Sports News Without Access, Favor, Or Discretion

From "Win The Moment" To "He Said She Said" To "Tuff Perception World": How Urban Meyer And Ohio State Reacted To The Zach Smith News

Photo: Jeff Gross (Getty)

Ohio State released more than 2,000 pages of records on Friday related to its investigation of former head football coach Urban Meyer and what he and others on his staff knew about the repeated reports to authorities over the years by Courtney Smith that she had been abused by her then-husband and then-OSU assistant coach, Zach Smith. Brett McMurphy first reported on July 23 of last year that Courtney Smith had gotten a protection order against Zach Smith, who was fired later that day. Meyer was suspended for three games, all at the start of the season, then returned and retired afterward.

The document dump was emails and text messages going back several years and included everything from extended chats about recruiting athletes, to emails from Ohio State fans insisting Meyer not be fired, to updates on Zach Smith’s fantasy football team. Tucked in there were message sent between Meyer, athletic director Gene Smith, then-defensive coordinator Greg Schiano, and others around the time that McMurphy first broke the story and the days following. Here is what they show.

Advertisement

(The documents were released with heavy redactions. While overall exemptions were cited in the email announcing the dump—such as medical history and student privacy—individual redactions were not labeled, meaning there is no way know for certain why each redaction was made.)

First are these messages from May and June. They show concerns being expressed about Zach Smith, but why isn’t said. That month, Zach Smith was cited by Powell, Ohio, police for criminal trespassing after fighting with Courtney Smith.

Advertisement

These are dated July 20. One of the people in the conversation is labeled as “Zach/courtney smith” but it’s doubtful that it was Zach Smith or Courtney Smith on the other end given the conversation the topics are “Zach and the legal issue” as well as athletic recruits. This is three days before the McMurphy report:

Advertisement
Advertisement

The day the Facebook post goes up, Meyer gets a text from Jerry Emig, the associate athletic director for athletics communications.

Advertisement

It’s followed by another message with a link to the Facebook post.

Advertisement

From there, work on a statement begins.

Advertisement

And this is what Meyer texts, with a reminder to “Win the Moment.”

Advertisement

Around that time Meyer also gets this text message with a suggestion for a new hire.

Advertisement

Meanwhile, someone wants to talk about this fiasco and a reporter is reaching out for comment.

Advertisement

Another person reaches out to offer Meyer comfort. Meyer responds the next day saying the “stuff vs Zach will get legally dropped ... tuff perception world we live in.”

Advertisement

That day, July 24, Meyer sends this message saying the “legal issues with Zach will b dropped.”

Advertisement

Smith’s legal issues were not dropped. He pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, and Courtney Smith received a domestic violence protection order that lasts three years.

Advertisement

Hours later, Meyer has this text chat. It contains a reference to Earle, which likely means Zach Smith’s grandfather, Earle Bruce, a legendary Ohio State football coach and mentor of Meyer. Meyer calls what happened a “he said she said.”

Advertisement

Meyer also texts someone asking for guidance on what to do.

Advertisement

At some point, Meyer has this discussion. He again says “win the moment” and there’s talk about how to message this.

Advertisement

There’s a gap in the messages, and they pick up again here.

Advertisement

Athletic director Gene Smith tells Meyer to “stay the course.”

Advertisement

Assistant coach Greg Schiano reminds Meyer to “WIN THE MOMENT!!!!”

Advertisement

And by July 25, two days after the story broke, Meyer gets a text message that tells him “this too shall pass.”

Advertisement

A month later, Meyer gave a press conference after an earlier wave of documents were released. During the entire press conference, Meyer only addressed Courtney Smith once when an ESPN producer asked him directly about her. In December it was reported that Meyer would teach a class at Ohio State. The topic of the class? Character and leadership.

Correction (9:53 p.m.): This post has been updated to reflect a text message was received, not sent, by Meyer saying “this too shall pass.”

Advertisement

Deadspin staff writers Patrick Redford and Lauren Theisen contributed to this report.

Share This Story

About the author

Diana Moskovitz

Senior editor at Deadspin

EmailTwitterPosts
PGP Fingerprint: FF57 38CF BB4A 84D1 834A 3BA2 D704 1D9F 659A B991PGP Key
OTR Fingerprint: AEEB7418 00D6AEA9 112206FF 3E97529D CE8C29C9