COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio State suspended coach Urban Meyer for three games on Wednesday night for mishandling repeated professional and behavioral problems of an assistant coach, with investigators finding Meyer protected his protege for years through domestic violence allegations, a drug problem and poor job performance.
The superstar coach's treatment of his now-fired assistant was also clouded by his abiding devotion to the legacy of former Ohio State coach Earle Bruce, the grandfather of former wide receivers coach Zach Smith and an early coaching mentor for Meyer.
"I gave Zach Smith the benefit of the doubt," Meyer said.
The investigation turned up "a pattern of troubling behavior by Zach Smith: promiscuous and embarrassing sexual behavior, drug abuse, truancy, dishonesty, financial irresponsibility, a possible NCAA violation, and a lengthy police investigation into allegations of criminal domestic violence and cybercrimes," according to summary investigative findings released by the university on Wednesday night.
Meyer knew about at least some of the issues.
The report and punishment culminated a two-week investigation of how Meyer reacted to allegations that Smith abused his ex-wife, Courtney Smith. Zach Smith was fired last month after she asked a judge for a protective order.
Courtney Smith alleged her husband shoved her against a wall and put his hands around her neck in 2015. Zach Smith has never been criminally charged with domestic violence. The university put Meyer on paid leave and began investigating after Courtney Smith spoke out publicly, sharing text messages and photos she traded in 2015 with Meyer's wife, Shelley Meyer. Shelley Meyer is a registered nurse and instructor at Ohio State.
"I followed my heart and not my head," Meyer said, quickly reading a written statement during a news conference after his punishment was announced. "I should have demanded more from him and recognized red flags."
Investigators said Meyer and athletic director Gene Smith mismanaged Zach Smith's misconduct and kept him even though he was not an appropriate role model for OSU student-athletes. The review found neither Meyer nor Gene Smith condoned or covered up alleged abuse.