Urban Meyer: Decision to fire assistant Zach Smith was 'very tough call'

Assistant coach firing wasn't just Meyer's decision (1:00)

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer addresses the firing of assistant Zach Smith. (1:00)

CHICAGO -- Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said the decision to fire assistant coach Zach Smith was a "very tough call" made in the best interest of the team.

Meyer fired Smith on Monday, days after an Ohio judge issued a protection order that forbids Smith from getting within 500 feet of his ex-wife.

"The most important people in our program are our players," Meyer said Tuesday morning at Big Ten media days. "We're very clear of our expectations. We decided to make a change."

Meyer said he didn't want to discuss the details about why Smith was fired now, but he acknowledged that past allegations that had been publicized this week were a factor.

"I do understand the value that the Ohio State University is bigger than all of us," Meyer said. "It wasn't just my decision. It was other people I relied on."

Smith was charged with criminal trespassing after a dispute with his ex-wife in May. Police also investigated a dispute between Smith and his ex-wife when they were still married in 2009 and he was a member of Meyer's staff at Florida, according to college football reporter Brett McMurphy.

McMurphy also reported that police arrested Smith in 2015 on domestic violence charges in Powell, Ohio.

Powell Police Department officials said Tuesday morning that they had no record of any arrests. But they sent an email at 4:50 p.m. ET saying they discovered records of those incidents after further review.

According to those records, Powell police did visit Smith's home twice in the fall of 2015. The first incident was a complaint about domestic violence and felonious assault. Courtney Smith told police "that a domestic incident happened last night at her home and that she has been a victim of sustained physical abuse by the suspect."

Two weeks later, the police returned to the same residence to investigate a "menace by stalking claim."

It does not appear that charges were filed in either instance.

A Powell Police spokeswoman said that the original records request was denied because Zach Smith isn't specifically mentioned in the two complaints from 2015. Courtney Smith made the complaints, but because they didn't result in an arrest, Zach Smith's name doesn't appear in the public record. The Powell PD confirmed that Zach Smith was the suspect in those reports and decided to release the information after discussing the matter with its legal counsel.

Meyer told ESPN on Tuesday that his staffers were also told by Powell police Monday that they didn't have record of any incidents in 2015. He said he did not know of any other domestic issues Smith had during their time at Ohio State.

Meyer, however, said he was aware of the 2009 incident and that he and his wife, Shelley, "got involved" with talking to the Smiths after police finished their investigation. Meyer said he called his boss after learning about it and then waited to hear back from the investigators. He said the recommendation made to him at that time was counseling for Smith, who was an intern on Meyer's staff, and to move forward.

Meyer also said what he was told about the incident in 2009 was different from the details of the report that came to light Monday.

Court records say the 2009 incident occurred when Smith returned to the couple's home with a female co-worker and appeared to have been drinking. An argument ensued, and he allegedly put his hands on his wife. Charges in that instance were dismissed.

Smith, a grandson of former Ohio State head coach Earle Bruce, coached wide receivers and served as the recruiting coordinator for the Buckeyes. He also played for Meyer at Bowling Green.

"It was a devastating loss for us, it's not something you expect, especially at a time like this, when you're only a week out [from the start of training camp]," Buckeyes wideout Parris Campbell said. "But I think the main focus and the main goal is to lean on one another. We need one another in a moment like this. It's a huge loss, but we'll move forward."

Meyer said he will make an announcement about a replacement later in the week. Graduate assistant and former NFL receiver Brian Hartline is considered a front-runner to take over Smith's coaching role.