The Ohio State football team improved to 3-0 with a win over TCU in Arlington, Texas, on Saturday.
Now it gets its head coach back.
Urban Meyer’s three-game suspension for his handling of ex-wide receivers coach Zach Smith is now over.
But before we see Meyer on the sidelines again, ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi had a sit-down interview with the embattled coach, who has admitted to not being totally forthcoming about the 2015 domestic violence allegation against Smith at the Big Ten media days on July 24 in Chicago. But reporting has since shown that claim to be false.
The seven-minute-plus excerpt was shown on “SportsCenter” on Sunday morning and is available online.
Perhaps most interesting from this two-part interview — the second of which will be shown on ESPN today — was going through what happened in 2015.
That year, Courtney Smith, Zach’s then-wife, shared pictures of bruising with Meyer’s wife, Shelley, who, according to the investigation report released, called the police for more information and then texted a message of support to Courtney that included the phrase, “he scares me.”
Meyer said that if his wife had “imminent fear,” that she would have shared the allegations.
“The first time I heard of those texts were just recently, last month” Meyer said. “Shelley did not share those text messages with me.”
Rinaldi continued down that line, asking what Meyer believes his wife should have done.
“I can’t speak to that because, once again, I don’t know everything that she knew,” Meyer said. “She shared with me her reasoning and I don’t want to speak on her behalf.”
“You said, ‘imminent fear,’” Rinaldi said. He then looked back down on his paper for Shelley’s text.
“‘He scares me.’ How much does that sound like imminent fear?”
“We talked about that,” Meyer said. “She wanted to be as compassionate as possible. Once again, she had her reasoning for why she didn’t react. … And if her reasoning was what it was, that’s why she didn’t alert me or go anywhere else with it.”
Meyer said that after Zach Smith was arrested in 2009 after Courtney called the police, the coach, then at Florida, brought both people to his office.
Meyer said he was “told and believed that this was not domestic violence. That she threw him out of the house.” He then said he relied upon the fact that no charges were filed.
Meyer kept Smith on his staff in Florida, and then brought him along when Meyer was hired at Ohio State, after Meyer said he “did background checks” on Smith from other coaches he worked with during the head coach’s hiatus.
Rinaldi also pressed Meyer about the process of hiring Smith at Ohio State, asking why Meyer didn’t tell athletic director Gene Smith about the 2009 arrest.
“In hindsight, I should have,” Meyer said. “I can’t recall why. It was several years ago, I just can’t tell you exactly what my mindset was at the time.”
Rinaldi then asked about Meyer’s core values, posted in the football building. The first two are “honesty” and “respect for women.”
“I still hold those values so firm, so strong. And I apologize for the perception that I don’t,” Meyer said.
“What is the perception,” Rinaldi asked.
“That as a result of this investigation and this situation, that I did not take that seriously,” Meyer said.
“What apology, if any, for the actions, Urban,” Rinaldi continued.
“Also for the actions,” Meyer said. “It was a very tough time, a tough situation, that Courtney was in, that Zach Smith was in. And we were led to believe was a very difficult divorce. They had a lot of things going on.
“And I erred, Tom, I erred. I made a decision to do the best I can to stabilize that situation. And I probably should have fired him.”
On Aug. 22, Meyer made a statement when it was announced he would be suspended. He was then roundly excoriated for not apologizing to Courtney Smith, the ex-wife of Zach Smith who alleges he abused her.
Two days later, Meyer released an additional statement, apologizing to Courtney Smith and her children.
At the start of the interview excerpt, Meyer said when he thinks of Courtney Smith, he thinks of “an extremely difficult situation, a very troubled marriage, and a situation where I wish I had known more and wish I had done more.”
The interview excerpt concluded with Rinaldi asking Meyer: “When it comes to the program’s core value of treating women with respect, who respected and protected Courtney Smith?”
After a long pause, Meyer said, “that’s a tough question, now that all the information’s out. Now that I’ve heard more. If I fire him at the time, sever that relationship, and I see these two young kids. That’s the way I’ve always thought. How do you help stabilize something. And at the time, that’s how I thought.”
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