COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State will rely on an outside law firm to investigate what coach Urban Meyer knew and did about domestic abuse accusations against a former assistant, a process expected to be completed within two weeks, the university said Sunday night.
Ohio State said in a release that a trustees’ committee formed to coordinate the investigation had an initial meeting and has hired a firm to conduct the probe of Meyer, who says he followed proper protocol when informed of a 2015 abuse allegation against assistant Zach Smith.
Mary Jo White of the national firm Debevoise & Plimpton is leading the investigation, the university said. She’s a former federal prosecutor and a former chairwoman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange.
“Ohio State is committed to a thorough and complete investigation,” said Jo Ann Davidson, a former Ohio House Speaker who is chairwoman of the trustees’ group coordinating the effort. “We look forward to sharing the results of this investigation and any action the university may take.”
Any decisions resulting from the investigation will be made by Ohio State President Michael Drake in consultation with university trustees, the statement said.
Meyer was put on paid leave last week amid questions about what he knew and did about accusations of abuse made against Smith, who was fired July 24 after his ex-wife sought a restraining order against him. The couple divorced in 2016.
Smith has never been criminally charged or convicted.
Meyer initially told reporters at Big Ten Media Days on July 25 that he didn’t know anything about abuse allegations made by Courtney Smith in October 2015. In a statement released Friday via Twitter , Meyer admitted that he knew about the 2015 incidents and insisted he followed proper protocol. He also admitted lying to reporters about it.
What Meyer knew and when he knew it became a question after college football writer Brett McMurphy reported that Courtney Smith had told Meyer’s wife Shelley about the 2015 incidents and shared pictures of injuries through text messages that she shared with McMurphy.
Smith denied assaulting his wife and said any physical injuries she might have suffered were the result of him defending himself. He said he discussed the 2015 allegations at the time with Meyer and athletic director Gene Smith.
Ohio State’s policy on sexual misconduct says anyone who supervises faculty, staff, students or volunteers has a duty to report “when they receive a disclosure of sexual misconduct or become aware of information that would lead a reasonable person to believe that sexual misconduct may have occurred involving anyone covered under this policy.”
A clause in Meyer’s new contract, which raised his salary to $7.6 million this year and runs through 2022, also requires him to “report to Ohio State’s Title IX athletics any known violations” of the sexual misconduct policy involving students, faculty or staff at the risk of being fired with cause.
Ohio State opened preseason practice on Friday and starts the season Sept. 1 against Oregon State. Co-offensive coordinator Ryan Day is the acting head coach.