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Urban Meyer Says He Followed 'Proper Reporting Protocols' For 2015 Abuse Claims

Urban Meyer
Carlos Osorio

Ohio State head football coach Urban Meyer said he followed proper protocol in reporting 2015 abuse allegations against his former assistant, contradicting his previous comments that he had no knowledge of the incident.

“My intention was not to say anything inaccurate or misleading,” Meyer said in a statement late Friday. “However, I was not adequately prepared to discuss these sensitive issues with the media, and I apologize for the way I handled those questions.”

Last month, talking to reporters at Big Ten Media Days, Meyer said that he didn’t know about 2015 domestic violence claims against now-fired assistant coach Zach Smith. But earlier this week, reports emerged that suggest Meyer may have been told about the incident, leading to Meyer's suspension from the university. 

In his first public statement since the suspension, Meyer now says he followed protocol in reporting the 2015 incident but "failed" in his recent comments.

“Over the past several days, I have been portrayed as being indifferent to domestic violence and as someone who did not take appropriate action, when warranted,” Meyer wrote. “Here is the truth: While at the University of Florida, and now at The Ohio State University, I have always followed proper reporting protocols and procedures when I have learned of an incident involving a student-athlete, coach or member of our staff by elevating the issues to the proper channels. And, I did so regarding the Zach Smith incident in 2015.”

Smith, the team’s receivers coach and lead recruiter, was arrested in 2015 on domestic violence charges against his then-wife Courtney Smith. The charges were later dropped.

Courtney said on Wednesday that she told Meyer’s wife Shelley—also an Ohio State employee—about the 2015 incident, and Shelley promised to tell Meyer in turn. An independent journalist then produced text messages between Courtney and Shelley that confirm the exchange.

"I can't say it didn't happen because I wasn't there," Meyer said last month. "I was never told about anything and nothing ever came to light. I've never had a conversation about it. I know nothing about it. First I heard about that was last night. No, and I asked some people back at the office to call and say what happened and they came back and said they know nothing about it."

In an interview Friday with Columbus radio station 105.7 The Zone, Smith said Meyer knew about the allegations, but denied threatening Courtney. 

Both Meyers would have been required under university policy to report to officials any claims of sexual misconduct, including domestic violence. Not doing so would also likely violate Ohio State's responsibilities under Title IX. 

On Friday, Ohio State trustees appointed a six-person special committee to investigate Meyer, who was placed on paid administrative leave. Meyer says he will "cooperate fully" with the committee, and will address questions at a public forum in the future. 

Gabe Rosenberg joined WOSU in October 2016. As digital news editor, Gabe reports breaking news and edits all content for the WOSU website, as well as manages the station's social media accounts.