Ohio State University’s football coach Urban Meyer has been suspended from his position for three games, the Columbus, Ohio, school announced in a press conference on Wednesday night.
Meyer has been embroiled in a scandal involving the team’s former assistant coach, Zach Smith, whose ex-wife accused him of domestic abuse. While Meyer fired Smith in July after the allegations became public, according to ESPN, the question loomed of how much Meyer knew —and when.
OSU took two weeks to investigate Meyer’s involvement, which ultimately led to the suspension.
“The discipline reflects our collective judgment based on the findings of the investigative report and the independent committee. The board fully supports this conclusion,” President Michael V. Drake said in a statement. “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.”
The public response to the decision has been far from positive, though, with some saying Meyer’s three-game suspension is not enough.
Read on for a breakdown of the OSU’s decision and what the public is saying.
What did Smith do?
Zach was a wide receivers coach, as well as recruiting coordinator for the Buckeyes, according to ESPN. He also worked for Meyer at University of Florida, before the coach’s move to OSU.
He was fired on July 23, shortly after his ex-wife Courtney Smith, 33, was granted a personal protection order against him and he was charged with criminal trespassing, ESPN reported.
That same day, reporter Brett McMurphy released an in-depth report profiling numerous domestic violence allegations against Zach, 34, that had occurred during the couple’s marriage (The pair’s divorce was finalized on Sept. 1, 2016).
According to McMurphy, one such incident occurred in Florida in 2009. Zach was arrested on aggravated battery charges against Courtney, who was pregnant at the time, but she ultimately declined to file charges and the case was dropped.
In 2015, officers were also called to Courtney’s residence for allegations of domestic abuse by Zach.
Why was Meyer suspended?
According to NBC Sports, a two-week investigation by OSU found that Meyer — who was initially placed on paid administrative leave — made “misstatements” when discussing his reason for firing Smith at a press conference in July.
During the Big Ten media day press conference, Meyer, 54, denied knowledge of the 2015 incident, but did claim that he and his wife helped both Zach and Courtney seek counseling after the 2009 arrest, USA Today reported. Courtney further claimed to McMurphy that Meyer was aware of the alleged domestic abuse while Zach was at OSU.
The university also found that Meyer, as Smith’s manager, did not proactively respond to his employee’s alleged criminal history.
That said, the university also concluded that Meyers did not at any point deliberately trying to cover up Smith’s alleged behavior. In addition to what Meyer has said, the investigation looked into “over 60,000 e-mails and 10,000 text messages” and included interviews with roughly 40 witnesses to see if the coach had at any point covered up for or pretended not to know about Smith’s past.
According to a statement from the university, Meyer never “condoned or covered up the alleged domestic abuse by Zach Smith, [but he] failed to take sufficient management action relating to Zach Smith’s misconduct and retained an Assistant Coach who was not performing as an appropriate role model for OSU student-athletes.”
The full report from OSU’s investigation — including more revelations about both Meyer and Zach — is available online.
What has Meyer said about the scandal?
Following the news of his suspension, Meyer said that his relationship with Smith’s grandfather and his mentor, former OSU coach Earle Bruce, caused him to overlook troubling aspects of the assistant coach’s behavior. He explained in a press conference on Wednesday, “I followed my heart and not my head… I gave Zach Smith the benefit of the doubt.”
“I know that 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 this community, our president — a man I have great respect for — and for that I am deeply sorry,” Meyer also said. “I’m fully aware that I’m ultimately responsible for this situation that has harmed the university as a whole and the Department of Athletics and our football program.”
Meyer added, in part, that his suspension was “tough” but that he would “fully accept” the decision. “These difficult lessons are a constant reminder of the duties and obligations that I have as a member of this university, and this community,” he said.
In a statement to PEOPLE on Wednesday, Zach’s attorney Brad Koffel stated, “Allegations of domestic abuse should always be investigated at the time of a report by trained professionals to substantiate the abuse and protect victims from future harm. It is my understanding that law enforcement did their jobs. Zach & Courtney need to figure out how to work together with professional assistance to try and heal for the benefit of their children.”
Courtney’s attorney, Julia Leveridge, also did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
What has been the response to the suspension?
Many people following the scandal have expressed shock at the minimal punishment for Meyer’s alleged inaction, as well as disagreement with the findings of the university’s investigation in general. Others, too, noted that Meyer did not apologize to Courtney during his press conference.
For example, New Jersey-based reporter James Kratch wrote on Twitter that the university’s 23-page report was packed with reasons to fire Meyer.
Others have also taken issue with what they deem the university’s focus on winning over a more intense punishment for Meyer.
What are the terms of the suspension?
Meyer will be suspended without pay for three games against Oregon State, Rutgers and Texas Christian University. He will be allowed to rejoin the team on Sept. 2.
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