Ohio State Confirms Embattled Football Coach Urban Meyer Will Step Down After Rose Bowl
After a season that featured a three-game suspension and health issues, Ohio State University's football coach Urban Meyer will retire following the Rose Bowl on January 1
After a season that featured a three-game suspension and health issues, Ohio State University’s football coach Urban Meyer will retire following the Rose Bowl on January 1.
The Big Ten university located in Columbus confirmed to PEOPLE in a statement that Meyer, 54, will announce his decision at a press conference, Tuesday afternoon. The school’s current offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, Ryan Day, will replace him.
Earlier this fall, Meyer publicly detailed his health issues, including severe headaches as a result of a brain cyst.
In late August, OSU announced it was suspending its head football coach for three games following a two-week investigation into the termination of assistant coach Zach Smith, whose ex-wife, Courtney, 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.
The day Smith was fired, a reporter named 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).
In a statement to PEOPLE at the time, 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.”
According to NBC Sports, the investigation found that Meyer — who was initially placed on paid administrative leave — made “misstatements” when discussing his reason for firing Smith at a July press conference.
The university also found that Meyer, as Smith’s manager, did not proactively respond to his employee’s alleged criminal history.
OSU also concluded that Meyer did not at any point deliberately trying to cover up Smith’s alleged behavior. According to a statement released at the time, he 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.”
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 alleged behavior. He explained in a press conference, “I followed my heart and not my head … I gave Zach Smith the benefit of the doubt.”
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“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 continued. “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.