COLUMBUS, Ohio – Text messages I have obtained, an exclusive interview with the victim and other information I have learned shows Ohio State coach Urban Meyer knew in 2015 of domestic abuse allegations against a member of his coaching staff.
Courtney Smith, ex-wife of fired Ohio State assistant coach Zach Smith, provided text messages between her and the wives of Ohio State coaches – including Urban Meyer’s wife, Shelley – showing Meyer’s knowledge of the situation.
Meyer said last week during Big Ten Media Days that he had no knowledge of two alleged domestic violence incidents in 2015 with former assistant wide receivers coach Zach Smith that were investigated by the Powell (Ohio) Police Department.
Meyer said had he known, he would have fired Smith in 2015 – three years before he did last week after I reported the alleged domestic violence.
“All the (coaches) wives knew,” Courtney said. “They all did. Every single one.”
When asked specifically if he knew of the domestic violence incidents with Zach Smith, or if he had been told of them, Meyer said, “I was never told about anything. Never anything came to light, never had a conversation about it. So I know nothing about it. I asked people back at the office to call and see what happened, and they came back and said they know nothing.”
However, text messages I have obtained sent from Courtney Smith, Meyer’s wife Shelley; and other Ohio State coaches’ wives show Urban Meyer and a number of Ohio State assistant coaches were aware of Smith’s domestic violence issues for several years.
Courtney said Shelley Meyer, Urban’s wife of nearly three decades, knew about the abuse that begin in 2009, continued in 2015 and culminated with Zach Smith being served a domestic violence civil protection order last week.
Courtney said she and Shelly often discussed Zach’s domestic violence.
“Shelly said she was going to have to tell Urban,” Courtney said. “I said: ‘That’s fine, you should tell Urban.’ I know Shelley did everything she could.”
On Oct. 25, 2015, Courtney and Zach were separated. Zach came by her house, an argument ensued and then Courtney said he assaulted her.
“He took me and shoved me up against the wall, with his hands around my neck,” Courtney said. “Something he did very often. My (then 3-year old) daughter was clinging to my leg. It obviously registered with him what he was doing, so he took my (then 5-year old) son and left. So I called the police.”
Since Zach had already left, the police came the next day and the report was officially filed on Oct. 26, 2015. Zach Smith has never been convicted of domestic violence.
One 2015 text exchange between Courtney and Shelley Meyer shows the extent of Shelley’s knowledge of the alleged domestic abuse and that she was concerned for Courtney’s safety.
Shelley: “I am with you! 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”
Courtney: “Restraining orders don’t do anything in Ohio-I tried to get protection order which is what started this whole investigation. And that should go through soon finally. It’s hard bc you have to prove immediate danger. Legal system is tough. Basically you have to prove he will kill u to get protective order”
Shelley: “Geesh! Even w the pics? Didn’t law enforcement come to your place ever??”
During Big Ten Media Days last week, Meyer was asked about the importance of wives helping coaches on and off the field, and how Shelley has impacted his coaching life.
“She’s always weighed in as my best friend and soul mate,” Urban said. “She’s been right there with everything. Especially when you’re dealing with – not who’s going to carry the ball on third down, she has an opinion on that too – we chat about people. She has a great spirit. A great love of people. Her heart is always in the right place. She’s phenomenal. Absolutely I rely on her.”
Two weeks after the Oct. 25, 2015 incident, a Nov. 5, 2015 text exchange between Lindsey Voltolini and Courtney shows Meyer talked to Zach Smith about the incident.
Lindsey is the wife of Brian Voltolini, considered one of Meyer’s most loyal staff members. Brian is Ohio State’s football operations director and has been part of Meyer’s staffs for 15 seasons at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida and Ohio State.
Courtney: “(Zach’s) trying to make me look crazy bc that’s what Shelley is saying (he’s doing)”
Lindsey: “He (Urban) just said he (Zach) denied everything”
Courtney: “I hope urban is smarter than that”
Lindsey: “He (Urban) doesn’t know what to think”
Courtney: “I don’t really care. Ya know”
Lindsey: “Yeah, don’t worry about urb”
Despite that common knowledge throughout the Woody Hayes Athletic Complex, Smith remained on Ohio State’s staff for six seasons until he was fired July 23 – only after I initially uncovered and reported earlier that day that Smith had a long history of domestic violence abuse allegations against Courtney.
Larry H. James, a Columbus attorney selected by Ohio State in 2011 as its lead counsel to represent its student athletes in NCAA investigations, said he was Zach Smith’s attorney in 2015. In November of 2015, James contacted Terry Thomas, then Courtney’s attorney, seeking information. Thomas would not reveal specifics of the conversation.
“He called me and asked ‘how bad was it?’ ” Thomas said. “I said ‘it’s bad.’ I assume he wanted the information so he could report this back to his client.”
When contacted Wednesday morning, James said he did not forward any information to Ohio State because that would violate attorney-client privilege.
In 2011 James was selected by Ohio State to represent its players in Tattoo-gate, a tattoo for memorabilia tradeoff that led to the firing of beloved coach Jim Tressel.
During the 2015 call from James to Thomas, Courtney said that Zach’s attorney asked Thomas “if Zach would be a threat to the players?”
The first time Zach Smith allegedly physically abused his wife was June 21, 2009 in Gainesville, Fla. Courtney Smith, then 24, was 8-10 weeks pregnant.
On June 20, 2009, Florida was coming off its second national title in three seasons under Meyer. Urban and his wife threw a party before their hard-working staff members left for summer break. After the party, Courtney said she went home, while Zach went out with some buddies. Courtney said Zach returned home drunk around 3 a.m. with a female co-worker, who Zach called “baby,” pleading with Courtney to let the woman spend the night with them, according to a Gainesville police report.
Courtney said the woman was Amy Nicol, who at the time was Meyer’s secretary at Florida. For the past six years Nicol has been director of internal operations for Ohio State’s football program and a member of Meyer’s staff a total of 10 seasons. According to the police report, Zach said that night Amy “was upset from breaking up with her boyfriend” and needed a place to stay.
Courtney refused and drove Amy home. Upon returning “a heated argument ensued in the upstairs bedroom. Courtney stated she tried to get Zach out of her bed, which he refused and then forcefully grabbed her,” according to the police report.
The report said Zach Smith, then 25, “picked (Courtney) up, by grabbing her T-shirt and threw her against the bedroom wall.”
It was the Smith’s one-year wedding anniversary.
Zach Smith, then in his fourth year on UF’s staff, was handcuffed and arrested for aggravated battery on a pregnant victim. Meyer said last week at Big Ten Media Days that in 2009 he and his wife Shelley “advised for counseling and wanted to help” the couple.
“As I do many times, most coaches and people in leadership positions, you receive a phone call,” Meyer said at Big Ten Media Days. “The first thing you do is tell your boss, let the experts do their jobs.
“We’re certainly not going to investigate. It came back to me that what was reported wasn’t actually what happened.”
I dont normally embed that much of a post but damn. This story is bananas. When you get a chance, go and read the rest of the Facebook post from Brett on this. It’s over 3,200 words and he posted it only to his facebook account. How in the world does Brett not have a job yet? The dude breaks college football story after college football story and the only place he has to put them is facebook and he still does it in the proper AP format. A true pro.
Anyway, if Urban Meyer knew about all this and he shrugged it off, I dont know how you can keep him around. College football coaches who have success never really seem to get fired for scandals that would do any normal person in.
It’ll be interesting to see what Ohio State has to say about all this. Will they side their top 3 coach in college football or will they react to Brent’s story and pretty overwhelming documentation? If history is any indicator, they’ll side with the coach.