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Urban Meyer Knew About Abuse Allegations Before Hiring Assistant Coach

Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer
Michael Conroy
Associated Press
Ohio State head football coach Urban Meyer at the Big Ten championship game against Wisconsin in Indianapolis, Dec. 2, 2017.

Ohio State University head football coach Urban Meyer said on Tuesday that when he hired Zach Smith in 2012, he knew about allegations that Smith abused his then-wife, who was several weeks pregnant at the time of the alleged assault. But Meyer says he did not hear about another alleged incident that happened in 2015 in Delaware County.

Smith, the team's wide receivers coach and lead recruiter, was fired on Monday, three days after his ex-wife filed a protection order against him in Delaware County. Smith’s attorney says Smith dropped his child off at his ex-wife’s apartment instead of at a designated public place.

“Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer has announced the termination of wide receiver’s coach Zach Smith. Coaching staff adjustments will be announced at a later date,” read an emailed statement from the Ohio State Athletics Department.

Delaware County court records show Smith and his then-wife started divorce proceedings in late 2015, and the divorce was finalized in early 2016.

The Ohio State athletics website Eleven Warriors reports Smith was arrested in Powell in 2015 following a dispute with his wife. Powell Police did not immediately confirm the arrest, and did not immediately respond to a request for police reports.

Online court records from Alachua County, Fla., show Smith was arrested in Gainesville on a felony charge of aggravated battery in June 2009. Eleven Warriors reports the charge was dismissed a week later at the request of Smith's then-wife.

At the time, Smith worked as a graduate assistant football coach at the University of Florida, where Meyer was the head football coach.

On Tuesday, Meyer told reporters he met with Smith shortly after the 2009 arrest.

“It came back to me that what was reported wasn’t actually what happened, so Shelly (Meyer) and I both got involved because of our relationship with that family and advised for counseling and wanted to help as we moved forward,” Meyer said.

Smith’s attorney Brad Koeffel told radio station 105.7 The Zone on Monday that “there was no domestic violence in the 2009 incident. It was self-defense," Koeffel said.

Smith, 34, is the grandson of former Ohio State head football coach Earle Bruce, who led the Buckeyes when Meyer was a graduate assistant in the 1980s.

Meyer has repeatedly spoken out against domestic violence, and lists treating women with respect as a core value of his program. Meyer declined to say whether Smith was fired because of the recent protective order or because of the 2015 incident.

“The decision was made, I think the details that I’m obligated to give I gave,” Meyer said.

Hours after Smith was fired, Ohio State announced former Buckeye football player Brian Hartline would join the coaching staff, although his exact role was not immediately disclosed.