Urban Meyer's coaching future is in limbo. Ohio State opens preseason camp Friday without knowing who will lead the team Sept. 1 against Oregon State. The university is investigating what the Buckeyes coaches, their wives and support staff knew and, perhaps more important, when they knew about the domestic incidents involving former assistant coach Zach Smith and his ex-wife, Courtney.
There are a lot of lingering questions. Here's what we know:
What is Urban Meyer's status?
Ohio State on Wednesday night placed the head coach on paid administrative leave as it conducts an investigation after Courtney Smith said several people close to Meyer knew of a 2015 allegation of domestic violence against her ex-husband. Meyer issued a statement saying he and athletic director Gene Smith agreed that "being on leave during this inquiry will facilitate its completion." Paid leave is often a precursor to termination, especially the way coaches' contracts are structured, but Ohio State's compliance office is investigating before any decisions will be made. On Thursday, Ohio State announced it would form a special, independent group to lead the investigation.
Urban Meyer's statement
On Friday afternoon, Meyer issued a statement saying he "failed" when he denied knowing about domestic violence allegations against one of his former assistant coaches.
Meyer said last week that he knew nothing about the 2015 complaint or any other domestic issues that Zach Smith had during the six years Meyer and Smith worked together at Ohio State.
In his statement he said: "Here is the truth: While at the University of Florida, and now that The Ohio State University, I have always followed proper reporting protocols and procedures when I have learned of an incident involving a student-athlete, coach or member of our staff by elevating the issues to the proper channels. And, I did so regarding the Zach Smith incident in 2015. I take that responsibility very seriously and any suggestion to the contrary is simply false.
"The power of what I say and how I say it, especially regarding sensitive and serious domestic issues, has never been more evident than now. My words, whether in reply to a reporter's question or in addressing a personnel issue, must be clear, compassionate and most of all, completely accurate. Unfortunately, at Big Ten Media Days on July 24th, I failed on many of these fronts. My intention was not to say anything inaccurate or misleading. However, I was not adequately prepared to discuss these sensitive personnel issues with the media, and I apologize for the way I handled those questions."
Who will decide Meyer's fate?
The university has appointed a special working group composed of three current trustees and three outsiders to collaborate with Ohio State's Office of Compliance and Integrity to investigation the allegations made by Courtney Smith. The two women at the forefront of that group are Jo Ann Davidson -- the chair of the special working group -- and Mary Jo White, their lead investigator.
Davidson was the first woman to be named the Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives when she took over that role in 1995. Despite being 90 years old, Davidson remains an active and important member of the Republican Party in Ohio. She's expected to be an impartial and scrutinizing leader of the panel.
White,70, has developed a niche for helping the football world sort through some of its most high-profile controversies. Her previous work includes leading the probe into "Bounty Gate" with the New Orleans Saints, consulting with the NFL's investigation into accusations that Ezekiel Elliott mistreated women and, most recently, led the league's investigation into Carolina Panther's owner Jerry Richardson when he was accused of making inappropriate racial and sexual comments or actions.
The final word on what ramifications Meyer and others involved with this incident may face belongs to the president of Ohio State, Michael Drake. A former administrator in the University of California system, Drake came to Columbus in 2014. He is a self-described lover of sports and served on the NCAA Division I's Board of Directors. Among other roles with the NCAA, he was also member of the Commission to Combat Campus Sexual Violence.
When the investigation is concluded, Drake will consult with Ohio State's Board of Trustees before deciding if any action is necessary.
Who will coach the team in Meyer's absence?
Offensive coordinator Ryan Day has been named acting head coach. Day, 39, joined the staff in early 2017 as co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. He was promoted to offensive coordinator after the 2017 season and given the primary playcalling duties. Day played quarterback at New Hampshire, under then-UNH offensive coordinator Chip Kelly. He was a graduate assistant for Meyer at Florida and became a coordinator at Temple and Boston College before rejoining Kelly with the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers. Day will lead a Buckeyes staff that includes former Rutgers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano and former Indiana coach Kevin Wilson.
How long will Ohio State's investigation take?
The working group investigating the issues said it expects to be done by Aug. 19 -- a little more than two weeks from when the investigative team was officially and fully in place.
What set this in motion?
Last month, Zach Smith was charged with criminal trespass stemming from an incident on May 12, when he was dropping off their son at Courtney's apartment complex. Courtney said Zach violated a shared parenting plan by coming to her residence. Zach Smith's lawyer said his client was never arrested and pleaded not guilty to the fourth-degree misdemeanor, contending that he did not violate the parenting plan. In an interview with Stadium, Courtney said Zach's repeated violations of the terms of their divorce prompted her to go public about the years of alleged abuse.
What is the 2009 incident?
In June 2009, Zach Smith was arrested for aggravated battery on a pregnant victim after allegedly throwing Courtney Smith into a wall after an argument at their home in Gainesville, Florida, where Zach was working for Meyer with the University of Florida football program. Courtney Smith dropped the charges, saying Meyer's close friend Hiram deFries and mentor Earle Bruce, the former Ohio State coach and Zach's grandfather, encouraged her not to pursue legal action. Meyer said last month at Big Ten media days that he knew about the 2009 incident and that he and his wife, Shelley, had reached out to Zach and Courtney and encouraged them to seek counseling. Zach Smith remained on staff at Florida. When Meyer landed the Ohio State job in November 2011, he hired Smith as wide receivers coach.
What is the 2015 incident?
In October 2015, Powell (Ohio) police investigated Zach Smith for domestic violence against Courtney, from whom he was separated. Zach was not charged in the incident, but Courtney told reporter Brett McMurphy this week that she informed the wives of several Ohio State coaches, including Shelley Meyer, about what happened. McMurphy on Monday reported a text-message exchange between Courtney Smith and Lindsey Voltolini, wife of Ohio State football operations director Brian Voltolini, in which Lindsey wrote that Urban Meyer said Zach Smith denied the allegations. This is critically important because Urban Meyer, responding to McMurphy's initial report about the 2015 incident at Big Ten media day on July 23, denied any knowledge of the incident, saying, "I was never told about anything. Never anything came to light, never had a conversation about it." Courtney Smith told McMurphy this week that she believes Urban Meyer knew about the 2015 abuse, although she never received direct confirmation that he did. Ohio State fired Zach Smith the same day McMurphy first reported about the 2015 incident.
Who are Hiram deFries, Brian Voltolini and Amy Nicol?
The three longtime Meyer staff members all are important figures in this story. DeFries is a former lawyer and Shell Oil executive who has known Meyer since the early 1990s. He has followed Meyer from Utah to Florida to Ohio State, serving as an administrator and life skills consultant for the players. Voltolini has been part of Meyer's staff since Meyer's first head-coaching stop at Bowling Green. Nicol was the football secretary at Florida under Meyer and now serves as director of internal operations at Ohio State. McMurphy reported Wednesday that on the night of the 2009 incident in Gainesville, Zach Smith brought Nicol home, telling Courtney that Nicol had broken up with her boyfriend and needed to spend the night at their house. Courtney refused and drove Nicol home. When she returned, the argument with Zach ensued.
What is Shelley Meyer's role?
Courtney Smith told McMurphy that she communicated regularly with Shelley Meyer throughout the years of alleged abuse by Zach. In a 2015 text-message exchange that McMurphy reported, Shelley asked Courtney whether she obtained a restraining order against Zach and referred to pictures of bruises that Courtney had sent her. Shelley Meyer reportedly wrote, "He [Zach Smith] scares me." Courtney said Shelley often would check on her and did all she could to help the situation. She believes Shelley Meyer informed Urban of the abuse, but said she was never told that Shelley Meyer had told her husband about the allegations at the time.
Friday's hearing to discuss Courtney Smith's complaint against Zach has been postponed to Sept. 14 after both sides agreed to an expedited discovery process to assess her claims. Zach Smith is set to appear in court Aug. 22 for a hearing associated with the criminal trespassing charge. Ohio State announced Thursday that all media availability with coaches and players has been canceled for the foreseeable future, and practices will be closed. An update on media availability is expected Monday, according to a team spokesman.
Dan Murphy contributed to this story.