Zach Smith yet to be contacted by Ohio State investigators
Investigators looking into how members of Ohio State's football program handled domestic assault allegations against former assistant coach Zach Smith have not yet contacted Smith as part of their inquiry, his attorney confirmed Thursday afternoon.
Ohio State's administration appointed a special working group late last week to review allegations made by Courtney Smith that her ex-husband, the Buckeyes' former wide receivers coach, habitually abused her. She said in an interview with college football reporter Brett McMurphy last week that several high-ranking members of the Buckeyes' athletic department knew about Smith's abusive behavior and did not attempt to intervene. She said she believed head coach Urban Meyer knew.
Meyer was placed on paid administrative leave Aug. 1, pending the results of the investigation.
USA Today Sports first reported that investigators had yet to contact Zach Smith.
The investigative team -- led by Mary Jo White, who has previously directed several high-profile probes for the NFL -- released a statement Sunday night saying it expected to complete a thorough review of the case within two weeks.
Zach Smith's attorney, Brad Koffel, said he was surprised that he and his client had not been contacted by anyone involved in the investigation four days into the process. Koffel said Smith would be willing to cooperate with the investigators if they want to ask him any questions.
Courtney Smith's attorney, Julia Leveridge, said in a statement earlier this week that her client was also willing to help the investigators at Ohio State if they wanted to speak to her. The statement said that as of Tuesday morning Ohio State had not contacted Courtney Smith to ask about her allegations. The attorney declined to answer follow-up questions later in the week.
"I can tell you that Ms. Smith is cautiously optimistic that The Ohio State University's investigative committee will determine if proper reporting protocol was followed upon learning of the ongoing, abuse allegations against Zach Smith," the statement said. "We believe the university must prioritize the safety and well-being of others above all else."
Ohio State officials, meanwhile, announced Thursday that athletic director Gene Smith is on vacation this week, but is available to talk with investigators.
"Gene Smith is taking a week of vacation and is out of the office," Chris Davey, Ohio State's associate vice president for university communications, said in a statement. "He is available to speak with the investigative team. The university is focused on supporting our student-athletes as they prepare for the upcoming semester. We can't comment further during the pending investigation."
The investigators have had preliminary conversations with police in Powell, Ohio, where the alleged abuse occurred. Chief of Police Gary Vest said his department is willing to help as much as the law will allow. The Powell police visited Courtney Smith's home twice in the fall of 2015 to respond to complaints about habitual domestic violence and stalking. Neither visit resulted in an arrest or any charges against Zach Smith.
Vest said Wednesday that he is not at liberty to share the details of what his officers discovered about those incidents in 2015 because of confidentiality laws designed to protect the identity of people accused of crimes. Because Smith was not charged with a crime as a result of those incidents, the details of what police found while responding to those cases are not public record, according to Powell's city attorney. Vest said he also denied a request from the investigators working on behalf of Ohio State to see the same records based on advice received from the city's attorney.
Police reviewed recent statements made by both Courtney and Zach Smith via different media outlets to decide whether anything they said three years later would warrant reopening the 2015 case. At this time, it does not appear that the case will be reopened.