COLUMBUS, Ohio – Amid withering criticism of his failing to more directly address domestic abuse issues at a news conference earlier this week, suspended coach Urban Meyer issued an apology Friday to the ex-wife of a former assistant coach who was suspected of abusing her.
Meyer, who is serving a three-game suspension for his handling of abuse allegations and other misdeeds from former receivers coach Zach Smith, was criticized because he declined to address Courtney Smith during a question-and-answer session with reporters on Wednesday night.
“Let me say here and now what I should have said on Wednesday: I sincerely apologize to Courtney Smith and her children for what they have gone through,” Meyer said in a statement he tweeted and university officials emailed.
“My words and demeanor on Wednesday did not show how seriously I take relationship violence,” the statement said. “This has been a real learning experience for me. I fully intend to use my voice more effectively to be a part of the solution.”
Attorneys for Courtney Smith and Zach Smith did not respond to messages Friday night.
An investigative report released soon after Meyer answered questions about his suspension Wednesday night showed that he tolerated bad behavior for years from assistant coach Zach Smith, including domestic-violence accusations, drug addiction, lies and other acts that directly clash with the values Meyer touts publicly.
Zach Smith was arrested after he allegedly abused Courtney Smith in 2009 while working as a graduate assistant under Meyer at Florida. In 2015 Courtney Smith said her husband put his hands around her neck and shoved her against a wall. He wasn’t charged in either case.
Zach Smith’s attorney said in a statement Wednesday that Meyer and athletic director Gene Smith were “collateral damage” from Courtney Smith’s desire to hurt her ex-husband.
Meyer eventually acknowledged he was aware of the 2015 allegations, but didn’t fire Zach Smith until July 24 after Courtney Smith was granted a domestic protection order to protect her from her ex-husband.
Because Smith wasn’t arrested for domestic violence in 2015, neither Meyer nor athletic director Gene Smith believed they were obligated to report it to university officials. Gene Smith was suspended for two weeks for his handling of the situation.
When Meyer was asked if he had a message for Courtney Smith directly, he demurred.
“I have a message for everyone in this: I’m sorry we are in this situation,” he said.
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