Football interviews are sidelined
Ohio State closed ranks around the rollout of its football season as the university investigates whether coach Urban Meyer failed to report domestic abuse allegations, a scandal hitting a school already accused of not facing up to sexual misconduct allegations against a sports doctor.
The Buckeyes planned to open their first football practice today without Meyer, who was put on administrative leave during the probe and also suspended from an endorsement deal by restaurant chain Bob Evans.
It’s not clear how restrictive the paid leave will be for the coach set to earn $7.6 million for the season after getting a raise this year.
Ohio State officials declined comment Thursday beyond barring reporters from practices and saying they would decide by Monday when to allow coaches and players to speak to media. Co-offensive coordinator Ryan Day was named acting head coach.
“Due to the ongoing investigation, football coaches and student-athletes will not be available for interviews until further notice and all practices will be closed,” Ohio State spokesman Jerry Emig said in an email.
Meyer’s future with one of the most storied programs in college football depends on how he managed allegations that Buckeyes assistant and recruiting coordinator Zach Smith abused his ex-wife, Courtney Smith — answering the questions of what Meyer knew and when.
Courtney Smith alleged Wednesday that she told Meyer’s wife, Shelley, about the abuse in text messages and phone conversations in 2015 and that Shelley Meyer indicated she would tell the head coach.
Courtney Smith’s allegations — including the text messages — were reported by former ESPN reporter Brett McMurphy on his Facebook page and in a video interview with Smith.
“In 2015 I came forward with it,” Courtney Smith said in the interview. “I told Shelley, I sent her some pictures [of her injuries], I spoke to her on the phone.”
Meyer told reporters last week that he didn’t know anything about the 2015 incident. It is not clear what contact Meyer had, if any, with university officials about the situation until Smith was fired last month. Smith has never been criminally charged.
Separately, a court hearing for Zach Smith was postponed Thursday on a domestic protection order sought by his ex-wife.
She asked for the order after a July 20 disagreement and the court action resulted in Zach Smith being fired from Ohio State, where he was set to make $340,000 for the 2018 season.
The Smiths are due in court in September and their lawyers did not respond to messages seeking comment Thursday.
Ohio State is investigating Meyer while also facing three federal lawsuits about its response to allegations of groping, leering and other misconduct by a deceased athletic department doctor who treated wrestlers and other students for two decades.