[Editor’s note: There is some profanity contained within text messages published in this article]
You can consider this a late addition to our summer “What If” series of stories.
What if Alabama hired away Ohio State wide receivers coach Zach Smith, defensive coordinator Greg Schiano, and co-defensive coordinator Alex Grinch following the 2017 season?
Or what if Ryan Day accepted the head coaching job at Mississippi State after Dan Mullen left for Florida?
According to documents released by OSU on Friday afternoon, it almost happened.
The documents were released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by The Ozone on Thursday, August 2, 2018. The request sought “phone records, including calls and any text message information retained for the university-issued phones for football coaches Urban Meyer and Zach Smith.”
That request came in the wake of the scandal that led to Smith’s termination in July 2018.
Friday afternoon, exactly one year to the day later, the university released records responsive to that request, as well as similar ones filed by other news outlets.
Buried in a series of emails and text messages was the news that Alabama and its head coach Nick Saban tried to hire away at least four OSU football assistant coaches in January 2018.
On January 19, 2018, Urban Meyer sent a text message to an unknown person asking if the OSU program should leak the news that “Alabama tries (sic) to hire Schiano, Grinch, and Zach and all three turned them down?”
That message came one day after this text conversation in which Meyer appears to talk Smith out of leaving.
“After much thought I want u to stay,” Meyer wrote. “I have personally invested far too much in un to get u in position to take next step. U need to step away from other situation and let’s go win it all ….again.”
In case there was any lingering doubt about which position that conversation was about, Meyer sent a message to an unidentified recipient on January 21, 2018 spelling it all out.
“Zach smith (sic) was offered wr/passing game Coord at Alabama. Went there to talk to Saban. At first thought maybe he should go then decided that all effort I’ve put u (sic) to him and it’s Alabama. I told him to stay and he turned it down.”
That same message also mentions Mike Vrabel trying to hire Ryan Day as his offensive coordinator with the NFL’s Tennessee Titans.
Five days later, in a text message to University President Michael Drake, Meyer shared information about several other OSU assistants who had turned down jobs with other teams.
Coombs was the only coach to leave after the 2017 season. He took a job with Vrabel’s Titans.
A few other interesting nuggets were buried in the reams of documents released Friday.
For example, the day after OSU’s 31-20 win over Michigan in 2017, with quarterback J.T. Barrett’s status up in the air for the Big Ten Championship Game, Meyer texted offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson with an order to “get wild cat ready for short ydg and jump pass off it. (redacted) is best ‘ball guy.'”
Barrett ended up playing in the Buckeyes’ 27-21 win over Wisconsin that Saturday.
Meyer was not happy with the preparation from at least one player on the 2018 team.
“This group text is to make clear my disappointment with the lack of urgency shown by (redacted) in his preparation to play at Ohio State. This was made clear during the recruiting process the expectations that we had and he has not done this,” Meyer wrote.
He concluded “It’s time to get his ass in gear!”
Finally, an amusing exchange in April 2018 with Grinch showed a glimpse at Meyer’s sense of humor.
Grinch asked if Toledo head coach Jason Candle could come sit on some meetings and practices. Candle and Grinch both attended Division 3 powerhouse Mt. Union College in northeast Ohio.
Meyer responded, “Is he a mt union guy? Not big fan of those guys”