Text messages exchanged between Courtney Smith, the wife of former Ohio State wide receivers coach Zach Smith, and other wives of Ohio State football staff members, including Shelley Meyer, the wife of head coach Urban Meyer, show the widespread knowledge of the abuse Courtney was suffering at the hands of Zach.
Among the exchanges, reported in great detail by college football reporter Brett McMurphy, is a Nov. 5, 2015 conversation between Courtney and Lindsey Voltolini, the wife of Brian Voltolini, OSU’s director of football operations who has been one of Meyer’s staff members dating back 15 years. The exchange shows that Meyer was likely aware of a 2015 incident where Courtney accused Zach of domestic violence.
Courtney: “(Zach’s) trying to make me look crazy bc that’s what Shelley is saying (he’s doing)”
Lindsey: “He (Urban) just said he (Zach) denied everything”
Courtney: “I hope urban is smarter than that”
Lindsey: “He (Urban) doesn’t know what to think”
Courtney: “I don’t really care. Ya know”
Lindsey: “Yeah, don’t worry about urb”
Meyer said last week he wasn’t aware of the 2015 incident
At Big Ten Media Days, Meyer acknowledged he was aware of an incident involving the Smiths from 2009, when Meyer was the head coach at Florida and Smith was a staff intern. But Meyer denied knowledge of the 2015 incident, which involved Zach Smith being arrested on felony counts of domestic violence and felonious assault against Courtney, who says Zach shoved her against a wall with his hands around her neck.
Urban Meyer through his career
Urban Meyer through his career
CHICAGO, IL - JULY 24: Ohio State Football head coach Urban Meyer speaks to the media during the Big Ten Football Media Days event on July 24, 2018 at the Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
LEXINGTON, KY - SEPTEMBER 24: Urban Meyer the Head Coach of the Florida Gators is pictured during the game against the Kentucky Wildcats on September 24, 2005 at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, Kentucky. Florida won 49-28. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
GAINESVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 30: Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer talks with his defense during a game against ther Alabama Crimson Tide at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida Field September 30, 2006 in Gainsville, Florida. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
08 JAN 2007: University of Florida Head Coach Urban Meyer and wide receiver Dallas Baker (81) receive a Gatorade bath after defeating the Ohio State Buckeyes during the BCS National Championship game held at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ. Florida defeated OSU 41-14 for the national title. Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images.
GAINESVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 24: Head coach Urban Meyer of the Florida Gators walks the sidelines while taking on the Florida State Seminoles at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium November 24, 2007 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
Florida head coach Urban Meyer flashes a big smile after he sat down with Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops, not shown, at a media conference at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, Florida, Wednesday, December 10, 2008. Florida and Oklahoma will play in the 2009 FedEx BCS National Championship Bowl. (Photo by John VanBeekum/Miami Herald/MCT via Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 01: Head coach Urban Meyer of the Florida Gators stands on the field before the Allstate Sugar Bowl against the Cincinnati Bearcats at the Louisana Superdome on January 1, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Florida head coach Urban Meyer celebrates with his wife, Shelley, after the Gators' 31-17 victory over the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee, on Saturday, September 18, 2010. (Gary W. Green/Orlando Sentinel/MCT via Getty Images)
Florida head coach Urban Meyer signals for a touchdown during the Gators' 34-31 overtime victory over Georgia at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida, Saturday, October 30, 2010. (Photo by Gary W. Green/Orlando Sentinel/MCT via Getty Images)
Urban Meyer, former head coach of the Florida Gators, is seen before the start of the game between the Broncos and Dolphins. The Denver Broncos defeated the Miami Dolphins, 18-15, in overtime at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, on Sunday, October 23, 2011. (Jim Rassol/Sun Sentinel/MCT via Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, OHIO - SEPTEMBER 1, 2012: Head coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes takes questions from the media after a game with the Miami Redhawks at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. The Buckeyes won 56-10.(Photo by David Dermer/ Diamond Images/ Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 8: Head Coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes watches as his team warms up prior to the start of the game against the Central Florida Knights on September 8, 2012 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio defeated Central Florida 31-16. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 7: Head Coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes and his daughter Nicole Meyer, left, and wife Shelley Meyer sing Carmen Ohio with the Buckeye football team after the Buckeyes' 42-7 victory over the San Diego State Aztecs at Ohio Stadium on September 7, 2013 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 19: Head Coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes on the sidelines during game against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Ohio Stadium on October 19, 2013 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN - NOVEMBER 30, 2013: Head coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes answers questions front he media during the post game press conference after a game against the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Buckeyes won 42-41. (Photo by David Dermer/Diamond Images/Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 18: Head Coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes watches his team warm up before a game against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Ohio Stadium on October 18, 2014 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
STATE COLLEGE, PA - OCTOBER 25: Urban Meyer head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes coaches during the game against the Penn State Nittany Lions on October 25, 2014 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
06 December 2014: Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer celebrates with the Big Ten Championship trophy named the Stagg Championship Trophy in action during the NCAA Big 10 Championship football game between the Wisconsin Badgers and Ohio State Buckeyes at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)
January 1, 2015: Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer receives the winning trophy during the Ohio State Buckeyes game versus the Alabama Crimson Tide in their College Football Playoff Semifinal played in the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, LA. (Photo by Scott Donaldson/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)
January 1, 2015: Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer watches during the Ohio State Buckeyes game versus the Alabama Crimson Tide in their College Football Playoff Semifinal played in the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, LA. (Photo by Tyler Kaufman/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)
12 January 2015: Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Devin Smith (9) hugs the trophy with Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer and wife Shelley as following the Ohio State Buckeyes game versus the Oregon Ducks in the College Football Playoff National Championship at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. Ohio State won 42-20. (Photo by Ray Carlin/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)
SCOTTSDALE, AZ - JANUARY 28: Urban Meyer, head football coach at Ohio State University, hits his tee shot on the 16th hole during the pro-am prior to the start of the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale on January 28, 2015 in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
19 September 2015: Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer and his family sing Carmen Ohio to the fans following the game between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Northern Illinois Huskies at the Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Khris Hale/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 01: Head coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes holds the Fiesta Bowl trophy after the BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 1, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Ohio State Buckeyes beat the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 44-28. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 3: Head Coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes calls out instructions to his players during the second quarter of the game against the Bowling Green Falcons on September 3, 2016 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 8: Head Coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes watches his team play against the Indiana Hoosiers at Ohio Stadium on October 8, 2016 in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State defeated Indiana 38-17. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 26: Head coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes reacts on the sideline during overtime of the game against the Michigan Wolverines at Ohio Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 31: Head coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes looks on against the Clemson Tigers during the 2016 PlayStation Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium on December 31, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, OH - AUGUST 07: Ohio State Buckeyes Head Coach Urban Meyer addresses members of the media during a press conference at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus, Ohio on August 7th, 2017. (Photo by Jason Mowry/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 07: Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer walks to the sideline after checking on Ohio State Buckeyes offensive lineman Branden Bowen (not pictured) who was injured during first quarter game action between the Maryland Terrapins and the Ohio State Buckeyes (10) on October 7, 2017 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State leads Maryland 20-7 at the end of the first quarter. (Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 02: Urban Meyer the head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes holds the winner's trophy after 27-21 win over the Wisconsin Badgers in the Big Ten Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 2, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 02: Head coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes reacts during the Big Ten Championship against the Wisconsin Badgers at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 2, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Meyer was quick to dismiss the validity of the 2015 allegation.
“I got a text late last night that something happened in 2015 and there was nothing,” Meyer said. “I don’t know who creates a story like that.”
Urban Meyer’s comments about Zach Smith’s dismissal.
He said what was reported in 2009 about an alleged domestic violence incident “wasn’t actually what happened” and a 2015 alleged incident does not exist.
Text messages: Urban Meyer’s wife spoke with Courtney often
In his report, McMurphy detailed years of abuse, which came to light after Zach Smith was charged with misdemeanor criminal trespass in May, leading to Courtney Smith obtaining a protection order against Zach. Courtney filed for divorce in Nov. 2015.
McMurphy spoke to Courtney Smith in his reporting. She says Shelley Meyer, Urban’s wife of 28 years, was well aware of the abuse. The two spoke about it often.
Courtney said Shelley Meyer, Urban’s wife of nearly three decades, knew about the abuse that begin in 2009, continued in 2015 and culminated with Zach Smith being served a domestic violence civil protection order last week.
Courtney said she and Shelly often discussed Zach’s domestic violence.
“Shelley said she was going to have to tell Urban,” Courtney said. “I said: ‘That’s fine, you should tell Urban.’ I know Shelley did everything she could.”
One 2015 text exchange between Courtney and Shelley Meyer shows the extent of Shelley’s knowledge of the alleged domestic abuse and that she was concerned for Courtney’s safety.
Shelley: “I am with you! A lot of women stay hoping it will get better. I don’t blame you! But just want u to be safe. Do you have a restraining order? He scares me”
Courtney: “Restraining orders don’t do anything in Ohio-I tried to get protection order which is what started this whole investigation. And that should go through soon finally. It’s hard bc you have to prove immediate danger. Legal system is tough. Basically you have to prove he will kill u to get protective order”
Shelley: “Geesh! Even w the pics? Didn’t law enforcement come to your place ever??”
Zach Smith’s connection to Urban Meyer runs deep
Smith walked onto the Bowling Green football team coached by Meyer in 2002. The two reunited with Meyer bringing Smith on as an intern at Florida in 2005 and he remained on the UF staff in various low level roles until 2009. From there, he had full-time roles at Marshall and Temple before Meyer hired him to be Ohio State’s wide receivers coach in 2012. In 2015, Smith was given the additional title of recruiting coordinator.
Smith is the grandson of former Ohio State head coach Earle Bruce, a father figure to Meyer. Just last week at Big Ten Media Days, Meyer said Bruce, who died in April, was “the strongest relationship I’ve ever had other than my father.”
According to Courtney, following the 2009 incident, where Zach was arrested for aggravated battery on a pregnant victim, Bruce and Zach’s mother drove all the way down to Florida from Ohio to speak with Courtney. Another Meyer confidant, Hiram de Fries, also spoke with her. Courtney says they all asked her to drop the charges filed against Zach.
On a July morning in 2009, Courtney Smith sat across the table from de Fries, a former attorney and Shell Oil executive. Courtney said de Fries pressured her to drop the charges.
“He said ‘if you don’t drop the charges, Zach will never coach again,’ ” Courtney said. “ ‘He’s never hit you before. He was drinking. He’ll probably never do it again. You should think about giving him a second chance.’”
Ultimately, Courtney said she relented to de Fries and didn’t press charges. Courtney had convinced herself this would never happen again. She was wrong.
What happens next?
Meyer, one of the most successful coaches in college football, is going to have a lot of explaining to do, and it’s fair to wonder whether his job could potentially be in jeopardy.
At the very least, McMurphy’s reporting should spark a Title IX investigation.