Shortly after the announcements of suspensions for Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer and athletic director Gene Smith, lead investigator former Security and Exchange Commission chair Mary Jo White gave a summary of the working group’s findings, and OSU president Michael V. Drake, Gene Smith, and Meyer gave statements and answered questions from the media.
The questions spanned from what Meyer knew about Zach Smith and when, to how this will affect the university’s hiring processes moving forward.
Mary Jo White’s Investigative Summary
- White noted that they interviewed over 40 witnesses, reviewed over 60,000 emails, and 10,000 text messages, as well as media reports, police reports, and court filings. They also examined the contracts and university expectations of Meyer and Gene Smith.
- The lead investigator said that Meyer was aware of the law enforcement investigation in 2015, and was informed about them by Gene Smith, and both monitored the investigation for months.
- White said that the two, though acting in good faith, did not report the investigation to the compliance office, as the working group believes that they should have. Even though the police did not ultimately file charges, compliance would have been in the best position to determine the best course of action.
- The working group concluded that Meyer did not deliberately lie at Big Ten Media Days, and simply did recall what was known when; and that his responses were mostly in response to a falsely reported arrest. However, the investigators did conclude that Meyer did overstate his lack of knowledge of the situation.
- White added that Meyer impressed the investigators in his sincerity to respecting women, as Gene Smith does as well.
- The investigators also learned about other inappropriate activities by Zach Smith, some of which Meyer was aware of, and some he was not.
Michael V. Drake, Gene Smith, and Urban Meyer’s Statements
- OSU president Michael V. Drake said that Meyer did not live up to administrative responsibilities in regard to the handling of the Zach Smith accusations.
- Drake also added that Gene Smith did not display the leadership that is expected of the university’s athletic department.
- The university president added that both Smith and Meyer’s suspensions will be without pay.
- Gene Smith expressed his sincere apologies to the Ohio State community, including the Board of Trustees and Drake.
- Smith also added that he supports the findings of the investigation, and the actions that the university took. He also accepts responsibility for his failings in this situation. “I understand I could have done a better job in this situation.”
- Urban Meyer said that he understands how challenging this situation has been on this university that he loves, and he apologizes to the OSU community.
- Meyer said, “I followed my heart, instead of my head,” and that his loyalty to Zach Smith’s grandfather, Earle Bruce, likely colored his judgement.
- Meyer frankly said that he did a poor job, and he is sorry for that. He also admitted that he was not as forthcoming as he should have been at Big Ten Media Days, but he did not intentionally lie.
- He said that while the suspension is disappointing, he accepts the findings, and understands the responsibility that comes with his position as the OSU head coach.
Michael V. Drake, Gene Smith, and Urban Meyer’s Media Responses
- Drake said that the 11-hour discussion with the Board of Trustees was focused on being fair, equitable, and just, and they worked to refine their decisions in order to consider everyone involved. He said that the goal is to make the program and university better.
- Drake acknowledged that there was nothing that they could decide that would appease everyone, so their goal was to arrive at the most just conclusion.
- When asked if he thought that he should be suspended, Meyer said, “I trust and support our president.”
- Meyer said that he decided to terminate Zach Smith when it became apparent that the former wide receivers coach did not fulfill his responsibilities to keep him informed of situations.
- Meyer said, “There were red flags. I wish I was told more things. He made it sound like the trespass citation was not a big deal, and he didn’t keep me posted. He did not alert me to every situation.”
- Gene Smith admitted that he did not know about the 2009 incident of domestic violence involving Zach Smith in Florida, and that there are currently discussions to expand background checks for new hires.
- Drake said that, to be fair, they looked at the findings, and then considered the full range of possibilities for Gene Smith and Meyer, and worked to settle on the most just conclusion for both.
- Meyer said, “It’s been very tough. One of the toughest things that I’ve experienced,” in regard to being away from his team. He said that when he gets to address his team, he will tell them that he loves them, and that appreciates what they have and will do for the program.
- Gene Smith said that it would have been his responsibility to contact the compliance office about the allegations against Zach Smith, not Meyer’s.
- Meyer said that ultimately he is responsible for the behavior of everyone associated with the football, so he accepts the suspension.
- The head coach also admitted that he was not aware of the text messages shared between his wife, Shelley, and Courtney Smith when they happened.
- He also said that this situation has changed him, and that it will impact every hiring decision he makes moving forward.