Football

OSU President Michael Drake Went Against The Board Of Trustees ‘Majority,’ Trustees Say, By Suspending Urban Meyer And Gene Smith

Urban Meyer Ohio State Football Buckeyes

[Editor’s Note: With Urban Meyer’s return to the sideline taking place tomorrow, The-Ozone contributor Jeff Snook invited us to republish his story from Wednesday detailing the internal battle that took place August 22 during the deliberation between the Ohio State Board of Trustees and university president Michael Drake regarding Urban Meyer’s punishment for his leniency regarding Zach Smith.]

COLUMBUS — Two members of the Ohio State University Board of Trustees have told me over the past week they believed Urban Meyer’s suspension “was not warranted according to the facts” that resulted from the university’s six-member panel which investigated whether the head coach had covered up alleged domestic violence by former assistant coach Zach Smith.

The “majority” of the trustees disagreed with President Michael Drake’s final decision to suspend Meyer three games and athletic director Gene Smith 17 days and many were disappointed by Drake’s performance “for not being complete and clear” at the ensuing press conference the night of Aug. 22, one trustee said.

Neither trustee wanted to be identified and would speak only on the condition of complete anonymity.

The OSU Board of Trustees consists of 15 members, two students (one graduate and one undergraduate) and three charter (“out of state”) members (who do not vote on issues). Most are appointed by the Ohio governor.

The trustees who spoke outlined the process of how the matter proceeded following a two-week investigation, which officially began on Aug. 4.

Meyer had been placed on paid-administrative leave by the university on July 30 on the eve of Ohio State’s summer camp, pending the outcome of the investigation into whether he covered up an alleged 2015 case of domestic violence involving Zach Smith and his ex-wife Courtney Smith.

Attorneys hired by Ohio State interviewed 40 witnesses, some up to three times, and collected 60,000 documents, emails and text messages, at a reported cost of $500,000, during the investigation, which concluded Aug. 19. The board of trustees met for the first time about the issue the following day.

“We met that Monday morning for about four hours, but it was not considered a public meeting … there was no discussion,” one trustee explained. “We were appraised of the situation and the material of the investigation was reviewed with us. The attorneys told us, ‘This is our investigation; this is what we have found.’”

The trustees were to reconvene for a scheduled meeting two days later, Aug. 22 at 9 a.m. to discuss the issue, make a recommendation to Drake of possible punishment for Meyer and Gene Smith – if any, as well.

That day the trustees arrived for the 9 a.m. meeting in a large conference room at the Longaberger Alumni House on Olentangy River Road, believing the matter of Meyer’s fate would be resolved “in half a day at the most,” as one trustee put it.

Meyer also arrived at the building early on his own accord, in case he was needed for testimony, a source said. The source told me he expected to be vindicated and return across the street to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, “change from his suit and tie into his coaching clothes that afternoon.”

However, Meyer never appeared in front of the board, instead spending the day waiting in a separate room with his attorneys.

“When we arrived, we were given hard copies of the investigation,” one trustee said. “The structure was this: We had heard the evidence. We reviewed it all. The president started off and gave his summary and how he felt. We then each could have the chance to speak our mind, one-by-one, and then we would converse back and forth. We would discuss terms and how we felt, what we believed … what should be done, but the final decision would be made by Dr. Drake.”

Throughout the day, Drake would leave the room at times to handle other university business but would return as the board held official discussions on the matter.

Of the evidence gathered from the report, one trustee said, “It was clear to us that there was no substantiated domestic abuse and there was no coverup of such. The other issue we looked hard at was whether there was any violation of Title IX. There was not. And we were concerned with the reporting chain (between Meyer, Gene Smith and the school’s athletic directors related to Title IX). The reporting chain may not have been handled exactly properly, but it had the same effect. The information originally came from the (Powell) police to the athletic director, who reported to the coach. Normally, it’s the other way around, so there was no need for the coach to report to the athletic director in this case. That was just common sense.”

After reading details of the report, both trustees said that all trustees agreed on one key issue: “This case was not about an abused woman.”

“This was all about the way (Meyer) mismanaged an employee, an assistant coach,” one trustee said. “(Smith) was late to practice often. He acted up on recruiting trips. He had credit-card problems. He did other things that made him a poor representative of the university. It was easy to determine that Coach Meyer should have had a firmer grasp of this employee.”

Another said, “It was obvious Zach Smith had problems, serious issues. Coach Meyer should have known about it and probably fired him (sooner than the July 23 termination Smith was given).”

The bottom line, one trustee added, “That mismanagement didn’t come to the level of a firing offense. I felt his punishment had already been served (in Meyer’s 23 days of being placed on paid-administrative leave). Did he deserve to be fired? Absolutely not. Did he deserve a suspension? I certainly did not feel that way and I was not alone by any means.”

Asked about the number of trustees who felt Meyer deserved no further discipline, one trustee said, “I am not going there and counting heads. Some people in the room didn’t say much. They just listened. It was not unanimous, or near-unanimous, so saying that would not be accurate.”

When asked if “a majority” for those believing Meyer deserved no further punishment would be an accurate term, the trustee answered, “Yes.”

In the end, why did it take almost 12 hours to reach a decision?

The reason for the impasse and duration of the meeting was simple: While the “majority” of the board wanted one outcome; Drake wanted another. And hour after hour, neither faction would budge and opinions didn’t change. The board could not change Drake’s mind about issuing suspensions. In turn, Drake had trouble convincing the board collectively that either Meyer or Gene Smith deserved one, especially without pay.

“It was exhausting, we were all dead tired,” one said. “It was nerve-wracking, too.”

In the end, around 9 p.m., it became obvious to all that the president had won the battle. He would announce a three-game suspension for Meyer and a 17-day suspension for Gene Smith, to be served Aug. 31-Sept. 16, at a press conference set for 9:45 p.m.

(Meyer missed wins over Oregon State, Rutgers and TCU and will return to the sideline Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Ohio Stadium against Tulane).

“Ultimately, it’s the president’s decision and he has that right to make it,” one trustee said. “We respect that. The majority – but not all — just disagreed with it.”

When everyone left the conference room that night the mood “was very somber,” one trustee said.

Before they left, the trustees made it known to Drake to make it clear during the press conference that Meyer was being suspended “because of his mismanagement” of Zach Smith and not for covering up alleged domestic violence.

But what followed, televised nationally on ESPN2 and in front of more than 300 media members, as Drake announced the penalties for both Meyer and Gene Smith “was not handled correctly,” one trustee claimed.

In the ensuing days, following national media reports, several trustees were “largely disgusted at the fallout and the perception that Urban Meyer was suspended for covering up domestic abuse. That couldn’t have been further from the truth and we made that clear when we left the room that night. We wanted it portrayed accurately (by Drake). It was not. It reflected poorly on the university. It damaged the university’s credibility.”

One added, “It left me sick to my stomach.”

Regarding Jeffrey Wadsworth, the trustee who resigned the following week, saying Meyer’s punishment was not harsh enough, he had left the Aug. 22 meeting “three hours into it because he was disgusted” since other trustees didn’t feel “as hard-core as he did” about Meyer’s possible punishment.

“He made it obvious how he felt and he was offended nobody felt the same way,” one trustee said. “So he stood up and left.”

When Wadsworth announced his resignation publicly to the New York Times, one trustee said, “He acted like a baby who didn’t get his way. His actions were completely self-serving and it was a crappy thing to do.”

On why neither trustee wanted to be identified in this story, one stated, “The board of trustees is supposed to handle its business just like the phrase, ‘What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.’”

The other said, “I believe the truth needs to come out, one way or another. Otherwise, why were we involved at all if our thoughts didn’t matter?”

One trustee also said that the university may not release any more details of its report. More than three weeks ago, the university released 15 documents, mostly background information such as Zach Smith’s contract and Urban Meyer’s code of conduct for assistant coaches. Ohio State’s communications office has not stated if more information will be released.

“If they determine this was strictly a personnel issue, I don’t think they feel they have to release it under (Ohio’s Sunshine Law),” the trustee said. “And they may do just that. This may be over, as far as the university is concerned.”

22 Responses

  1. Drake may be well educated but lacks common knowledge

  2. Until that MORON Drake is terminated and driven out of the state of Ohio………..JUSTICE has NOT been served. I had a friend once who served on the Board with honor and dignity………..that same person died after his descent into mental retardation. Oh, he’s very much alive, but he died after proving that he’s nothing but a worthless chuckle on his bended knee’s before the god of progressivism.

    Drake has ZERO business being at an AMERICAN University and should go back to Stanford or the University Cal, San Francisco and take his communism with with while he skips…….daintily, like the puke he is.

    Jeff Wadsworth should be, first of all ashamed, and now utterly filled with remorse for ever recommending Drake. WHAT A FOOL.

  3. Myself and my little band of Ohio ex-pats suspected it was the Cali snowflake all along.

  4. Would you expect anything less of Drake a far left liberal whose roots are from the California State home of the Fruits, Nuts and Flakes! Dump Drake!

  5. drake was a mistake and made everyone involved look stupid. I knew from the get go he was the sticking point that day. I can’t believe Ohio state can’t find a better choice to lead this great institution. drake has made Ohio state a national laughing stock once again and how did he ever get a bonus and raise is beyond m. when his contract is up, I think its time to give this man his walking papers.

  6. Drake has proven himself incompetent on a number of occasions and looking at his resume I have no idea how he got hired in the first place. I seriously hope he gets the boot.

  7. I hope Drake has a clause in his contract that if donations are way down during his tenure, he’s fired. Because there is no doubt that donations will be way down this year and probably every year he remains.

    He should have never put Meyer on paid leave to begin with and he should have never hired an independent investigation. And after those two failures, he should have honored the findings of the investigation after wasting all of that money.

    He cared more about ESPN than a hard working loyal coach of six years. The Aggie coach was accused of much worse by a much more reputable source and the Aggie president did not put him on paid leave and did not hire an investigation, and the story quickly went away.

    Drake needs to go immediately for personally embarrassing Ohio State, wasting a great deal of money, and for ticking off the huge donors of our school.

  8. What disturbs me most is the continuing failure of our coach to say, “no comment or next question”. In the current era of media bias, grand standing and sensationalism, there is no way to win. Lets all move on. Go Bucks!

    1. Fred, I don’t think he can say anything. I’m sure he was threatened to keep his mouth shut. I think this suspension was about to make OSU look like it took care of a problem even though there was none. You can tell Urban wants to say more, but can’t.

      1. Edward………NAILED it.

        What Drake fails to understand. Ohio WILL run him out of our state. If he wants proof all he has to do is ask Kirk Herbstreit.

  9. What purpose does this serve? Drake had the responsibility and authority to take corrective action. He took action. Gene and Urban have survived and have recourse if they choose to pursue it. Let’s get on with football.

  10. Appears that Drake didn’t really care what the Board of Trustees thought. Sounded like he had his mind made before the meeting started plus he kept leaving the meeting. Maybe Drake will care what the Board of Trustees think when they review his job performance or does he do that himself also?

  11. The Band Director, The Athethic Director & the Head Football Coach……did any of the 3 get a fair sake from President Drake ? I can’t say for sure but the Briad of Trustees sure can. Sounds as if Drake had his mind made up before the meeting started. Maybe it is past time for the Board to review Drake’s handling of personnel before theOSU is loaded with lawsuits. Was he properly vetted before he was hired ?

  12. Kudos, Mr. Snook. Just as I suspected.

  13. Dr. Drake was excluded from the scope of the independent investigation. Why? What did he know and when did he know it? Are we to believe that he had no knowledge of this?

    Dr. Drake was presumed absolved from taking any actions since 2015 while Urban was presumed guilty when put on administrative leave. Then Dr. Drake ducks in and out of the Board of Trustees meeting – already having made up his mind?

    The firestorm and damage to tOSU reputation is on Dr. Drake.

  14. Based on the facts I suspension was not warranted. Mr. Drake left Coach Meyer hanging. I guess he was trying to embitter one of the best and most responsible coaches in the nation.

  15. Now we know why it took 12 hours that day. Drake needs to go. If you can’t take the board’s recommendation not to suspend, then you are just looking out for yourself. The media already had their stories written regardless if Meyer was suspended or fired. Drake needed to follow the facts found during tbe investigation and tell the college football world the truth.

  16. Dump Drake. He is a self serving, egomaniac, insanely envious of Meyer.

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