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Mike Bianchi: Ohio State coach Urban Meyer should resign after scandal

Orlando Sentinel logoOrlando Sentinel 8/2/2018 Mike Bianchi

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For years, football fans of the Florida Gators and the Ohio State Buckeyes vehemently accused me of being unfairly critical of Urban Meyer and have continually asked me if I have something personal against one of the greatest coaches in college football history.

My basic reply has always been the same:

"Urban Meyer is Urban Liar. He is the most disingenuous coach I've ever covered."

On Wednesday, college football reporter extraordinaire Brett McMurphy confirmed everything I've ever believed about Meyer, who was shockingly placed on paid administrative leave by Ohio State as a result of McMurphy's reporting.

During the past few days, McMurphy, ESPN's former college football insider who will soon join Stadium Network, has unearthed that Meyer employed alleged serial domestic-abuser Zach Smith as an assistant coach for nearly a decade dating back to Meyer's national-championship days at the University of Florida. Even more troubling is that Meyer seemingly tried to cover up the allegations against Smith.

Ohio State should not have to fire Urban Meyer because Meyer should voluntarily step down on his own for being an incredible hypocrite. He's always said that one of his "core values" is that he has "zero tolerance" for violence against women. In fact, as McMurphy pointed out in his extensive expose, Meyer's five core values are emblazoned on the wall inside Ohio State's football complex. Among the five — in all capital letters — is "TREAT WOMEN WITH RESPECT."

How can Meyer continue to be employed by a state institution of higher learning during these revolutionary #MeToo times when women nationwide are standing up and bringing down powerful men who are perpetuating or ignoring sexual misconduct in the workplace?

Meyer's problems started last week when McMurphy unearthed police reports showing Smith was accused of three cases of domestic abuse dating back to 2009 when he was a graduate assistant at the University of Florida. It was only after McMurphy published the police reports that Meyer and Ohio State fired Smith. Clearly, Meyer didn't fire Smith because he allegedly abused his wife numerous times; he fired Smith because the allegations became public.

In an attempt to minimize the PR damage, it appears Meyer may have lied last week during Big Ten Media Days when reporters pressed him on just how much he knew about Smith's alleged transgressions. Meyer admitted he and his wife Shelley knew of the 2009 incident but recommended that Zach and Courtney Smith — a young married couple at the time — seek counseling.

Meyer then claimed that he knew nothing about two alleged domestic-violence incidents in 2015. "I can't say it didn't happen because I wasn't there," Meyer claimed at Big Ten media days. "I was never told about anything ... never had a conversation about it, so I know nothing about that."

Except Courtney Smith showed McMurphy text messages from Meyer's wife Shelley that certainly seem to indicate she was well aware of Zach Smith's violent past. In fact, Courtney Smith said of the 2015 incident, "All the (coaches') wives knew. They all did. Every single one."

Among Shelley Meyer's text messages to Courtney Smith was one from 2015 in which Shelley wrote of women being victimized by abusive spouses.

"I am with you!" Shelley wrote. "A lot of women stay hoping it will get better. I don't blame you! But just want u to be safe. Do you have a restraining order? He scares me."

Anybody who actually believes Shelley Meyer, Urban's wife of nearly 30 years, knew about this and didn't tell Urban is simply being delusional. In fact, Courtney Smith told McMurphy that she and Shelley often discussed Zach's domestic violence.

"Shelley said she was going to have to tell Urban," Courtney said. "I said: 'That's fine, you should tell Urban.' "

Shelley Meyer, by the way, is a registered nurse and an instructor at Ohio State's College of Nursing. As McMurphy pointed out, if Shelley and Urban Meyer knew of any potential domestic-violence accusations against Zach Smith and didn't report them to the university, they could both be in violation of federal Title IX guidelines and the school's own sexual-misconduct policy.

Anybody who covered Urban Meyer at the University of Florida knows he overlooked many player transgressions in his zeal to win to championships. In 2007, the notorious Aaron Hernandez was originally a suspect in a Gainesville, Fla., shooting that left two men wounded, including one who was shot in the back of the head. That case, categorized as an attempted homicide, remains unsolved.

Meyer told the Gainesville Sun's Pat Dooley he was informed of the incident by one of his UF assistants and "didn't think about it again" until six years later after Hernandez was accused (and convicted) of murder when he played for the New England Patriots.

Sorry, but I didn't believe Urban Meyer then and I don't believe him now.

I don't believe one of the most powerful and successful coaches in college football history would be oblivious to the fact that one of his players was a suspect in an attempted homicide.

And I don't believe that same coach would be ignorant to the fact that one of his most trusted assistant coaches has been accused of being a serial domestic abuser.

As Courtney Smith herself told McMurphy, "I do believe he (Meyer) knew, and instead he chose to help the abuser and enable the abuser and believe whatever story Zach was telling everybody."

Go away, Urban Meyer.

Resign immediately.

You are a disgrace to intercollegiate athletics.

———

ABOUT THE WRITER

Mike Bianchi is a columnist for the Orlando Sentinel.

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