COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio State coach Urban Meyer’s current suspension and previous paid leave have restricted him from talking football with his staff and athletes during August with one exception — a team meeting the day after the suspension was announced.
Meyer and athletic director Gene Smith were allowed to meet with the players and coaches for about 45 minutes last Thursday, according to emails sent to Meyer by the senior vice president for human resources, Susan Basso.
The emails outlining the details of Meyer’s suspension were obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday through an open records request and first reported by Ohio State’s campus newspaper, The Lantern. Meyer can’t attend practices, meetings or official events, and can’t conduct any business related to being head coach. He also will lose six weeks of salary — approximately $500,000 — in a year he is slated to earn $7.6 million under a deal that runs through 2022.
Meyer and Smith were suspended over their handling of a now-fired assistant coach who was accused of domestic violence. Meyer resumes some coaching duties Monday but can’t coach during the first three games. He will be allowed to run practices after the team’s first game.
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Meyer and athletic director Gene Smith met with the team on Thursday. Meyer received written details of the suspension on Sunday, four days after the discipline was announced publicly. At 5:53 p.m. Monday, Meyer was sent an email from Basso confirming that the Thursday meeting — “in order to apologize to the team” — had been authorized. A university spokesman said Ohio State President Michael V. Drake had authorized the meeting with the “understanding and support” of members of the board of trustees.
Meyer’s sideline substitute for the first three games will be 39-year-old co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Ryan Day, a second-year Ohio State assistant who has never before been a head coach but has been filling in while Meyer is out.
“I will tell you that we were happy to see him,” Day said of the Thursday meeting, adding that “there were a lot of hugs.”
“As you can imagine he was kind of giving them an update on what was going on, kind of explaining some of the situation and talking about moving forward,” Day said during a Big Ten coaches conference call. “We try to keep most of those meetings between us, but that was the gist of it.”
At a media availability with Ohio State captains on Tuesday, the first since preseason camp opened, university communications staffers tried to block questions about Meyer and the investigation, cutting off reporters by firmly saying “football questions only.” But a few of the players were able to touch on it.
Senior H-back Parris Campbell said that while the routine continues, Meyer’s absence is conspicuous.
“His presence obviously just overwhelms a lot of people, the opposing team or just having him in the locker room,” Campbell said. “He just has a presence. He’s a leader, one of the greatest coaches of all time. I think that’s what we’re missing. You just can’t put that into words, you know what I mean?”
The suspensions followed a two-week investigation that found Meyer and the athletic director mismanaged now-fired assistant coach Zach Smith, who was accused of domestic violence and other problematic behavior. Zach Smith — the grandson of former Ohio State coach and Meyer mentor Earle Bruce — has denied being aggressive with his ex-wife.
Meyer eventually acknowledged he was aware of domestic violence allegations from 2015 but didn’t fire Zach Smith until July 24, after his ex-wife was granted a domestic protection order.
Because Zach 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.
On Monday, Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano described his contact with Meyer.
“Well Urban is, before he’s my boss, he’s a friend,” Schiano said. “I’ve known him for over 20 years. So when I was allowed to, I did communicate. And that’s personal. It wasn’t about football. It was about him. Because I was worried about him. I’ll leave it at that.”
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