Ohio State placed football coach Urban Meyer on paid administrative leave Wednesday, hours after a report said that Meyer knew about alleged incidents of domestic assault involving a former assistant long before taking action in the matter.
The university announced that it is investigating the allegations. In a statement, Meyer said he agreed to step away during the inquiry, even as his players begin preparations for the upcoming season.
“This allows the team to conduct training camp with minimal distraction,” the coach stated. “I eagerly look forward to the resolution of this matter.”
Offensive coordinator Ryan Day has been put in charge of the program on an interim basis.
“We are focused on supporting our players and on getting to the truth as expeditiously as possible,” the university stated.
Ohio State was reacting to a Wednesday morning story by former ESPN reporter Brett McMurphy, who obtained text messages suggesting that Meyer knew as far back as 2015 that former receivers coach Zach Smith was accused of abusing his now ex-wife, Courtney Smith.
Meyer originally hired Zach Smith in 2012 and has acknowledged that he’d heard about a dispute between the couple in 2009. He said: “It came back to me that what was reported wasn’t actually what happened.”
The coach said he became aware of another alleged incident in 2015 but concluded that “there was nothing.”
Late last month, an Ohio judge deemed Smith to be a danger to his ex-wife, at which point Meyer fired the assistant.
At the recent Big Ten Conference media days, Meyer declined to go into detail about why he finally took action.
“You’re talking about people’s lives, etc.,” he told reporters. “So the decision was made. It’s time to move forward.”
Meyer first made a name for himself as coach of Utah in the early 2000s. He then moved to Florida, where he guided the Gators to two national championships but faced occasional criticism for his players running afoul of the law.
After a brief leave of absence from the game, he took over at Ohio State in 2012 and has led the Buckeyes to a 73-8 record, including a national title in the 2014 season.