Ohio State Football Coach Urban Meyer Retiring After Season of Scandal and Victories
Embattled football coach’s departure reported to be for ‘health reasons,’ days after he led Buckeyes to Big Ten championship—and months of controversy.
Urban Meyer, the head coach of Ohio State University’s football team, will reportedly announce his retirement this afternoon at a press conference in Columbus.
The Columbus Dispatch’s Buckeye Extra blog reported Tuesday morning that Meyer’s decision was believed to be due to “health reasons.”
His final game for Ohio State will be the New Year’s Day Rose Bowl vs. Washington. This past weekend, he led the Buckeyes to their 37th Big Ten title. The team is 12-1 and is ranked No. 6 in college football’s rankings.
Meyer’s contract with Ohio State ran through the 2022 season. At $7.8 million a year, he was the second-highest-paid coach at at a U.S. public university. (The University of Alabama’s Nick Saban in No. 1, at $8.3 million per year.)
Meyer came under heavy fire this summer when text messages emerged indicating that he knew longtime assistant coach Zach Smith had been arrested on domestic-violence charges related to his estranged wife—and did not act on the reports.
Meyer fired Smith, 34, in July after a court ruled that his ex-wife, Courtney Smith, was “in immediate and present danger of domestic violence.” Smith was served with a domestic-violence protective order and was prohibited from coming within 500 feet of his wife for up to five years.
Despite Meyer publicly claiming that he “was never told about anything” related to Smith’s alleged abuse, college football reporter Brett McMurphy obtained text messages that showed the head coach was aware of the accusations and police reports.
Meyer, who coached three teams to national championships and is 85-9 in seven seasons at Ohio State, admitted at one press conference that he was told of 2009 abuse accusations against Smith, when they were both coaching at the University of Florida. In that instance, Smith allegedly shoved his then-pregnant wife into a wall. Meyer purportedly encouraged the couple to seek counseling at the time, but did not inform the school about the allegations.
To be clear, Ohio State’s sexual-misconduct policy and federal civil-rights laws both require university employees to report even unproven allegations of domestic violence by a faculty or staff member regardless of whether the individual has been charged or convicted.
Once Ohio State opened an independent probe into Meyer’s knowledge of events, investigator Mary Jo White lead a team of six current university trustees, litigators, and lawmakers from across Ohio who—through a probe—determined that Meyer was aware of a 2015 police investigation into Smith and “monitored” it for months.
In August, the Ohio State board of trustees suspended Meyer for three games.
“I want to apologize for Buckeye Nation,” Meyer said at the time. “I followed my heart, not my head. I gave Zach Smith the benefit of the doubt... I should have been more demanding of him.”
That same month, Meyer announced that he was suffering from severe headaches related to an arachnoid cyst pressing against his brain. He said at the time that the pain might eventually force him to stop coaching, but said he would continue to coach the team “as long as I can.”