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Ohio State: Urban Meyer suspended 3 games, might have erased text messages

Ohio State head football coach Urban Meyer has been handed a three-game suspension over his handling of domestic abuse allegations against a former assistant coach. (Rich Schultz /Getty Images)

Ohio State University has completed its investigation into the handling of domestic abuse allegations surrounding a former assistant coach. Head football coach Urban Meyer and Athletic Director Gene Smith will both face temporary suspensions in light of an independent working group's findings.

Now Coach Meyer is facing public scrutiny after the report exposed allegations that he erased text messages from his phone prior to handing it over to investigators.

What brought all this on?

Meyer has been on administrative leave since Aug. 1, while the school looked into whether he ignored domestic abuse allegations against his longtime assistant coach, Zach Smith.

Smith was fired by Meyer in July, after it became public that the assistant coach's ex-wife, Courtney Smith, filed an ex parte against him days before. After former ESPN reporter Brett McMurphy exposed numerous prior arrests of Zach Smith dating as far back as 2009, Meyer was accused by Courtney Smith of not taking action against her ex-husband.

The question then became: "How much did Urban Meyer know, and when did he know it?" In July, Meyer told reporters he had no knowledge of Zach Smith's 2015 domestic violence arrests, but admitted Wednesday that his media days remarks wer "not as complete and as accurate as [he] should have been."

During the course of Ohio State's investigation, further allegations surfaced against Zach Smith. McMurphy reported there was evidence that while working as assistant coach, Smith photographed himself having sexual relations with an OSU staffer in the coaches' offices; ordered more than $2,000 in sex toys and had them shipped to him at Ohio State's Woody Hayes Athletic Center; and took pictures of his genitalia while visiting the White House in 2015.

So, what did the report say?

Investigators determined: "Although Meyer and Gene Smith failed to adhere to the precise requirements of their contracts, they did so based upon a good faith belief that they did not have sufficient information to trigger a reporting obligations or initiate a disciplinary action against former assistant coach Zach Smith in the absence of law enforcement action."

The report also expressed "concern" over findings that associate athletic director Brian Voltolini approached Meyer at the start of the investigation about whether the media could access the head coach's phone records, according to the Sporting News. The two reportedly discussed how to set Meyer's phone to delete text messages that were more than a year old.

The report summary states:

Our review of Coach Meyer's phone revealed no messages older than one year, indicating that at the time it was obtained by OSU on August 2nd, Coach Meyer's phone was set to retain text messages only for that period, as Coach Meyer and Brian Voltolini discussed.

We cannot determine, however, whether Coach Meyer's phone was set to retain messages only for one year in response to the August 1st media report or at some earlier time.

It is nonetheless concerning that his first reaction to a negative media piece exposing his knowledge of the 2015-2016 law enforcement investigation was to worry about the media getting access to information and discussing how to delete messages older than a year.

The report also exposed even more allegations against Zach Smith, including racking up huge bills at strip clubs while hosting high school coaches during recruitment trips.

Now what?

Ohio State has suspended Meyer through Sept. 2 and for the first three games of the season, which are set for Sept. 1 vs. Oregon State, Sept. 8 vs. Rutgers, and Sept. 15 vs. TCU. He will also forgo six weeks of pay. The school also suspended Gene Smith without compensation from Aug. 31 through Sept. 16.

Ohio State is ranked No. 5 in the recent Associated Press college football poll.

In response to the disciplinary action against him, Meyer said, "I know 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 our community and our president, a man for whom I have great respect. And for that, I am deeply sorry.

"I am fully aware that I am ultimately responsible for this situation that has harmed the university as a whole, our Department of Athletics and our football program. I want to also apologize to Buckeye Nation," Meyer added. "The suspensions are tough, but I fully accept them."

One last thing…
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