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Ohio State Suspends Head Coach Urban Meyer For 3 Games


Ohio State is going to be kicking off its new college football season next week without its famous head coach pacing the sidelines. Coach Urban Meyer, who led the Buckeyes to a national title, has been suspended for the first three games of the year. Meyer and Ohio State's athletic director were sanctioned yesterday for not doing enough in a case involving domestic violence allegations against an assistant football coach. NPR's Tom Goldman has more.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Former assistant coach Zach Smith served under Urban Meyer at Florida before following Meyer to Ohio State. And while Smith followed Meyer, trouble followed Smith. He was arrested in 2009 after his former wife alleged he assaulted her. Smith wasn't charged. There was another alleged incident in 2015, and it was that incident that landed Urban Meyer in trouble. When asked by reporters late last month about the 2015 allegation, Meyer said he just found out about it. But after he was put on leave August 1, he said he actually knew in 2015. Zach Smith was fired last month. Meyer waited for a two-week investigation to finish before he found out his fate late yesterday.


MICHAEL DRAKE: Based on the independent investigation, I want to state clearly that we believe Urban Meyer did not and does not condone domestic abuse.

GOLDMAN: However, Ohio State President Michael Drake said Meyer didn't take sufficient management action regarding Zach Smith, and Meyer wasn't, quote, "complete and accurate" when talking to the media about the 2015 incident. Meyer and the athletic director didn't report Zach Smith to the school's compliance office, they said, because the investigation into the 2015 allegation didn't result in Zach Smith being charged or arrested. Lead investigator Mary Jo White says they made the wrong assumption.


MARY JO WHITE: There are many cases in which abuse takes place, but there is no arrest or criminal prosecution. And so simply relying on law enforcement to take action in the face of such allegations is not, in our view, an adequate response.

GOLDMAN: White also says investigators decided Meyer didn't deliberately lie to reporters about 2015. Meyer read a statement apologizing to Buckeye Nation. He said he was affected by his loyalty to Zach Smith's grandfather, former Ohio State head coach Earle Bruce, who was a mentor.


URBAN MEYER: I followed my heart, not my head. I fell short in pursuing full information because at each juncture I gave Zach Smith the benefit of the doubt.

GOLDMAN: Meyer says, as head coach, he should have been aware of all behavior going on in the football department, and he should have reported Zach Smith to compliance. Meyer is eligible to resume coaching September 22, a week before the important part of Ohio State's scheduled begins. Tom Goldman, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on NPR.org.