Ohio State announces group that will direct Urban Meyer investigation

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- On the eve of Ohio State's first fall practice of the year, and with the future of its coach unclear, the school announced Thursday night that a special, independent six-person group will direct the investigation into Urban Meyer.

The group will be composed of three current members of the board of trustees (Alex Fischer, Janet Porter and Alex Shumate), as well as three people not associated with the university (former Ohio House Speaker Jo Ann Davidson, former acting U.S. Deputy Attorney General Craig Morford and former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio Carter Stewart). It will work in conjunction with the university's office of compliance and integrity to investigate Meyer.

"The special working group will direct the work of the investigative team and be available to provide consultation and advice and assist with communication to the full board on the matter," Ohio State said in a statement.

While Ohio State's brass locks in on Meyer and his future, the Buckeyes football team is moving on in the immediate future without him.

As is customary, players joined together for their final summer dinner Thursday night before fall camp begins.

Dressed head to toe in the school's signature scarlet and gray, they flooded the Fawcett Event Center in waves Thursday evening before setting off for the final team meetings.

The night is usually devoted to the program's tradition of officially handing the team over from the strength and conditioning staff to the head coach.

But whether Ryan Day, who is the team's acting head coach during the investigation into Meyer, was officially handed those metaphorical keys is unknown.

Meyer was put on paid administrative leave Wednesday, as the school announced it was investigating Courtney Smith's claims that several people close to Meyer knew of a 2015 allegation of domestic violence against her ex-husband, former Ohio State assistant coach Zach Smith, who was fired in July.

Day, formerly the offensive coordinator, was one of the last people to leave the Fawcett Center and was surrounded by other coaches and a police officer as he got into a black SUV waiting near the building's entrance.

Neither Day nor any other coaches or players spoke to or were made available to speak with a small group of media members waiting outside, but the message was clear that the Buckeyes will enter Friday's practice banded together.

"We are focused on supporting our players and on getting to the truth as expeditiously as possible," the school said in a statement.

The mood of the team won't be fully known anytime soon, as the school also announced Thursday that players and coaches won't be made available to the media Friday or this weekend. The school said it anticipates "providing an update on availability Monday," but a team spokesman told ESPN that no players or coaches are expected to speak Monday, either.

However, as players hopped into their cars Thursday evening, most seemed to be in good spirits. Some laughed with one another. A few even showed off some dance moves in the giant parking lot below the Fawcett Center.

The plan for now is to walk together into the unknown.

Meyer's future hangs in the balance with an investigation into his knowledge and handling of Courtney Smith's allegations of domestic violence by Zach Smith. Courtney Smith told college football reporter Brett McMurphy her allegations in a story posted Wednesday on his Facebook page.

"All the [coaches'] wives knew," Smith told McMurphy. "They all did. Every single one."

Smith told Stadium, a multiplatform sports network, that she believes Meyer also knew at the time.

"I do believe he knew, and instead he chose to help the abuser and enable the abuser and believe whatever story Zach was telling everybody," Smith said.

At Big Ten media days last week, Meyer acknowledged that he had been aware of a 2009 domestic abuse incident involving the couple in Gainesville while he was the head coach at Florida and Zach Smith was a graduate assistant. Meyer said he and his wife counseled the couple and allowed Smith to remain on his staff.

However, he denied knowing that Courtney Smith had accused Zach Smith of domestic violence in 2015.

Courtney Smith told McMurphy that Shelley Meyer knew about the 2009 and 2015 allegations and that they often discussed Zach Smith's abuse of her, including sharing pictures.

"Shelley said she was going to have to tell Urban," Courtney Smith said. "I said: 'That's fine. You should tell Urban.' I know Shelley did everything she could."

In the Stadium interview, Courtney Smith said Shelley Meyer never confirmed that she told her husband about the abuse.

While Urban Meyer's future with Ohio State remains in limbo, Zach Smith received an update on his legal situation Thursday.

After an Ohio judge issued a protection order in late July prohibiting Zach Smith from contacting Courtney Smith, a hearing to discuss the merits of her complaint was scheduled for Friday morning. That hearing has been moved to Sept. 14.

Zach Smith also is scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 22 for a hearing associated with the criminal trespassing charge that initiated the events that ultimately led to his dismissal from the football program.

ESPN's Dan Murphy contributed to this report.