Dan Mullen owes a lot of his career and his success to Urban Meyer but Meyer’s career is unraveling.
The former head coach of the Florida Gators and now Ohio State head coach was put on administrative leave Wednesday after a report surfaced (by Brett McMurphy) that Meyer knew about, ignored and possibly even helped sweep under the rug allegations that one of his assistant coaches was abusing his wife.
Allegations of the abuse started between Zach Smith and his then wife Courtney Smith began in 2009 at Florida. Courtney alleges that, while she was pregnant with their first child, Zach threw her against a wall and choked her. Meyer was made aware of that 2009 incident and told reporters that he and his wife Shelly sought to help the younger couple through counseling. Meyer kept Smith on staff and brought him to Ohio State when he became the Buckeyes head coach.
The domestic abuse continued there.
In an interview with former ESPN college football reporter Brett McMurphy Courtney produced pictures and screenshots of text messages with Shelley Meyer. Courtney couldn’t confirm if Shelley told Urban about the continued domestic violence but it is clear that at least one person in the Meyer home knew what was happening.
Meyer has a long history of a strong stance against violence towards women. It was painted on walls at Florida and it is now at Ohio State. It was a “zero tolerance” policy, but that didn’t apply to his coaching staff, apparently.
Meyer fired Smith last week after court documents from the Smith’s divorce became unsealed, releasing testimony detailing abuse over several years. Ohio State acted swiftly placing Meyer on paid administrative leave and naming Ryan Day as the interim head coach.
Mullen reached out to Meyer, who he is still very close with after hearing the news on Wednesday.
“I sent him a text last night just saying he and the family were in our prayers because I know we’ve been very close. I haven’t gotten to see a lot or research much. I’ve just seen a couple of the headlines here and there.”
Mullen coached quarterbacks for Meyer at Bowling Green and Utah. He was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for both of Meyer’s National Championships at Florida before taking the head coaching job at Mississippi State.
Mullen, like Meyer, has a public “zero tolerance” policy for domestic violence.
“One of the things (domestic violence) is something that is a problem, something that has to be taken very seriously,” Mullen said Thursday at media day. “Not just in today’s world, should always be taken seriously, but I think it’s come more to the forefront in today’s world, become more of a public issue.”
Mullen hasn’t had the time to go through McMurphy’s report (linked above) but the evidence he laid out is damning and if Meyer knew about the abuse Courtney Smith was enduring and did nothing about it he should be fired. The evidence laid out already shows that Mullen’s friend and coaching mentor is a hypocrite and a liar. It’s put a black eye on Ohio State and Meyer’s incredible career.
Still, Mullen’s reaction that he was “sad for Urban” is understandable given their long history. You can be both sad for a friend and disagree with an action or choice they have made, those things are not mutually exclusive.
“I mean, people that your friends and you’re close with in friends, any time they’re dealing with a situation and the situation Urban is dealing with, it’s always hard, and you always keep them in your prayers,” Mullen said. “You hope things worked out the best for them because they’re people that have had influences on you throughout your life.”