Ohio State Wednesday night suspended head football coach Urban Meyer three games for mishandling domestic violence accusations, punishing one of the sport’s most prominent leaders for keeping an assistant on staff for several years after the coach’s wife accused him of abuse.
The move followed a two-week investigation into how Meyer reacted to accusations that former Buckeyes assistant Zach Smith abused his ex-wife, Courtney Smith. Zach Smith was fired last month after she asked a judge for a protective order.
Courtney Smith alleged her husband shoved her against a wall and put his hands around her neck in 2015. The university put Meyer on paid leave and began its investigation after Courtney Smith spoke out publicly, sharing text messages and photos she traded in 2015 with Meyer’s wife, Shelley Meyer. Shelley Meyer is a registered nurse and instructor at Ohio State.
“I followed my heart and not my head,” Meyer said, quickly reading a written statement to reporters during a news conference after his punishment was announced. “I should have demanded more from him and recognized red flags.”
Trustees discussed the decision to punish Meyer in a marathon meeting of more than 12 hours Wednesday while Meyer awaited the decision. Athletic director Gene Smith, who is not related to Zach or Courtney Smith, was also suspended from Aug. 31 through Sept. 16. Both the athletic director and Meyer apologized and said they accepted the punishments.
“I should have done more and I am sorry for that,” Meyer said.
Meyer will miss Ohio State’s first three games against Oregon State, Rutgers and No. 16 TCU.
The investigation prompted Meyer to insist he followed proper protocols after learning of the 2015 accusations. But he also acknowledged lying to reporters a week earlier when he said he hadn’t heard of the incident until shortly before he fired Zach Smith.