After a month and a half away from his team to varying degrees, head coach Urban Meyer returned full-time to the helm following the No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes’ win over then-No. 15 TCU on Saturday.
Before addressing the media for the first time in the traditional Monday morning slot, Meyer spoke with ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi in an interview that has been rolling out in pieces since Sunday, and released a statement Monday morning.
In both, Meyer again expressed regret for his handling of allegations of spousal abuse against former wide receivers coach Zach Smith and reaffirmed his commitment to his core values, including respecting women.
Ohio State Football Press Conference - Tulane Preview
Live from the Woody Hayes Athletic Center: Ohio State University Football Press Conference. Tulane week preview go.osu.edu/OSUvsTulanePreview18 #GoBucksPosted by Ohio State Buckeyes on Monday, September 17, 2018
Champions of the Game
Offense: Isaiah Prince, Michael Jordan, Thayer Munford, Demetrius Knox, Malcolm Pridgeon, J.K. Dobbins, K.J. Hill, Johnnie Dixon, Binjimen Victor, Terry McLaurin, Parris Campbell
Player of the Game: Dwayne Haskins
Defense: Nick Bosa, Robert Landers, Jonathon Cooper, Davon Hamilton, Malik Harrison, Jordan Fuller
Player of the Game: Dre’Mont Jones
- Special Teams Player of the Game: Johnnie Dixon
Suspension and Investigation
- “I want to thank Coach Day. I knew he was a difference-maker when we hired him.”
- Meyer admitted that the game was hard to watch, but that it seemed like as the game got tougher, the team got tougher.
- He also thanked the players for everything that they’ve done.
- Meyer apologized for his “performance” at Media Days, although he maintains that he did not intend to mislead.
- He said, “I want to be really clear that there was zero attempt to mislead. I didn’t listen closely to the questions.”
- Meyer again reiterates that he tried to answer questions that he assumed were about an errant report of a felony arrest of Zach Smith in 2015.
- The head coach said that he has never purposely mislead the media, however, that he understands his answers were not acceptable.
- He said, “I need to do a better job of listening.”
- Meyer laid out a timetable of the events with Smith since his initial hiring. He said that Smith was one of the best recruiters on the staff in the first few years of his tenure.
- However, he said, “In 2015, Gene Smith came up to me on the practice field and told me there was a domestic incident involving Zach and Courtney. We were both furious. I told him if it was a domestic incident, he was fired immediately.”
- After the police involvement did not lead to charges, Meyer decided to retain Smith and to help him get counseling and work through his issues.
- According to Meyer, after working through credit card and a prescription drug issue, university officials indicated that Smith was improving personally, and his job performance improved as well.
- “I was made aware of a credit card situation and of a prescription drug that (Smith) was using more than he should.”
- Meyer said that Smith had other job offers in the previous off-season, but he decided to stay at Ohio State to remain close to his children.
- The head coach also said that he has never deleted a text message from his phone, and that he doesn’t even know how to change a setting like that on his phone.
- He indicates that the university IT office set his phone to only maintain content for a year to maximize its storage capacity.
- “I was just devastated. I love these players. I have a great respect for these players. The hardest part was not being with them during training camp.”
- Meyer said that he has great relationships with president Michael Drake and athletic director Gene Smith, and he never has viewed his position as a job.
- Meyer said that his love of the university has only increased during this time.
- Meyer said, “This, to me, has never been a job. I grew up here and I love this school. My love is unwavering to Ohio State. My apology is to Ohio State.”
- Meyer claims that he was suspended for going too far in trying to help a troubled employee, not for turning his back on domestic violence.
- In speaking of a previous statement made, “Quite honestly, that came from my family. I’m not a big social media guy. What was brought back to me was there was a perception out there that I was suspended for domestic violence. I was not suspended for that. It was very clear in the report.”
- He also said, “There’s a perception out there that I was suspended for domestic violence. There’s no fixing domestic violence. If that takes place, it’s dismissal immediately from the program. I was not suspended for that.”
- Meyer said that he was thoroughly impressed by the way that his staff handled these past weeks while he was gone. He also said that it’s not by accident. He adds that Ryan Day, as well as others, are “elite.”
- The head coach said that he is very healthy, and while he has had procedures and a surgery to deal with cysts, “the relativeness to the investigation... doesn’t impact the way I coach.”
- Meyer said that the accusations that this has his credibility was shot is hurtful. “I’ve spent 30-plus years in coaching. I’ve never been coaching. My love for my players and the development of players has never been questioned.”
- The head coach routinely said that he never lied, but apologizes for not being completely transparent.
- Meyer said that he has been replaying in his mind how to balance the desire to help a struggling coach while also getting his players the best possible coaching. He said if he had known then what he knows now, he probably would have done things differently.
- Meyer said that while he has learned a great deal through this process, but respecting women has been a core value for his entire life, thanks to what his father taught him.
- When asked if he believed Courtney Smith’s accusations against her now ex-husband, he said, “I can only go by what was told to me by law enforcement.”
- He added, “Going though this process I learned I need to ask more questions.”
- Meyer said that he isn’t allowed to question law enforcement or potential victims, because that could be considered tampering.
- Meyer said that his loyalty to Earle Bruce would not have impacted anything regarding domestic violence.
- The coach said that he should have informed Gene Smith of the 2009 issue that Zach and Courtney Smith had in Florida. He said that he thought he did, but if he didn’t, he should have.
- Meyer reiterates that in terms of whether domestic violence occurred, he would defer to experts. “I can only rely on the information I receive from experts.”
- The coach said that he needs to do a better job in making it clear that people should feel comfortable coming to him.
- Meyer said that when he learned of Smith and Tom Herman going to a strip club on a recruiting visit, he immediately instituted a morality rule in the program. He said that he told them both that if it ever happened again, they would be fired. He said that he didn’t care if coaches at other places do it, but that it doesn’t happen at Ohio State.
- He admits that there has been damage done to the program. He said that he has spoken with recruits to clarify what happened.
- Meyer again said that his wife Shelley never shared text messages from Courtney Smith with him.
- When asked why people should believe that he is a trustworthy person, Meyer said that in his time back at OSU academics, on-field performance, honesty, ethics have all been very strong. He said that he hopes people understand that he never intended to lie.
- He said, “I’m telling you I did not lie. I misspoke. The deleted messages, I did not do it. The university found that I did not do it.”
- Meyer admits that he often goes to others in order to seek advice and get help in situations that are not on-field football related.
- When asked about determining credibility of Zach or Courtney Smith, he said “I try to stay away from that. I threatened to fire Zach within seconds if it was domestic violence. I’m not allowed to reach out to Courtney... What I have learned is to ask more questions.”
- He also said that he is “very sorry” for his performance at the press conference the day he was suspended. He said that no one should have to go through what Courtney Smith and her children have.
- “I’m very sorry,” he said. “I’m saying it again right now. No two children and a wife should go through this. Especially the media circus it has become with families accusing each other of things.”
- One thing that Meyer continually said was that his mistake was giving someone too many opportunities. “How far do you go in trying to help someone? To this day, I struggle with that.”
- Nick Bosa will not play this coming week. He is getting further testing on an abdominal and groin issue.
- Meyer said that the offense is very good right now, but it can continue to get “a lot better.”
Urban Meyer will be on the sidelines for the first time this season on Saturday, Sept. 22 at 3:30 p.m. ET when the No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes host the Tulane Green Wave. The game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network. Land-Grant Holy Land will have the game, and Meyer’s return covered throughout the week.