COLUMBUS — Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said he has sent letters and had conversations with families of players as a key step toward containing and repairing the scandal that led to his three-game suspension, a saga he describes as “a window in time I made an error.”
He acknowledged Monday that the program’s reputation has suffered and said he hopes more clarity about what happened will help mitigate the damage.
In what normally would have been a news conference about the week’s football game, the Ohio State coach met for nearly an hour with reporters who questioned him about his mismanagement of fired assistant Zach Smith and his resulting suspension after a university investigation.
“I think there was,” Meyer said when asked whether damage has been done to the program.
He said the letters and talks with families of players were to assuage concerns that he turned his back on domestic violence allegations.
“The damage, I believe, is that we just went through a really hard time, and I made a mistake in helping a troubled employee, went too far in trying to help someone,” Meyer said.
Beyond his players, Meyer’s explanations and actions have ramifications with potential recruits. Four-star linebacker Kane Patterson from Tennessee already rescinded his commitment to Ohio State since Meyer was suspended.
Meyer reiterated his contention that he didn’t ignore or cover up domestic abuse allegations against Smith, who was fired in July. Smith denies abusing his wife, Courtney Smith, and was never charged or prosecuted for domestic violence. Meyer said his mistake was not asking more questions about their situation and instead trying to help Zach Smith keep his job so he could continue to support his family.
He also again denied lying to reporters about his knowledge of 2015 allegations against Smith, saying that he “misspoke.” Ohio State’s investigative report found that Meyer intended to keep details of Smith’s troubles private when asked by reporters.
“I’m going to keep saying if for the rest of my life, this was about trying to help an employee with work-related issues. It was not about lying to the media,” Meyer said.
Meyer was asked about memory issues cited by the report as a reason why he might not have remembered specific conversations. He said he’s had some medical issues that required some “pretty heavy meds at time,” but said “I’m very healthy” and none of those issues would affect his running of the program.
Meyer was put on paid leave Aug. 1, two days before the Buckeyes opened fall camp as the university launched its investigation.
That probe found that Meyer had for years tolerated misbehavior from Smith, who is the grandson of former Ohio State coach and Meyer mentor Earle Bruce. Meyer was suspended Aug. 22. He was allowed to return to practice Sept. 3, but could not be on the sideline for the first three games, which the Buckeyes won behind acting coach Ryan Day.
Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith — no relation to Zach Smith — was suspended for two weeks.
Meyer will be back on the sideline for Saturday’s home game against Tulane.
All-American defensive end Nick Bosa will be held out of Saturday’s game because of a lower abdomen/groin injury suffered in the 40-28 win over TCU. He was having more tests Monday.
** Defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones was named Big Ten defensive player of the week. The junior from St. Ignatius had a 28-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter that put the Buckeyes up for good 26-21 over TCU on Saturday. Also had a career-high six tackles, including four solo stops, while adding a sack, two tackles for a loss and a pass breakup.
- Ohio State: Urban Meyer returns to sideline for No. 4 Buckeyes against Tulane
- No. 4 Ohio State holds off No. 15 TCU, 40-28
- Ohio State: Urban Meyer talks about suspension in ESPN interview
- Getting defensive: No. 4 Ohio State and No. 15 TCU ready to tangle
- Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins making it look easy so far
- No. 4 Ohio State 52, Rutgers 3: Two quarterbacks too good as Buckeyes rout Rutgers, improve to 2-0
- No. 5 Ohio State 77, Oregon State 31: Buckeyes bring the thunder during stormy season opener, piling up 721 yards of offense
- College football: Season's here for No. 5 Ohio State, but Urban Meyer's not
- Ohio State trustee resigns, calls Urban Meyer's penalty too light
- Rick-o-chet: Pressing, stressing, messing...
- Ohio State football: Open records experts say Urban Meyer may have broken the law if he deleted old texts
- Jim Ingraham: For THE Ohio State University, Urban Meyer is obviously too big to fail
- Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer suspended 3 games
- By keeping it in the family, Urban Meyer tarnishes legacy
- Ohio State trustees deliberate Urban Meyer's coaching future (UPDATED)
- Rick-o-chet: Zingers, dingers, ringers...
- Ohio State: Buckeyes' receivers ready to answer Meyer's call
- College football: Buckeyes fifth in AP Top 25 poll; Alabama first for third straight season
- Ohio State: OSU trustees to meet Wednesday to discuss Urban Meyer's future
- That scrutinized bit of Urban Meyer's OSU contract may be new norm
- Ohio State football: Plenty of concerns off the field, but expectations still high for Buckeyes, even with a new QB
- Rick-o-chet: Throwing, showing, knowing...
- Jim Ingraham: Ohio State's Urban Meyer just might be fumbling his career away
- Urban Meyer: Followed protocol for 2015 abuse allegations (UPDATED)
- Paul Newberry: It's tough to believe a 'control freak' like Urban Meyer didn't know
- Ohio State closing practice to media in wake of Urban Meyer investigation
- Ohio State's Meyer put on leave, investigation opened (UPDATED)
- Ex-Ohio State star Brian Hartline promoted after shakeup
- Ohio State's Urban Meyer explains decision to fire assistant coach
- Ohio State fires receivers coach Zach Smith after domestic charge