On Oct. 25, 2015, Courtney and Zach were separated. Zach came by her house, an argument ensued and then Courtney said he assaulted her.
“He took me and shoved me up against the wall, with his hands around my neck,” Courtney said. “Something he did very often. My (then 3-year old) daughter was clinging to my leg. It obviously registered with him what he was doing, so he took my (then 5-year old) son and left. So I called the police.”
Since Zach had already left, Courtney told the police not to come to the house because she had to calm her daughter down and put her to bed. The police said since Zach had left, they could come out the next day or she could come by the station the next morning. The report was officially filed on Oct. 26, 2015. Zach Smith has never been convicted of domestic violence.
One 2015 text exchange between Courtney and Shelley Meyer shows the extent of Shelley’s knowledge of the alleged domestic abuse and that she was concerned for Courtney’s safety.
Shelley: “I am with you! 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”
Courtney: “Restraining orders don’t do anything in Ohio-I tried to get protection order which is what started this whole investigation. And that should go through soon finally. It’s hard bc you have to prove immediate danger. Legal system is tough. Basically you have to prove he will kill u to get protective order”
Shelley: “Geesh! Even w the pics? Didn’t law enforcement come to your place ever??”
During Big Ten Media Days last week, Meyer was asked about the importance of wives helping coaches on and off the field, and how Shelley has impacted his coaching life.
“She’s always weighed in as my best friend and soul mate,” Urban said. “She’s been right there with everything. Especially when you’re dealing with – not who’s going to carry the ball on third down, she has an opinion on that too – we chat about people. She has a great spirit. A great love of people. Her heart is always in the right place. She’s phenomenal. Absolutely I rely on her.”
Two weeks after the Oct. 25, 2015 incident, a Nov. 5, 2015 text exchange between Lindsey Voltolini and Courtney shows Meyer talked to Zach Smith about the incident.
Lindsey is the wife of Brian Voltolini, considered one of Meyer’s most loyal staff members. Brian is Ohio State’s football operations director and has been part of Meyer’s staffs for 15 seasons at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida and Ohio State.
Courtney: “(Zach’s) trying to make me look crazy bc that’s what Shelley is saying (he’s doing)”
Lindsey: “He (Urban) just said he (Zach) denied everything”
Courtney: “I hope urban is smarter than that”
Lindsey: “He (Urban) doesn’t know what to think”
Courtney: “I don’t really care. Ya know”
Lindsey: “Yeah, don’t worry about urb”
Despite that common knowledge throughout the Woody Hayes Athletic Complex, Smith remained on Ohio State’s staff for six seasons until he was fired July 23 – only after I initially uncovered and reported earlier that day that Smith had a long history of domestic violence abuse allegations against Courtney.
Larry H. James, a Columbus attorney selected by Ohio State in 2011 as its lead counsel to represent its student athletes in NCAA investigations, said he was Zach Smith’s attorney in 2015. In November of 2015, James contacted Terry Thomas, then Courtney’s attorney, seeking information. Thomas would not reveal specifics of the conversation.
“He called me and asked ‘how bad was it?’ ” Thomas said. “I said ‘it’s bad.’ I assume he wanted the information so he could report this back to his client.”
When contacted Wednesday morning, James said he did not forward any information to Ohio State because that would violate attorney-client privilege.
In 2011 James was selected by Ohio State to represent its players in Tattoo-gate, a tattoo for memorabilia tradeoff that led to the firing of beloved coach Jim Tressel.
During the 2015 call from James to Thomas, Courtney said that Zach’s attorney asked Thomas “if Zach would be a threat to the players?”
The first time Zach Smith allegedly physically abused his wife was June 21, 2009 in Gainesville, Fla. Courtney Smith, then 24, was 8-10 weeks pregnant.
On June 20, 2009, Florida was coming off its second national title in three seasons under Meyer. Urban and his wife threw a party before their hard-working staff members left for summer break. After the party, Courtney said she went home, while Zach went out with some buddies. Courtney said Zach returned home drunk around 3 a.m. with a female co-worker, who Zach called “baby,” pleading with Courtney to let the woman spend the night with them, according to a Gainesville police report.
Courtney said the woman was Amy Nicol, who at the time was Meyer’s secretary at Florida. For the past six years Nicol has been director of internal operations for Ohio State’s football program and a member of Meyer’s staff a total of 10 seasons. According to the police report, Zach said that night Amy “was upset from breaking up with her boyfriend” and needed a place to stay.
Courtney refused and drove Amy home. Upon returning “a heated argument ensued in the upstairs bedroom. Courtney stated she tried to get Zach out of her bed, which he refused and then forcefully grabbed her,” according to the police report.
The report said Zach Smith, then 25, “picked (Courtney) up, by grabbing her T-shirt and threw her against the bedroom wall.”
It was the Smith’s one-year wedding anniversary.
Zach Smith, then in his fourth year on UF’s staff, was handcuffed and arrested for aggravated battery on a pregnant victim. Meyer said last week at Big Ten Media Days that in 2009 he and his wife Shelley “advised for counseling and wanted to help” the couple.
“As I do many times, most coaches and people in leadership positions, you receive a phone call,” Meyer said at Big Ten Media Days. “The 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.”
A few days after Zach’s 2009 arrest, Courtney said two of Meyer’s closest friends – Hiram de Fries and Earle Bruce – asked her to drop the charges. Bruce is Zach Smith’s grandfather, de Fries is Meyer’s “life coach.”
Bruce, who died in April, has a special place in Meyer’s heart. Bruce succeeded Woody Hayes at Ohio State from 1979-87, posting an 81-26-1 record in nine seasons.
“He is the strongest relationship I’ve ever had other than my father,” Meyer said last week. “I’ve made that clear many, many times.”
Bruce and Zach’s mother drove from Ohio to Gainesville to ask Courtney to drop the charges, Courtney said. Courtney said she also received a call from de Fries to set up a meeting at Panera Bread on SW Archer Road in Gainesville.
Meyer and de Fries’ relationship goes back more than 20 years, when Meyer was an assistant at Colorado State in the 1990s. Unofficially, de Fries has been a professional life skills expert the past two decades. His official title at Ohio State: special assistant to the head coach.
In “Urban’s Way,” a 2008 book on Meyer written by Buddy Martin and authorized by Meyer, Meyer said: “Hiram is like my uncle. Hiram is my ‘chemistry coach.’ When I was a young coach, I always said I wanted to have an older guy as the chemistry coach on my staff to help us all get on the same page.”
When asked last week how important de Fries was to the Ohio State program, senior offensive tackle Isaiah Prince said: “Having Coach Hiram around, he’s like the grandfather of the team. He’s got that wisdom. He has been here a long time and he has been through a lot. He always knows when something is wrong even when you don’t say anything. He’s a great resource to have. Everybody loves him.”
On a July morning in 2009, Courtney Smith sat across the table from de Fries, a former attorney and Shell Oil executive. Courtney said de Fries pressured her to drop the charges.
“He said ‘if you don’t drop the charges, Zach will never coach again,’ ” Courtney said. “ ‘He’s never hit you before. He was drinking. He’ll probably never do it again. You should think about giving him a second chance.’ “
Ultimately, Courtney said she relented to de Fries and didn’t press charges. Courtney had convinced herself this would never happen again.
She was wrong.
After spending five seasons with Meyer at Florida, Zach was an assistant at Marshall in 2010 and Temple in 2011. Meyer and Smith were reunited the following season when Meyer returned to coaching at Ohio State.
“Zach Smith has already coached with me for five seasons and so I know what a quality coach he is,” Meyer said when Smith was hired as Ohio State’s wide receivers coach on Dec. 22, 2011. “He knows my system inside and out and he teaches the system the way I want it to be taught.”
Three months later, the Smith’s second child was born on March 23, 2012.
“When we came to Columbus and after I had my daughter (in 2012), things got really bad,” Courtney said. “I believed his life was spiraling out of control. He was only 28 when he got (the Ohio State job), his grandmother died. Maybe it was the stress but he was emotionally and physically abusing. Pushing me against the wall, putting his hands around my throat. There were so many instances. It’s hard to recall all of them.”
Courtney said she left Zach on June 6, 2015 – but the violence and harassment didn’t stop, including the incident on Oct. 25, 2015 and a Nov. 9, 2015 menacing by stalking charge against Zach by the Powell Police.
On the original Oct. 26, 2015 Powell Police report, a box on the form was checked indicating Zach had been arrested. However, nearly three years later – after I reported the incident last week – the Powell Police released a revised version of the report to the media and the arrest box was no longer checked.
“The terminology used by the Police Department was different in the original report (dated 10/26/2015) and inconsistent with what actually occurred,” said Megan Canavan, director of communication for the Powell Police Department.
That same report states: “The victim reports that a domestic incident happened last night at (Courtney’s) home and that she has been a victim of sustained physical abuse by the suspect.”
On Nov. 10, 2015, Courtney was granted a restraining order against Zach.
Two days later – on Nov. 12, 2015 – after years of abuse, verbal intimidation, threats, bullying, bruised and beaten body parts, according to police reports, text messages and photos, Courtney filed for divorce.
Zach’s attorney had the Smith’s divorce documents sealed “ex parte,” without Courtney’s consent, according to an e-mail I obtained from Courtney’s attorney, shielding Zach’s alleged abuse from going public. The records were sealed Nov. 23, 2015 by Delaware County (Ohio) Common Pleas Judge Everett H. Krueger “in order to protect certain businesses and personal interests which, if published, may negatively affect (Zach Smith’s) occupation.”
The divorce documents were unsealed and released this morning.
No one really knew the hell Courtney was going through except the authorities, family members, members of Ohio State’s coaching staff – and their wives.
“I know why nothing was done. Everyone was out to protect themselves. Zach had people that were far more powerful than I would ever be that were protecting him and for the wrong reasons. I think people that knew (about the abuse) should have helped me. Instead, they chose to enable an abuser.”
Courtney said the text messages she received from the coaches’ wives were always supportive and sympathetic. She said Shelley Meyer was a frequent texter.
Photos that Courtney said she shared via text with other wives show bruises on Courtney’s neck and arms from beatings she suffered in 2014 and 2015. Another photo shows blood gushing out of her thumb when Zach cut her with the metal top of a smokeless tobacco can after another 2014 incident.
Courtney said during her ordeal, Shelley was always supportive. “She would constantly text me and check up on me and see how I was doing,” Courtney said.
Back in 2009 in Gainesville, Courtney Smith needed help. She was a frightened, battered 24-year old newlywed with nowhere to turn. She was convinced by Urban Meyer’s top confidant and future “special assistant to the head coach” that there was too much at risk to press charges against Zach.
In Ohio, she found herself in a similar situation. Courtney said she called 911 “a handful of times” over the years but didn’t always pursue charges.
“I hung up out of fear because I was scared Zach would lose his job,” Courtney said. “He threw me down on the bathroom floor (in April of 2015) and screamed ‘look what you’ve turned me into.’ I don’t know what he was on. Another time, he took the top of a dip can and cut my hand. Everyone – all my family – said don’t call 911. If you do, he’ll get fired.”
Brenda Tracy, 44, is the nation’s leading advocate in the battle against sexual and relationship violence in college football. In 1998, she was gang raped by four men, three of them were college football players. She travels the country speaking to high school and college athletes and coaches about her experiences and the ways they can work to end rape culture.
“It’s very upsetting someone with this type of violent history would have been on Ohio State’s staff that long,” Tracy said. “(His firing) should’ve happened sooner.”
Tracy said Courtney’s fear to file charges is normal for domestic violence victims.
“In cases of domestic violence there are many things the victim has to think about,” Tracy said. “Often times there’s mental, emotional, physical and financial abuse going on. The victim may be completely dependent upon this person for housing, money and food. They may be dependent on this person to help them meet the basic needs of life for them and their children.
“Society thinks it’s simple: if he hits you, just leave. But it’s never that simple. There are many things to consider and the lack of understanding by our society about the dynamics of domestic violence makes everything even more difficult for the survivor.”
At the time of his firing, Zach was earning $340,000 a year. Courtney had not worked since 2010 when Zach was hired as a full-time assistant at Marshall.
In September of 2015, a month before Courtney officially filed for divorce, Zach continued to send threatening text messages.
Zach texted Courtney: “The past 3 months. You were going to try to give me a chance a week ago and now, even though I have done NOTHING WRONG since then, you’re done with me. I will kill that bitch and everyone involved. For ruining my life. I am getting myself right and getting punished. F— all of you.”
Zach to Courtney: “Just know that now… I will find you when your out. I will come seek the douche your with. I will f— him up to the point that no one will recognize him”
Despite Zach never having been convicted of any charges, on July 20, Delaware County court of pleas magistrate David J. Laughlin issued a domestic violence civil protection order against Zach.
Laughlin’s ruling said: “the court finds that (Courtney Smith) is in immediate and present danger of domestic violence and for good cause the following temporary orders are necessary to protect the persons named (Courtney Smith and her children Cameron, 8, and Quinn, 6) in this order from domestic violence.”
Bradley Koffel, Zach Smith’s attorney, dismissed the domestic violence allegations and the recently issued five-year domestic violence civil protection order against Zach.
“OSU was put in a corner by the unfounded accusations of an ex-wife who weaponized 911 many times over the years,” Koffel told The Columbus Dispatch last week.
In 2002, Smith walked-on to the Bowling Green football team to play for Meyer. He later followed Meyer to Florida. In all, Smith was on Meyer’s coaching staffs for 11 seasons – five at UF, six at Ohio State.
Police records in Florida and Ohio document a history of domestic violence allegations, and a trail of physical and verbal abuse, stalking and intimidation by Zach Smith, 34. He spent nearly one-third of his life working for Meyer, one of the most successful and powerful football coaches of all-time.
Until Smith was fired last week, he was the only remaining assistant from Meyer’s first staff at Ohio State after Meyer took over in 2012.
In April, Meyer received a contract extension from Ohio State through Jan. 31, 2023 that will pay him an average of $8.49 million per year over the life of the five-year contract. He is the nation’s second highest paid coach, behind Alabama’s Nick Saban.
Meyer has won a total of three national titles at two different schools and one of only four coaches in college football history to do so. Yet, Meyer proudly states his on field success with the Buckeyes is matched only by the team’s off-the-field “core values.”
In the Woody Hayes Athletic Complex, emblazoned on the wall, are Meyer’s five core values. Among the five – in ALL CAPS – is “TREAT WOMEN WITH RESPECT”
“The core values is something that – there’s a difference between a mistake and a core value,” Meyer said last week at Big Ten media days. “When I was six years old, I was sat down by my father and it was explained to me about what core values are and what mistakes are. Mistakes are correctible. Core values are who you are.”
So why would a coach at the top of his profession, jeopardize his entire career and legacy – and ignore his core values – because of a sense of loyalty to former mentor Earle Bruce?
“Zach once told me,” said Courtney, “if he ever got fired and this all comes out: ‘I’ll take everyone at Ohio State down with me.’ ”