COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer encouraged Zach Smith to stay with the Buckeyes in January 2018 after the then-assistant coach was pursued by Alabama, according to texts messages from Meyer to Smith.
On Friday, Ohio State released thousands of pages of heavily redacted texts and email that were part of an external investigation conducted last August into Meyer’s handling of Smith and what he knew about allegations of domestic violence made by Smith’s ex-wife, Courtney Smith. Meyer was suspended for the first three games of last season by Ohio State after the investigation. After the season he retired at 54, citing health concerns. He is now working as an analyst with Fox Sports.
In two texts dated January 2018, one to Ohio State’s president, Meyer writes Smith was offered an assistant coaching job by Alabama. In a text exchange with Smith dated Jan. 18, 2018, Meyer writes: “I have personally invested far too much in u to get u in position to take next step.”
Zach Smith was fired in July 2018 by Meyer after domestic violence allegations surfaced against the wide receivers coach. Smith was not criminally charged with domestic violence, but last October pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of disorderly conduct in connection with a May dispute with his ex-wife. At the same time an Ohio court issued a three-year protective order that keeps him away from her.
Smith said in a Twitter post he agreed to plead guilty to avoid the cost of a trial and end the situation.
The large document release from Ohio State was dominated by Meyer communicating with Smith and others about recruiting. There were also some texts exchanges between Meyer and Ohio State officials from around the time last year when he was planning how to handle questions about Smith and his decision to fire the assistant coach during Big Ten media day.
The information about Alabama’s apparent interest in Smith after the 2017 season had not been mentioned in any previous documents from the investigation.
In a text exchange dated January 24, 2018, Meyer wrote to Ohio State President Michael Drake that six members of his coaching staff, including Smith had received job offers from other schools.
In the text to Drake, Meyer wrote that Smith was one four Ohio State assistant coaches pursued by Alabama, along with Greg Schiano, Kerry Coombs and Alex Grinch. Meyer wrote Schiano also had offers from Texas A&M, Florida State and the NFL.
Meyer also said then-offensive coordinator Ryan Day had an offer to join Chip Kelly at UCLA and was candidate to be Mississippi State’s head coach. Day stepped in as head coach when Meyer was suspended last season and went 3-0. He replaced Meyer as Buckeyes head coach in January.
In a text Meyer sent on Jan. 21, 2018, he wrote that Smith had been offered a job as wide receiver coach and passing game coordinator by Alabama coach Nick Saban.
“Went there to talk to Saban,” Meyer wrote. The recipient of that text was redacted.
“At first thought maybe he should go then decided that all effort I’ve put u to him and it’s Alabama. I told him to stay and he turned it down,” Meyer wrote.
A few days earlier, Meyer texted Smith that he wanted him to stay at Ohio State.
“Now go b a difference maker in the staff room,” Meyer wrote.
Smith responded: “Yes sir I agree. They offered me the job and I wanted to sleep on it last night before deciding but it doesn’t feel right.”