COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer was placed on paid administrative leave Wednesday following a report that he knew about allegations of domestic violence against former assistant coach Zach Smith.
The university said it will open an investigation into the allegations and offensive coordinator Ryan Day will serve as interim coach in Meyer's absence.
Meyer issued a statement Wednesday:
"Gene (Smith, the AD) and I agree that being on leave during this inquiry will facilitate its completion. This allows the team to conduct training camp with minimal distraction. I eagerly look forward to the resolution of this matter."
Smith was fired last week, three days after his ex-wife, Courtney Smith, filed a protection order against him. He also pleaded not guilty to a related criminal trespassing charge.
Meyer said at Big Ten media days last week that he was aware of abuse allegations against Smith that occurred in 2009. He denied having knowledge of a 2015 incident.
“What was reported wasn’t actually what happened,” Meyer said of the 2009 incident. “It’s a very personal matter."
But former ESPN reporter Brett McMurphy released a bombshell Wednesday, posting text messages and photos between Courtney Smith and Meyer's wife, Shelley. Another text exchange between Courtney Smith and Lindsey Voltolini, whose husband is Ohio State Director of Football Operations Brian Voltolini, implied that Urban Meyer knew about more than just the 2009 incident.
With Meyer on leave and the team set to open training Friday, many questions remain on the program's future and who else was involved.
Smith began working under Meyer at the University of Florida in 2007. He was Ohio State's wide receivers coach until his firing last week.
Smith has a record of domestic abuse allegations, dating back to the 2009 incident in which he was charged with felonious assault against his wife, who was pregnant at the time. His wife said Zach returned home drunk with a female coworker after a party hosted by the Meyers.
After Courtney Smith drove the woman home, a fight with her husband ensued and he allegedly grabbed her by the shirt and threw her. Zach Smith was arrested for aggravated battery.
In 2015, police were called to Smith's home on another domestic abuse call but no charges were filed.
The most recent charge occurred in May, during an incident that occurred when Zach Smith dropped off the couple's son at his wife's home. Zach Smith was charged with criminal trespassing and a protection order was filed. He has not been convicted on any domestic abuse charges.
Zach Smith's ex-wife alleges her ex-husband threw her into a wall when she was eight to 10 weeks pregnant in 2009. She dropped the charges and later claimed it was because she was convinced to do so by a pair of Urban Meyer's mentors.
McMurphy obtained a series of photos sent by Courtney Smith to Shelley Meyer, Lindsey Voltolini and other wives involved in the Ohio State football program. Those photos show bruises, cuts and marks on Courtney Smith.
“All the (coaches') wives knew,” Courtney Smith told McMurphy. “They all did. Every single one.”
The Smiths separated in 2015 before another alleged incident happened in which Courtney Smith claims Zach choked her and shoved her against a wall with the couple's two children present.
Courtney Smith told McMurphy she left her husband on June 6, 2015. In November of that year, she filed for divorce. McMurphy reports that Zach Smith's lawyer had the divorce documents sealed without Courtney Smith's consent.
Delaware County Common Pleas Judge Everett H. Krueger agreed to seal the documents “in order to protect certain businesses and personal interests which, if published, may negatively affect (Zach Smith’s) occupation.” Those documents were unsealed Wednesday, McMurphy said.
Courtney Smith says she frequently discussed her abuse with Urban Meyer's wife, Shelley. Shelley is also an Ohio State employee as a registered nurse.
McMurphy posted a 2015 text exchange between Courtney Smith and Shelley Meyer in which Meyer acknowledged the photos showing Smith's bruises and marks:
Shelley Meyer: “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 Smith: “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 Meyer: “Geesh! Even w the pics? Didn’t law enforcement come to your place ever??”
Lindsey Voltolini is the wife of Ohio State Football Operations Direction Brian Voltolini. Brian Voltolini has been on Meyer's staff for 15 seasons, dating back to his days at Bowling Green, according to McMurphy.
Courtney Smith also sent texts about her abuse to Lindsey Voltolini, published by McMurphy. Those messages imply that Urban Meyer knew about the abuse.
Courtney Smith: “(Zach’s) trying to make me look crazy bc that’s what Shelley is saying (he’s doing)”
Lindsey Voltolini: “He (Urban) just said he (Zach) denied everything”
Courtney Smith: “I hope urban is smarter than that”
Lindsey Voltolini: “He (Urban) doesn’t know what to think”
Courtney Smith: “I don’t really care. Ya know”
Lindsey Voltolini: “Yeah, don’t worry about urb”
Earle Bruce and Hiram De Fries
Former Ohio State coach Earle Bruce was Zach Smith's grandfather and a mentor to Urban Meyer. He died in April.
McMurphy reports that in the days following Zach Smith's 2009 arrest, Bruce and Hiram de Fries, another mentor to Meyer, asked Courtney Smith to drop the charges against her husband.
Courtney Smith told McMurphy that Bruce and Zach's mother drove from Ohio to Florida to talk to her and De Fries called her to set up a meeting.
“He said ‘if you don’t drop the charges, Zach will never coach again,’” Courtney Smith told McMurphy. “‘He’s never hit you before. He was drinking. He’ll probably never do it again. You should think about giving him a second chance.’“