SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports’ Paul Myerberg discusses the latest from Ohio State, where Urban Meyer backtracked and Zach Smith broke his silence.
USA TODAY Sports
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith remains on the job while his star head football coach, Urban Meyer, sits on paid administrative leave.
Meyer, the focus of an independent investigation appointed by the OSU Board of Trustees, issued a statement Friday. In it, he clarified his handling of domestic abuse allegations made against since-fired assistant coach Zach Smith by his then-wife in 2015.
Zach Smith has done interviews in which he’s said Gene Smith not only knew of the allegations, but pulled him off the road during a recruiting trip nearly three years ago as a result.
But Gene Smith has yet to tell his version of events. He’s declined to talk to the news media in recent days and did not return an email inquiry from USA TODAY Sports. No one answered the door during a Sunday visit to his residence, about 15 miles east of campus.
“If you’re going to fire Urban Meyer, you have to fire Gene Smith,” Mark Kapostasy of Cincinnati opined at a food cart in Columbus’ Short North neighborhood.
Meyer, while not naming Gene Smith, said in his statement that he followed procedure.
“l 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,” Meyer said.
Zach Smith said Gene Smith was made aware of the October 2015 incident by police around the time he allegedly had a physical confrontation with Courtney Smith. The two were separated at the time and divorced in 2016. Zach Smith wasn’t charged in that incident, although he faces a trespassing charge in Delaware County, Ohio, that came to light days before he was fired July 23.
There’s been no confirmation from police in Powell, Ohio, whether a representative from the department reached out to anyone at Ohio State. It’s also not clear how Meyer learned about the incident in 2015.
Gene Smith easily could clear up the timeline if he chose to, but instead, he’s the lone major figure in the scandal that has rocked this area over the last couple weeks that hasn’t said anything.
Meyer issued his statement via Twitter. Gene Smith’s last post on the social media service was July 31, which included a photo from an Ohio State men’s basketball practice.
Smith has served as Ohio State’s athletic director since 2005, a tenure that included another major controversy related to the school’s football program. Jim Tressel resigned under pressure in 2011 amid allegations he attempted to cover up a scheme in which players received discounted tattoos in exchange for memorabilia and autographs.
The NCAA levied a bowl ban for the 2012 season and a three-year probation for OSU’s failure to monitor player conduct. The school also agreed to vacate wins from the 2010 season and to a three-season reduction of scholarships.
Gordon Gee, Ohio State’s president at the time of the Tressel debacle, supported Gene Smith in 2011.
“Gene Smith’s job is safe,” said Gee, who retired in 2013 after he made offensive comments about Notre Dame, the SEC and Louisville. He now is president of West Virginia University.
Current Ohio State President Michael V. Drake used his official Twitter account to post a statement from the school announcing Meyer being put on paid leave, but has not made any comments about the situation.
It’s too soon to tell if Smith’s job will be spared this time around.
“He’s going to be the one that gets fired – if anyone gets fired,” said Victor Kapostasy, a school teacher in Columbus.
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