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Ohio State University Football Coach Placed On Administrative Leave


When the Ohio State football team opens training camp tomorrow, the team's head coach, Urban Meyer, will not be there. The school has placed Meyer on administrative leave. It's looking into claims that he knew about domestic violence allegations against one of his former assistants and did nothing about it.

Here to talk about this case is Bill Rabinowitz, who covers Ohio State football for the Columbus Dispatch. Welcome.

BILL RABINOWITZ: Hi, Ailsa, nice to be here.

CHANG: So can you first lay out what we know has happened? The former assistant coach is Zach Smith, and his ex-wife has accused him of domestic violence.

RABINOWITZ: Right. This kind of all started in May when Zach Smith appeared in court to face a criminal trespass case. It's misdemeanor. It didn't seem like a big deal. Obviously it kind of exploded yesterday with Courtney Smith going public and saying that she told Shelley Meyer, Urban Meyer's wife, about this. And she believes that Urban Meyer knew about this. That would be a violation of Meyer's contract in terms of Title IX requirements to report such things. And so he was placed on administrative leave yesterday, and his status is subject to an investigation that's going to unfold now or soon.

CHANG: And here's Courtney Smith, the ex-wife, speaking to the sports news site Stadium.


COURTNEY SMITH: When somebody is crying out for help, I believe the coach along with the coach's wife have a duty. They have a duty to do something to help.

CHANG: So what is Meyer saying in his defense?

RABINOWITZ: Well, originally he said last week that he did not know about the 2015 incident. Again, Zach Smith was never charged in that. But that was the one that Courtney Smith said that she talked to Shelley Meyer about. There was also an incident in 2009 when both Meyer and Zach Smith and Courtney Smith were in Florida. And Urban Meyer says, yes, we talked and counseled them in 2009. I didn't know anything about 2015. Well, this stuff, the Courtney Smith claim with the texts to Shelley Meyer, happened in 2015. That was about that. So Urban Meyer has to have an explanation for that.

CHANG: And while the football team is sort of dealing with these allegations, we should note that Ohio State is dealing with another growing scandal, the one involving allegations of sexual abuse by the wrestling team's former doctor. I mean, the campus is dealing with a lot right now.

RABINOWITZ: So, yeah, Ohio State has been dealing with that investigation for months, and now they're going to have to deal with this investigation. It's not the best of times for Ohio State in terms of that stuff.

CHANG: Well, when you're talking with football players and fans and students, how are they talking about all of this?

RABINOWITZ: Well, honestly I don't know because there's now a media lockdown. Training camp starts tomorrow, and Ohio State just announced that they are not going to make players or coaches available...


RABINOWITZ: ...And that all practices for the time being will be closed. I'm not sure it's the wisest thing because all that means is that people like me will not be able to write - report and write about the team. They'll be stuck with dealing with things like this probably more than they would have if there had been access to the team. But that's the choice Ohio State's made.

CHANG: What is your sense of how this is all going to play out for Urban Meyer?

RABINOWITZ: I will say that he is now in a situation that would have seemed unthinkable even two days ago, that Urban Meyer could be in serious jeopardy of losing his job. I mean, Ohio State - here's the thing about Ohio State. They have not had a coach who left voluntarily since Paul Brown in 1942. They've had legends coach in Ohio State - Woody Hayes, Jim Tressel, John Cooper, Earle Bruce. None of them left of their own volition. They were all fired or forced out in some way. It looked like Urban Meyer would buck that trend, that he would be the one guy who would be able to go out on his terms. And now that's up in the air. I'm not saying that's going to happen...

CHANG: Right.

RABINOWITZ: ...But it's certainly well within the realm of possibility.

CHANG: Bill Rabinowitz covers Ohio State football for the Columbus Dispatch. Thank you.

RABINOWITZ: Thank you, Ailsa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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