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Investigation leads to coach, AD suspensions


After consulting with The Ohio State University Board of Trustees, President Michael V. Drake announced disciplinary actions in August for head football coach Urban Meyer and athletics director Gene Smith based on an investigative report examining the handling of allegations against an assistant coach.

Meyer was suspended through Sept. 2, 2018, and for the game days of Sept. 1, 8 and 15. This follows his absence from the team’s training camp while he was on paid administrative leave beginning Aug. 1. He will forgo six weeks of compensation.

Smith was suspended without pay from Aug. 31 through Sept. 16.

“The discipline reflects our collective judgment based on the findings of the investigative report and the independent committee. The board fully supports this conclusion,” Drake said the night the suspensions were announced. “We made this decision today based on the facts and our values as a university. We value the truth, and this independent team thoroughly and faithfully sought the truth. We value consensus, and today’s decision represents the collective wisdom of the board and the leadership of our university.”

Mary Jo White, senior chair with the national law firm Debevoise & Plimpton and former chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, led the independent investigative team.

The investigators interviewed more than 40 witnesses and reviewed thousands of documents, including police reports, court filings, employment contracts, and relevant university and NCAA rules and policies. Findings from the independent review include:

  • Meyer has a sincere commitment to the Respect for Women core value that he espouses and tries to instill in his players.
  • Although Meyer and Gene Smith failed to adhere to the precise requirements of their contracts, they did so based upon a good faith belief that they did not have sufficient information to trigger a reporting obligation or initiate a disciplinary action against former assistant coach Zach Smith in the absence of law enforcement action.
  • Because other witnesses had the same uncertainties about what triggers university reporting obligations, Ohio State will clarify its requirements and implement additional training to reinforce them.
  • Meyer made misstatements at the Big Ten Media Days, but those misstatements were not part of a cover-up effort to keep Zach Smith on the coaching staff.
  • In light of the investigation’s identification of multiple examples of inappropriate conduct by Zach Smith while employed as an assistant football coach, Meyer and Gene Smith went too far in allowing him to remain as an employee in the face of that misconduct.

“I know the impact that the events of the last three weeks have had on this institution — an institution that I love — and how challenging this has been for our community and our president, a man for whom I have great respect. And for that, I am deeply sorry,” Meyer said the evening the decision was announced. “I am fully aware that I am ultimately responsible for this situation that has harmed the university as a whole, our Department of Athletics and our football program. I want to also apologize to Buckeye Nation. The suspensions are tough, but I fully accept them.”

Prior to the start of his suspension, Gene Smith consulted with Ryan Day to reaffirm his continued service as acting head coach. Day assumed the role of acting head coach Aug. 1.

“I fully support the findings of the report and the subsequent actions that the university has taken,” Gene Smith said. “I want to thank our university community and all of Buckeye Nation for their understanding and humbly ask them for their continued support of our student-athletes — particularly our football team as they have prepared for the start of another season and academic year through all of this.”

An independent working group formed by trustees to direct the work of the investigative team was led by former Ohio House Speaker Jo Ann Davidson and included former acting U.S. Deputy Attorney General Craig Morford, former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio Carter Stewart and current university trustees Alex Fischer, Janet Porter and Alex Shumate.

“Our gratitude goes to our board, university leadership, our independent group and the investigators,” said board Chair Michael J. Gasser. “They worked exhaustively, and we are pleased to come to a resolution.”

The decision regarding Meyer and Smith was announced after Drake consulted with the Board of Trustees. All three men made statements that evening, and Meyer followed up with an additional statement on Aug. 24.

The university released the investigative team’s findings and other public records related to the investigation.

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