In the wake of an Ohio State investigation into Urban Meyer’s possible knowledge of domestic abuse allegations against a former assistant, during which the decorated coach has been placed on paid administrative leave, a number of Buckeyes fans are showing support for the coach. More than 20,000 have signed an online petition calling on the school to keep him from being “wrongfully fired,” and a prominent fan is planning to lead an on-campus rally Monday.
The organizer of the rally, Jeff Hamms, is better known to many OSU fans as “Tennessee Jeff” from his appearances on Columbus, Ohio, sports-talk radio. An Ohio native, he flew in from Myrtle Beach, S.C., to lead a demonstration in support of Meyer at Ohio Stadium.
“Bring your signs, paint your face, do whatever you’ve got to do — we want to be heard, we want our coach back,” Hamms said in a video posted Sunday to his Facebook account. “Obviously, he’s done nothing wrong. You don’t get fired for lying to the media.”
On Friday, Meyer acknowledged that he had “failed” to be “completely accurate” in comments he made at a Big Ten media days session the week before. In those remarks, he claimed there was “nothing” to a report that police had twice been called to the home of former assistant Zach Smith in 2015 to respond to allegations by his then-wife, Courtney, of domestic abuse and menace by stalking.
Smith was fired in July after his ex-wife obtained a protective order against him in court, and after veteran college sports reporter Brett McMurphy published reports to Facebook on the 2015 incidents, in addition to one from 2009 in which Smith was arrested for assaulting her while she was pregnant. Meyer told reporters he had known of the 2009 episode, which occurred when Smith was on his staff at the University of Florida, saying, “It came back to me that what was reported wasn’t actually what happened.”
OSU launched its probe after Courtney Smith, who divorced Zach Smith in 2016, reportedly provided evidence that she told Meyer’s wife at the time of Smith’s alleged abuse in 2015. After telling the media in the Big Ten session that he “was never told about anything and nothing ever came to light,” Meyer said in a statement Friday, “I was not adequately prepared to discuss these sensitive personnel issues with the media, and I apologize for the way I handled those questions.”
“Over the past several days I have been portrayed as being indifferent to domestic violence and as someone who did not take appropriate action when warranted,” Meyer said in his statement. He insisted that he has “always followed proper reporting protocols and procedures” by “elevating the issues to the proper channels” whenever he has “learned of an incident involving a student-athlete, coach or member of our staff.”
Meyer added that there were “more questions to be answered” and he pledged to “cooperate fully” with investigators hired by OSU. Late Sunday night, the university said in a statement that its “investigation is expected to be completed within 14 days.”
In the meantime, a “Save Urban Meyer” petition posted Thursday at Change.org has nearly reached its goal of 25,000 signatures. “Urban Meyer is on the hot seat and can be wrongfully fired from Ohio State,” the petition states, adding, “it is up to us Buckeye Nation to help him not just for him but for THE Ohio State University and the great state of Ohio!”
In a note appended to the petition, the fan who posted it referred to comments Zach Smith made Friday to media outlets, in which he claimed to have spoken with OSU Athletic Director Gene Smith in 2015 about the allegations made by Courtney Smith, for which the former assistant was not charged. Zach Smith, a grandson of late Buckeyes coach Earle Bruce, who was a mentor to Meyer, also asserted that he had never harmed her and that the head coach handled the allegations appropriately.
Meyer has gone 73-8 in six seasons at Ohio State, including a national championship in 2014 and two Big Ten titles after winning a pair of national titles at Florida.
“This guy’s huge, man,” Hamms told the Myrtle Beach Sun News. “It’s Urban Meyer, and people want to be a part of it to show that they support him.”
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