Ohio State suspended coach Urban Meyer on Wednesday for the team's first three games after a two-week investigation into allegations that Meyer and others mishandled domestic assault accusations made against former assistant coach Zach Smith.
Meyer, who had been on paid administrative leave, is also suspended from the program through Sept. 2, and OSU athletic director Gene Smith has been suspended without pay from Aug. 31 until Sept. 16.
"Although neither Urban Meyer nor Gene Smith condoned or covered up the alleged domestic abuse by Zach Smith, they failed to take sufficient management action relating to Zach Smith's misconduct and retained an Assistant Coach who was not performing as an appropriate role model for OSU student-athletes," the school said in a statement.
Meyer on Wednesday expressed remorse for giving Zach Smith the "benefit of the doubt" and said, "I followed my heart and not my head."
The university had been investigating what the Buckeyes coaches, their wives and support staff knew and, perhaps more important, when they knew about the domestic assault allegations against Smith.
There are a lot of questions. Here's what we know:
Who decided Meyer's fate?
The university 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 investigate the allegations made by Courtney Smith, Zach Smith's ex-wife. The two women at the forefront of that group were Jo Ann Davidson, the chair of the special working group, and Mary Jo White, the 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.
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, leading the league's investigation into Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson when he was accused of inappropriate racial and sexual comments and actions.
The final word on the ramifications of the investigation belonged to the president of Ohio State, Michael Drake. A former administrator in the University of California system, Drake came to Columbus, Ohio, in 2014. He is a self-described lover of sports and served on the NCAA's Division I board of directors. Among other roles with the NCAA, he was also a member of the Commission to Combat Campus Sexual Violence.
After the investigation concluded, Drake consulted with Ohio State's board of trustees before the suspensions for Meyer and Smith were announced.
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.
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 Smith'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 was 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 opted not to pursue 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 was 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 earlier this month that she informed the wives of several Ohio State coaches, including Shelley Meyer, about what happened. McMurphy 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 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 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 was 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.
Dan Murphy contributed to this report.