Former Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer suggested in text exchanges in January 2018 that troubled former assistant coach Zach Smith was close to accepting a coaching job under Nick Saban at Alabama, and that Meyer ultimately talked him out of it.
The text messages were released as part of a significant document dump related to Smith's firing later that year as past allegations of domestic violence came to light. Meyer was suspended three games by the school for how he handled the allegations of domestic abuse made by Smith's now-ex wife.
Meyer announced his retirement at the end of the 2018 season and is currently a Fox Sports analyst.
In a text written by Meyer on Jan. 21, 2018, to an individual whose name was redacted from the document, Meyer vents about offensive coordinator Ryan Day being pursued by Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel and says Smith was "offered wr/passing game Coord at Alabama. Went there to talk to Saban.
"At first thought maybe he should go then decided that all effort I've put u to him and it's Alabama. I told him to stay and he turned it down. Every (expletive) day it's something."
In a text conversation directly with Smith three days earlier, Meyer told Smith: "After much thought, I want u to stay. I have personally invested far too much in u to get u in position to take next step. U need to step away from other situation and let's go win it all ....again."
Meyer followed that with a text eight minutes later, telling Smith, "We got u thru the (expletive) -- now go b a difference maker in the staff room."
It was unclear what Meyer was referring to.
Smith responded that "it doesn't feel right" to leave.
Meyer responded to Smith, saying: "From this point forward...All grown ass man conversation, never again childish (expletive)....use ur gifts and knowledge. Cell phone away-full engagement and become a coordinator. U have the ability."
Much of the unredacted portion of Meyer's text messages revolve around recruiting. In April 2018 while Smith was purportedly on a recruiting trip, Meyer cautioned him to be careful with a "bump," which is recruiting parlance for a coach running into a player outside of prescribed contact times under NCAA rules.
The rationale Meyer gave was that "Texas is all over," suggesting he was concerned that Longhorns coach and former Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman would be eager to turn the Buckeyes into the NCAA for a rules violation.
The more than 2,000 pages of text and email records released Friday are part of an independent investigation handled by the firm Debevoise & Plimpton LLP.
The documents detail the reaction within the Ohio State athletics department after reporter Brett McMurphy detailed allegations of domestic abuse levied by Courtney Smith. Zach Smith was fired hours after McMurphy’s post on Facebook on July 23, 2018.
“I received text asking about Zach issues (I knew about-it was dropped),” Meyer said in a text exchange in August, hours before meeting with reporters at Big Ten media day.
“Also 2015 said felony arrest. I know nothing about this. Is there a way to find out exactly what his issues were. I know about 2009 and last week. That’s it. Need some guidance here so when I speak to media I'm not wrong.”
OSU athletic director Gene Smith later responded to Meyer: “I would be careful. Do not get too detailed . . . . What ever you say, say in opening statement and take no more questions on it.”
Courtney Smith's first known accusation of domestic abuse made against Zach Smith was in 2009. She was pregnant with the couple's first child at the time and Zach Smith was a graduate assistant under Meyer at Florida. Smith was arrested on two felony charges, but the case was not prosecuted.
Courtney Smith said in an interview with Stadium that the abuse continued while Zach Smith was the wide receivers coach at Ohio State. She also said Meyer's wife, Shelley, and Lindsey Voltolini, the wife of Ohio State’s director of football operations, were aware of her then-husband's alleged abusive behavior.
"I am worried about Zach's response," Shelley Meyer, Urban Meyer’s wife, wrote in a text message July 23, 2018: “He drinks a lot and I am just not sure how stable he will be. Afraid he will do something dangerous. It's obvious he has anger/rage issues already."
What appears to be an OSU staffer told Gene Smith in a text that Zach Smith “is not going to be alone this evening. Going to be with his family.”
Zach Smith was issued a trespassing summons in 2015, which was made public as part of a protective order sought by Courtney Smith last summer. He was arrested in May by the Delaware County (Ohio) Sheriff's Office for violating that protective order.
Zach Smith maintains he never abused his wife. Last August, Smith told USA TODAY Sports Urban Meyer "never protected" him.
“Urban knew the truth," Smith said. "That’s what’s lost in all this: the truth. Everything he’s said negatively about me, that’s all on Ohio State. That’s all from the pressure they put on him to keep his job because they are spineless. That’s why they fired Jim Tressel. They are absolutely spineless and that probably comes from the board, the president – all of them.”
Updated 6:09 AM EST Dec 17, 2019