OSU investigation into Urban Meyer could be resolved before Aug. 19

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer watches his team's NCAA college spring football game Saturday, April 14, 2018, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

COLUMBUS - Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer remains on paid administrative leave this week while a panel of investigators have begun their inquiry into what Meyer knew and if he followed the proper reporting procedures regarding a 2015 domestic incident involving his now former wide receivers coach Zach Smith.

While on administrative leave, Meyer is barred from visiting Ohio State University buildings, cannot talk to student-athletes or coaches and cannot access his university-provided electronic devices, a university spokesman confirmed to 10 Investigates Thursday.

Athletics Director Gene Smith, 10 Investigates learned, is on a week-long vacation but is accessible to the investigative team, the university spokesman says.

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"The university is focused on supporting our student-athletes as they prepare for the upcoming semester. We can't comment further during the pending investigation," a university spokesman said.

Ohio State announced on Sunday that it will rely on an outside law firm to investigate what coach Urban Meyer knew and did about domestic abuse accusations against his former assistant, Zach Smith. Smith was fired in July over what Smith told 10TV was mounting media pressure over his divorce and domestic issues associated with it. In May, Smith was cited for a trespass violation, a matter that is still pending in the court.

Meanwhile, the university's investigation process is expected to be completed within two weeks, the university said.

That timeline began on August 5 and could be completed within those two weeks, which would end on Aug. 19, a university spokesman confirmed.

Ohio State said in a release that a trustees' committee formed to coordinate the investigation had an initial meeting and has hired a firm to conduct the probe of Meyer, who says he followed proper protocol when informed of a 2015 abuse allegation against assistant Zach Smith.

Mary Jo White of the national firm Debevoise & Plimpton is leading the investigation, the university said. She's a former federal prosecutor and a former chairwoman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange.

Through a spokesman at White's firm, he said that White would not comment on the pending investigation.

"Ohio State is committed to a thorough and complete investigation," said Jo Ann Davidson, a former Ohio House Speaker who is chairwoman of the trustees' group coordinating the effort. "We look forward to sharing the results of this investigation and any action the university may take."

Any decisions resulting from the investigation will be made by Ohio State President Michael Drake in consultation with university trustees, the statement said.

Davidson did not return repeated calls seeking comment Thursday.

Meyer was put on paid leave last week amid questions about what he knew and did about accusations of abuse made against Smith, who was fired July 24 after his ex-wife sought a restraining order against him. The couple is divorced.

Smith has never been criminally charged or convicted with the 2015 domestic incident. Prosecutors have told 10TV that there was insufficient evidence.

Meyer initially told reporters at Big Ten Media Days on July 25 that he didn't know anything about abuse allegations made by Courtney Smith in October 2015. In a statement released Friday via Twitter , Meyer admitted that he knew about the 2015 incidents and insisted he followed proper protocol. He also admitted lying to reporters about it.

Smith denied assaulting his wife and said any physical injuries she might have suffered were the result of him defending himself.

“I said it earlier in an interview. It was a toxic relationship. It wasn’t a functional relationship. It maybe needed to never happen and definitely needed to end. And there were several altercations over our marriage in time in Columbus, where things got physical. Things got out of hand. There were definitely a handful of times where I would have to restrain her and move her out of the way so that I could get out of the situation so it didn’t escalate because it was already beyond a level of escalation that was appropriate," Smith told 10TV News during an Aug. 3 interview.

He said he discussed the 2015 allegations at the time with Meyer and athletic director Gene Smith, but said it was Smith who first told him of the police report.

"I first found out about it, I was on a practice field recruiting and I got a phone call from Gene Smith and he basically said you need to be on the next flight back here. Your ex-wife has alleged that you committed domestic violence. It wasn’t anything recent, I was out of town," Smith told 10TV News on Aug. 3.

During that interview, Smith said he returned to Columbus and went to the Powell Police Department to explain his side of the story. He said he then went to practice and was questioned by Urban Meyer.

"And he looked me dead in the eye and said 'I am telling you right now if you hit her, you are fired immediately.' And I said coach I already know that. I’ve known that since I started with you in 2005. If I did hit her I wouldn’t even come to work. I know I would be fired. I said that’s not the case, I’ve never hit her," Smith told 10TV News.

Ohio State's policy on sexual misconduct says anyone who supervises faculty, staff, students or volunteers has a duty to report "when they receive a disclosure of sexual misconduct or become aware of information that would lead a reasonable person to believe that sexual misconduct may have occurred involving anyone covered under this policy."

A clause in Meyer's new contract, which raised his salary to $7.6 million this year and runs through 2022, also requires him to "report to Ohio State's Title IX athletics any known violations" of the sexual misconduct policy involving students, faculty or staff at the risk of being fired with cause.

A similar clause exists in Athletic Director Gene Smith's contract which requires him to "immediately report to the Department's Office of Athletic Compliance and the Office of University Compliance and Integrity if the Director has reasonable cause to believe that any person or entity, including without limitation, representatives of Ohio State's athletic interests, has violated or is likely to violate or may potentially have violated any such laws, policies, rules or regulations."

During a brief phone interview with 10 Investigates Thursday, Zach Smith was asked if he believed Urban Meyer would remain head coach. Smith said: "I hope so, I don't know that."

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