Urban Meyer and Zach Smith finally broke their silence, and they may have made things worse

Dan Wetzel
Columnist

In a bizarre, twisting and probably not particularly helpful Friday afternoon, both Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer and former wide receivers coach Zach Smith broke their silence on the scandal that left Smith fired, Meyer on administrative leave and the Buckeyes’ program hanging in the balance.

Some questions were answered. Many more were created.

One critical one remains: Why in the world did Urban Meyer, OSU athletic director Gene Smith or anyone else with knowledge of the situation think it was a good and proper idea to keep Zach Smith employed and fully supported the past three years, even after Zach was accused in 2015 of domestic assault against his ex-wife Courtney?

Start quickly with Meyer, who in a statement revealed he actually did know about Courtney’s 2015 allegation. He claims he, like always, had “followed proper reporting protocols and procedures.”

This runs completely contrary to his statements last month at Big Ten media day when Meyer claimed he had no knowledge of the 2015 allegation and had never had a conversation about it. He is now intimating otherwise. Meyer said he “failed” to accurately answer questions from the media about the subject because he wasn’t prepared and was “caught off-guard.”

Meyer had just, days prior, fired Zach Smith after the assistant violated a separate protective order placed on him by Courtney. As such, it’s confusing why Meyer wouldn’t be prepared or offer firmer clarification on the hot-button subject, let alone why he didn’t get it right in any of the nine separate questions on the topic he was asked during multiple sessions with the media.

Urban Meyer was place on paid administrative leave by Ohio State on Wednesday afternoon. (Getty)

Still, if it’s true Meyer reported what he needed to report, then it becomes more difficult for Ohio State to fire him for cause. The Joe Paterno model of doing what he was supposed to do could save him some $40 million in owed money if the school wants to move on anyway.

If he got out of the way and let Gene Smith or others at the university handle it, as he’s required, then at least he wasn’t covering it up.

That doesn’t change this incredibly troubling dynamic.

Smith, 33, was twice accused by Courtney and once arrested (in 2009) of domestic abuse, and Meyer still had no problem keeping him on the staff. This despite the existence of photos showing injuries and bruises.

Zach Smith, in an interview with 105.7 The Zone in Columbus, didn’t deny he was part of a troubled marriage or that things didn’t get physical or that those bruises could have been inflicted by him. He just claimed he never “broke the law.”

“We had a volatile relationship, it was toxic,” Smith said. “There was a lot of aggressive situations … I’ve never committed domestic abuse against her. Now, there were times things got out of hand and I had to defensively restrain her … I never hit her.”

What about the 2009 felony charge of abusing that Courtney later dropped?

“I got arrested in 2009, mainly because the situation was, kind of, an argument gone bad,” Zach Smith told the radio station. “I got arrested simply because it was 3 in the morning. [The police said], ‘We have to bring you in because we can’t leave you here’ … they took me in and they arrested me and the charges got dropped after the investigation.”

The bruises in the photos Courtney Smith shared earlier this week?

“I am not discounting they are [from me], I don’t know when they are from, I don’t know where they are from,” Zach said. “There were several times that things got out of hand between us and I can’t say [I may have been] restraining her to get out of the house. I’m not saying she didn’t get a bruise or a mark.”

On a question about whether he ever stalked her or threatened her via text message.

“I’ve made mistakes,” Zach Smith said. “I was still in love with her. … I don’t believe I ever threatened her. … No one did anything illegal, this should have stayed behind closed doors because now my kids have to deal with it.”

Perhaps only Zach and Courtney Smith know for sure what happened between the two of them. The rest of us are in no position to claim full knowledge. However, there is nothing Zach Smith said in an interview – an interview that he, and his attorney, had days to prepare for – that didn’t sound like he very well could be guilty of domestic abuse.

Some of his lines and some of his excuses are textbook. His stories were chilling. He rambled and tried to walk some excessively thin line, at least in his mind.

He apparently forgot about a text-message exchange with Courtney where she stated, “think back to the cheating the lies and picking me up by my neck strangling me in Punta Cana and at our place in April …”

“I know!!! … I’m so so sorry!!!” Zach responded.

Zach Smith was fired from the Ohio State football staff last month. (AP)

He seemed most upset Courtney spoke of the confrontations outside of their relationship, a pathetic mindset out of the 1950s, if that.

“I believe personal matters, marital matters need to remain personal and between a husband and wife,” Zach said on ESPN in a separate interview.

If this is how he talks in a prepared interview on national television, then what’s he like behind closed doors? Is it any surprise Shelley Meyer, Urban’s wife, said in a text to Courtney Smith that Zach Smith scares her?

Maybe he’s 100 percent innocent. But how in the world did Urban Meyer and Gene Smith, who Zach Smith says ordered him back to campus from a recruiting trip to discuss Courtney’s allegations, decide they were 100 percent sure of that, so 100 percent sure he deserved to remain on the Buckeyes’ staff?

Why would these two put their own careers, the reputation of Ohio State football and the impressionable minds of 100-or-so Buckeyes players in Zach Smith’s hands? How could they be sure Courtney wasn’t going to get bruised again, or far worse?

When someone is accused twice and arrested once for domestic abuse and his explanation is that, well, yes, maybe things got physical and, well, yes, maybe she did get marked up, but I was just restraining her and it would be a lot better if no one knew about this, how do move all your chips behind him?

Ohio State did. Every day for three years, it did. The school chose to stick with Zach Smith over 10,000 other qualified and better-adjusted assistant coaches out there.

Why? What’s the explanation for that? What’s the reasoning? Even if you did report it, how did you look at this guy and listen to this guy? Was being the grandson of Earle Bruce worth that much?

The more answers Urban Meyer and Zach Smith provided on Friday, the more troubling the questions became for Ohio State.

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