Urban Meyer says his suspension was 'harsh'

Urban Meyer is back on the job at Ohio State after serving a three-game suspension. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon, File)
Urban Meyer is back on the job at Ohio State after serving a three-game suspension. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon, File)

With Urban Meyer now back on the job at Ohio State in all capacities after serving a three-game suspension for his handling of former assistant Zach Smith, part two of ESPN’s sit-down interview with Meyer aired Monday morning.

Meyer, once again, conceded that he “made an error” in handling the domestic violence accusations against Smith, who served as his wide receivers coach from 2012 until July 23.

“I want to be as perfectly clear to the world that Urban Meyer does not condone and would never allow domestic violence. I want the truth to be out there. The truth is that I made an error. I erred in supporting and trying to help a troubled employee,” Meyer told ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi.

“If I had known there was domestic violence I would have fired him.”

Meyer: ‘I did not lie’

As he did in the first part of the interview, which aired Sunday, Rinaldi was direct in his questioning of Meyer. He queried Meyer about his news conference at Big Ten media days where he claimed “there was nothing” in regards to a 2015 domestic violence accusation against Smith, one he later admitted to being aware of.

Ohio State’s independent investigation concluded Meyer did not “deliberately lie” that day.

Rinaldi asked: “Big Ten media days, the report concluded you misstated your knowledge of 2015. You made ‘misstatements.’ What’s the difference between a misstatement and a lie?”

Meyer responded: “I made a mistake. I did not lie. I don’t lie to people. If you’re going to ask me a question and I incorrectly answer the question or I misspoke, to me there’s a big difference. I erred at media day. But there was never one time where I got asked a question and I tried to mislead who was asking the question.”

Meyer: No ‘consciousness of guilt about what was on my phone’

In the investigative report, it was revealed that Meyer asked a staff member whether the media would be able to access his phone and “specifically discussed how to adjust the settings” on his phone so that “text messages older than one year would be deleted.”

Meyer said he had “no concern whatsoever” about media potentially accessing his text messages. Here’s the back-and-forth between Meyer and Rinaldi on this topic:

Tom Rinaldi: Per the report, you expressed concern to a staff member about whether the media could gain access to your phone. What concern did you have?
Urban Meyer: I had none. No concern whatsoever.

TR: From the report, you also discussed how to adjust the settings on your phone so text messages older than a year would be deleted. Why?
UM: I made it very clear that I did not delete messages off my phone. I also made it clear that I don’t know how to change the settings on my phone. The report, they couldn’t tell if there was.

TR: Yet the report says your reactions, in the report’s findings, indicate “consciousness of guilt.”
UM: All due respect to the report, there was no consciousness of guilt about what was on my phone. None.

TR: The report is wrong?
UM: If you’re asking me if there was consciousness of guilt on Urban Meyer in regard to text messages or deleted messages, there’s zero. None.

Meyer: Suspension was ‘harsh’

Rinaldi asked Meyer what his reaction was to the news of his suspension. Meyer said it was “devastation” and that he would characterize the suspension as “firm,” “harsh,” and “tough.”

Rinaldi then noted he did not use the word “fair.”

At that point, Meyer responded, “I would say fair, yes.”

Meyer has not reached out to Courtney Smith

Meyer was criticized for the way he presented himself at the news conference that immediately followed news of his suspension. Meyer said he was “exhausted” at that point in the day, but conceded that he came across with “not much compassion.”

One of the defining moments of that news conference came when a reporter asked what Meyer would say to Courtney Smith, Zach Smith’s ex-wife. He never mentioned her by name but did issue an apology in a statement a few days later.

“I apologize for that. My frame of mind was not in a good place. The combination of exhausted and not knowing my future. But I made it clear the next day, or two days later, that I was very sorry,” Meyer said. “And I am telling you right now I’m very sorry. For Courtney and her family to go through what they went through especially when things started being brought out in the media. For her children and her, I’m very sorry.”

Rinaldi asked Meyer if he has apologized directly to Courtney. When Meyer said he has not, he was asked if he would do so in the future.

“That’s something I have to think through,” Meyer said.

Courtney Smith said Meyer chose to help the abuser and to enable the abuser. When Rinaldi brought that up, Meyer said it was his first time hearing it.

“That breaks my heart, I didn’t hear that until just now. I apologize that she believes that. That’s never been my intent,” Meyer said. “My intent was to try to help all involved the only way I knew how at the time. I had two choices: fire a man and really put a family in upheaval financially, etc., or try to stabilize someone so he can go be a good father.”

New Meyer statement

Before the second part of the interview aired — and before he addresses local media at 11:45 a.m. in Columbus — Meyer released another statement on Twitter. He will return to the sideline on Saturday against Tulane. The Buckeyes improved to 3-0 after beating TCU over the weekend.

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