Report alleges risky behavior by Smith at OSU

Report alleges risky behavior by Smith at OSU

Ohio State’s ongoing investigation involving the Buckeyes‘ football program and coach Urban Meyer will be completed on Sunday as planned, the university announced Friday evening.

The investigators will deliver a report for the independent working group directing the probe, which will be shared with the board of trustees in an executive session next week.

Ohio State placed Meyer on paid administrative leave on Aug. 1 after the ex-wife of former assistant coach Zach Smith accused Meyer of mishandling past domestic assault allegations she made against Smith. The university appointed the special working group to review the allegations on Aug. 5 and said the investigation would be completed in two weeks.

University president Michael Drake, along with the board of trustees, will determine what action is needed after hearing the results of the investigation.

In its statement Friday evening, the university said that public notice of the meeting will be released at least 24 hours in advance, and that following deliberations with the board, Drake will announce his decision.

The independent working group is chaired by former Ohio House Speaker Jo Ann Davidson. The investigation is being led by former chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Mary Jo White, a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

On Thursday, Drake had indicated the probe might not be done by Sunday, telling radio station WOSU that the investigation “will be finished when it’s finished.”

“There is a great deal of interest in this investigation,” he said. “We wanted to make sure we had really good information, and there is time pressure. We wanted to have that information as quickly as possible. …The most important thing is to get good information so we can make the right decisions going forward.”

Drake said that “things are moving apace” in the investigation but did not comment on what was being asked or who was being interviewed. Zach Smith and Courtney Smith, his ex-wife, have both confirmed through their attorneys that they spoke to the group of investigators earlier this week.

Courtney Smith alleged in an interview with college football reporter Brett McMurphy earlier this month that Meyer and others at Ohio State knew about accusations of domestic abuse in 2015 and did not act on them. Meyer, who fired Zach Smith in late July, originally said he knew nothing about a 2015 incident between the Smiths. He later retracted that statement and said he followed proper protocol in reporting the issue when it occurred in October 2015.

Drake did not get into specifics when asked if lying to the public could be considered a fireable offense.

“What we’re doing now is an investigation to try to find out exactly what happened, why, what the context was, etc.,” Drake said. “I’m going to wait until I know those things before I make conclusions. I’ve been doing my best possible job to keep an open mind. As I said, stay tuned.”

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith also knew about the 2015 allegations, according to Zach Smith. Gene Smith, who has been in charge of the Buckeyes’ athletic department for more than a decade, has not publicly commented on the situation.

An Ohio State spokesman said last week that Gene Smith was on vacation but was available to speak to the investigative team if he was needed.

Drake said he didn’t know if Gene Smith was a focus for the investigators.

“The team is investigating this particular set of circumstances, and I don’t know all the questions they’re asking or what they’re going about,” he said. “I’m waiting until they come forward with information. … I don’t know where it’s going or what they’re coming out with.”

Meyer has not been allowed to interact with the football team since practice began in early August. The Buckeyes play their first game of the season on Sept. 1.

ESPN’s Dan Murphy contributed to this report.

Day updates Buckeyes' progress without Meyer

Day updates Buckeyes' progress without Meyer

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State’s Ryan Day on Friday made his first public comments since taking over as acting head coach while Urban Meyer is on paid administrative leave.

Though Day didn’t speak directly to the media, he sent out a letter through the school and addressed to Ohio State fans updating the Buckeyes‘ progress as they concluded fall camp with two weeks remaining until the season opener against Oregon State on Sept. 1.

“You will be proud to know that our players and coaching staff have attacked each day and forged together as a team,” Day said in a statement posted to the Buckeyes’ official website. “Our program starts and ends with our players, and the leaders of this team are incredibly focused and determined to maximize our talents to be the best team possible when we line up on Sept. 1.

“The energy level the entire group has brought to each day is a testament to the work ethic and perseverance of our program. Our coaching staff has been outstanding driving the program during this camp.”

Day, who also serves as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, was named acting head when Ohio State placed Meyer on paid administrative leave on Aug. 1 after the ex-wife of former assistant coach Zach Smith accused Meyer of mishandling past domestic assault allegations she made against Smith.

The university appointed a special working group to review those allegations on Aug. 5. The investigation was expected to conclude two weeks later, which is Sunday.

In Day’s letter, he offered updates on all 10 of the Buckeyes’ position groups, and he discussed replacing long-time starter J.T. Barrett with a quarterback who has yet to register a collegiate start to this point.

Dwayne Haskins and Tate Martell have been putting in the work on and off the field to get themselves prepared for an excellent season,” Day said. “We can see the improvement by each of the QBs on a daily basis.”

Meyer named Haskins the starter in June. The sophomore appeared in eight games last season, completing 40 of 57 pass attempts for 565 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. He also replaced an injured Barrett in Ohio State’s win at Michigan, completing 6 of 7 attempts for 94 yards.

Day said Haskins and Martell have taken the majority of reps at quarterback, as freshman Matthew Baldwin is recovering from ACL surgery and “won’t be 100 percent for another couple of weeks.”

Day also said that former Buckeyes running back Archie Griffin, a two-time Heisman Trophy winner, recently spoke to the team, and comedian Sinbad also spent an afternoon with the Buckeyes.

Ohio State also held its annual family day last Sunday, which included brunch, a devotion by former receiver Roy Hall and pictures.

The Buckeyes will scrimmage and move out of the team hotel Saturday. They’ll start their daily, in-season practice and preparation next week and will begin fall classes Tuesday.

Day closed his letter by thanking members Ohio State’s administration and athletic department for their “guidance and support.” He also thanked members of the media for their “patience and understanding,” as players or coaches have not met with the media during Day’s two weeks as acting head coach.

“The two main driving forces behind our motivation is the ‘brotherhood’ and the standard of excellence that the former Buckeye players and teams have set before us,” Day said. “The ‘brotherhood’ is the love for our teammates, which is an unbreakable bond and the standard of excellence is a responsibility we take very seriously. We are honored to be Buckeyes and can’t wait to see and hear you in the ‘Shoe on September 1!”

Reports: Bama's Womack breaks bone in foot

Reports: Bama's Womack breaks bone in foot

Alabama offensive lineman Matt Womack broke a bone in his his foot during practice Thursday and will need surgery, according to multiple reports.

It is the same bone that Womack broke to cause him to miss all of spring practice. He is expected to miss several weeks, according to multiple reports.

Womack’s injury was first reported by 247 Sports.

Womack started at every game at right tackle last season but is currently in competition with sophomores Alex Leatherwood and Jedrick Wills. He is one of four returning starters on the offensive line, including preseason first-team All-SEC selections Ross Pierschbacher and Jonah Williams.

The Crimson Tide opens the season against Louisville on Sept. 1.

What you need to know about the Big 12

What you need to know about the Big 12

Oklahoma looks to top the Big 12 once again this season, but the return of West Virginia’s Will Grier, along with the Mountaineers’ strong receiving corps, could spoil the Sooners’ conference championship hopes.

The Big 12’s top teams are loaded with talented backs and boast strong offensive fronts, which should make for an interesting race for the Big 12 championship.

Here’s everything you need to know about the Big 12, from Heisman hopefuls to strongest position groups and everything in between.


Five most important conference games

Nov. 23: Oklahoma at West Virginia

Oklahoma remains the one team that West Virginia has yet to defeat since joining the Big 12. But if the Mountaineers are to capture their first Big 12 championship, they’ll have to knock off the three-time defending league champs here — if not again in the Big 12 championship game. The Sooners throttled West Virginia in Norman last year. But this time, the Mountaineers will have the preseason Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, quarterback Grier, who broke his finger the week before the Oklahoma game — and the Sooners will obviously be without Heisman winner Baker Mayfield.

Oct. 6: Texas vs. Oklahoma

The Red River Showdown has always been a defining game for both programs, even if it has lost its luster in recent years with the Longhorns’ decline. Texas coach Tom Herman knows that the path back to Big 12 supremacy runs through Dallas, where the Longhorns have prevailed only twice this decade. But until the Longhorns become elite again at quarterback, they will continue to be an afterthought in the conference. Sam Ehlinger had his moments against Oklahoma as a true freshman. If he consistently harnesses that as a sophomore, the rest of the league will be on notice.

Sept. 22: TCU at Texas

The Horned Frogs have completely dominated this series, winning five of six against Texas since joining the Big 12 with an average margin of victory of 25 points. This will be a Big 12 tone-setter for either squad, who both will be coming off monster non-conference showdowns (Texas against USC, TCU against Ohio State). The Longhorns owned the Big 12’s top defense last year with the nation’s fifth-best unit in defensive efficiency; but TCU wasn’t far behind at 13th. With the questions both teams face offensively, this could potentially be the rare low Big 12 scoring affair.

Oct. 20: Oklahoma at TCU

Despite getting two cracks at him last year, defensive whiz Gary Patterson had no answer for Heisman winner Baker Mayfield. Last season, however, was an outlier, as Patterson’s bunch has played Oklahoma as tough as anyone in the league in recent years. TCU has the defensive line to match up with Oklahoma up front and its running game, and the secondary to hang with the Sooners’ speedy deep threats. Even so, TCU will have to put up the points to have a chance. By late October, the Horned Frogs have to hope that quarterback Shawn Robinson will have found his stride.

Nov. 10: Oklahoma State at Oklahoma

Bedlam has been the biggest game in the Big 12 for the last decade with Oklahoma State’s rise under Mike Gundy. But having lost quarterback Mason Rudolph and All-American wideout James Washington, the Cowboys are retooling if not rebuilding. Gundy has only two wins against the Sooners, who have won the last three Bedlam showdowns with major Big 12 title implications on the line. Oklahoma State will have to surprise with a new quarterback – whether it’s Taylor Cornelius, Dru Brown or Spencer Sanders – to challenge the Sooners again. And play much better defense, too.

Heisman Hopeful

With Sam Darnold, Lamar Jackson and Baker Mayfield gone, West Virginia’s Grier has taken over as one of college football’s best passing quarterbacks — if not the best.

Before suffering a season-ending broken finger last November, Grier was second in the nation with 34 touchdown throws and third with 3,490 yards passing. And that was coming off a messy transfer from Florida following an 18-month layoff from the field.

“It’s his second year in this system, and he’s much more comfortable,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said this offseason. “His timing with the guys is as good as I’ve seen. So from a quarterback perspective, it’s as good as anyone in the country.”

Having a year in the system should give Grier a boost. So should passing to one of the top receiving corps in the country. David Sills V tied for the nation’s best with 18 touchdown receptions last season on the way to becoming a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation’s top receiver. Opposite him, Gary Jennings quietly topped the Big 12 with 97 receptions.

With that arsenal, the Mountaineers will be a threat to score on any down. Yet whether Grier can catapult himself into serious Heisman discussion will hinge on whether he can improve his efficiency on key downs. Last season, the Mountaineers struggled at times in the red zone. And they ranked all the way down at 101st nationally in third-down-conversion rate.

With Grier settled in for his senior season, the Mountaineers stand to improve dramatically there. Which could give them a shot at boasting the nation’s top offense.

Should that happen — and should Grier quarterback West Virginia into the Big 12 title game — the Mountaineers could have their first Heisman finalist since Major Harris.

Preseason coach of the year

Two of the longest tenured coaches at the same program in college football reside in the Big 12. TCU’s Gary Patterson was hired in 2000; Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy, in 2005. Only Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz has been at one school longer. And that doesn’t include Kansas State’s Bill Snyder, who would easily be the game’s longest tenured coach had he not temporarily retired for three years in 2005.

Patterson, Gundy and Snyder have consistently produced winning teams. And yet Iowa State’s Matt Campbell is the reigning Big 12 Coach of the Year. In his third season, Campbell’s Cyclones knocked off Oklahoma and TCU, the two teams that played in the Big 12 championship game. At one point, Iowa State was in the thick of the Big 12 title race itself. If that happens again, Campbell would be line to repeat as coach of the year.

If Campbell isn’t the hottest coaching name in the Big 12 at the moment, then Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley is. After taking over for Bob Stoops last summer, Riley led the Sooners to the CFP. This season, he’ll have to do it without Heisman Trophy quarterback Baker Mayfield. But if Oklahoma wins an unpreceded fourth straight Big 12 title with a new quarterback in Kyler Murray, then Riley could take the Big 12 coaching honor, even if the Sooners are Big 12 preseason favorites.

Elsewhere, Dana Holgorsen has his best team since arriving at West Virginia, while Tom Herman will be looking to revive the Longhorns in a critical Year 2 campaign. The Big 12 is flush with both accomplished and promising head coaches. Which is why the league figures to be among the deepest and most balanced in college football.

Team with the most to prove

This decade is almost over. And for the most part, Texas has been a relevant college football team since it began. Since playing for the 2009 national championship against Alabama, the Longhorns are only five games above .500 to go along with four losing seasons. As a result, there’s tremendous pressure on second-year coach Tom Herman to finally turn the Longhorns around after an up-and-down rookie season. Sure, Texas hung tough with USC and Oklahoma, then later defeated Missouri in a bowl game. But seven wins just isn’t good enough at Texas. Nor should it be.

But there is reason to believe the Longhorns could be on the verge of turning that corner under Herman. The season-opening debacle to Maryland included, Texas ranked fifth nationally in defensive efficiency under coordinator Todd Orlando in 2017. And though several significant pieces off that unit are gone, several key ones are back, as well. Defensive ends Breckyn Hager and Charles Omenihu, linebacker Gary Johnson and defensive back Kris Boyd are all All-Big 12-caliber talents. The Longhorns also just signed the nation’s No. 3 recruiting class, loaded with immediate impact potential on the defensive side.

No doubt, the defense should be legit once again. And yet, it was just that last year. And Texas went just 6-6 during the regular season.

For the Longhorns to truly become a contender in the Big 12, they’re going to also need elite quarterback play – something they haven’t had since Colt McCoy and Vince Young. Sam Ehlinger showed promise as a true freshman. But he also battled injuries and catastrophic turnovers.

Already this preseason, Herman has been bragging on the strength and speed of his team. If Ehlinger makes a jump, Texas finally will be on its way back. If not, the Longhorns will be primed yet again falling short of any lofty preseason expectations.

Strongest position group in the conference

Few programs in college football have better running back traditions than Oklahoma and Texas and even Oklahoma State. And this year, the collective talent at running back in the Big 12 is as good as it has been in years.

Oklahoma’s Rodney Anderson, Oklahoma State’s Justice Hill and Iowa State’s David Montgomery all justifiably hold All-America aspirations following monster 2017 campaigns.

After taking over the starting job in the Sooners’ backfield in early October last year, Anderson led the country in yards from scrimmage. That culminated with a 200-yard rushing performance against Georgia’s vaunted defense in the Rose Bowl. With Baker Mayfield gone, Anderson should receive even more touches in Oklahoma’s ground game. And paired with dual-threat quarterback Kyler Murray, he could especially thrive in zone-read opportunities.

Of course, Anderson isn’t the league’s only big-time back.

Montgomery led the country last year in broken tackles to help fuel Iowa State’s surprise run to a bowl. And on top of rushing for 1,146 yards and 11 touchdowns, Montgomery played a significant role in Iowa State’s passing game, catching 36 passes. The Cyclones will be counting on Montgomery even more in 2018, with All-Big 12 wideout Allen Lazard no longer around.

Yet as good as Montgomery and Anderson were last year, nobody in the Big 12 ran for more yards than Hill, who averaged more than 112 yards rushing a game; no other back in the Big 12, in fact, averaged more than 88. With quarterback Mason Rudolph and wideout James Washington gone, Hill will take over as Oklahoma State’s primary offensive weapon.

The Big 12’s running back talent doesn’t end there. TCU boasts a potent duo in Darius Anderson and Sewo Olonilua. K-State and West Virginia have deep backfields, as well.

The Big 12 has rightfully generated a reputation as a passing league. But in 2018, the running back could define the league.

OSU prez: Probe 'finished when it's finished'

OSU prez: Probe 'finished when it's finished'

The president of Ohio State University said the school’s ongoing investigation involving the football program and coach Urban Meyer “will be finished when it’s finished.”

Ohio State placed Meyer on paid administrative leave on Aug. 1 after the ex-wife of former assistant coach Zach Smith accused Meyer of mishandling past domestic assault allegations she made against Smith. The university appointed a special working group to review those allegations on Aug. 5. The investigation was expected to conclude two weeks later, this coming Sunday.

Ohio State President Michael Drake, along with the board of trustees, will determine what action is needed after hearing the results of the investigation. Drake said in an interview on WOSU Thursday that Sunday is not a hard deadline for a decision on Meyer’s future.

“There is a great deal of interest in this investigation,” Drake told the public radio interviewer. “We wanted to make sure we had really good information, and there is time pressure. We wanted to have that information as quickly as possible. …The most important thing is to get good information so we can make the right decisions going forward.”

Drake said that “things are moving apace” in the investigation, but did not comment on what was being asked or who was being interviewed. Zach Smith and Courtney Smith, his ex-wife, have both confirmed through their attorneys that they spoke to the group of investigators earlier this week.

Courtney Smith alleged in an interview with college football reporter Brett McMurphy earlier this month that Meyer and others at Ohio State knew about accusations of domestic abuse in 2015 and did not act on them. Meyer, who fired Zach Smith in late July, originally said he knew nothing about a 2015 incident between the Smiths. He later retracted that statement and said he followed proper protocol in reporting the issue when it occurred in October 2015.

Drake did not get into specifics when asked if lying to the public could be considered a fireable offense.

“What we’re doing now is an investigation to try to find out exactly what happened, why, what the context was, etc.,” Drake said. “I’m going to wait until I know those things before I make conclusions. I’ve been doing my best possible job to keep an open mind. As I said, stay tuned.”

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith also knew about the 2015 allegations, according to Zach Smith. Gene Smith, who has been in charge of the Buckeyes’ athletic department for more than a decade, has not publicly commented on the situation. An Ohio State spokesman said last week that Gene Smith was on vacation but was available to speak to the investigative team if he was needed.

Drake said he didn’t know if Gene Smith was a focus for the investigators.

“The team is investigating this particular set of circumstances and I don’t know all the questions they’re asking or what they’re going about,” he said. “I’m waiting until they come forward with information…. I don’t know where it’s going or what they’re coming out with.”

Meyer has not been allowed to interact with the football team since they began practice in early August. The Buckeyes play their first game of the season on Sept. 1.

Ohio State taking team to Beyonce, Jay-Z show

Ohio State taking team to Beyonce, Jay-Z show

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio State Buckeyes are hanging with the Beyhive Thursday night.

With Beyonce and Jay-Z performing at Ohio Stadium for their On The Run II Tour, acting head coach Ryan Day surprised players at the end of Thursday’s practice with tickets to the concert.

“You guys are going to the concert tonight, Jay-Z and Beyonce,” Day said in a video posted on the team’s Twitter account Thursday.

The football team was able to enjoy a night watching two of the music industry’s biggest stars after 500 free tickets for the concert were made available to students, according to Ohio State’s associate vice president for university communications Chris Davey.

Davey said that those tickets, which were purchased at general public price, were provided by the tour’s promoter and that student-athlete opportunities like these are paid for through a “special discretionary fund that comes from donors to university athletics and sometimes the NCAA student opportunity fund.”

State tax dollars and tuition dollars are not used, Davey said.

Ohio State’s women’s volleyball team will join the football team. Last year, both the men’s and women’s basketball teams were sent to the Kendrick Lamar concert at the The Schottenstein Center.

NCAA Bylaw 16.7 allows an institution to provide reasonable entertainment to student-athletes while they are in their playing season.

“Since football’s playing season begins with preseason camp, we meet the requirements to provide such entertainment either through budget or using the NCAA Student Assistance Fund,” Davey said.

Before Day’s major surprise, he also gave the Buckeyes a chance to skip out on Thursday night meetings, too.

All the team needed was for senior kicker Sean Nuernberger to hit a 39-yard field goal at the end of practice — in the rain.

And with strength coach Mikey Marotti and a few other assistants bearing down on him before and during his stroll up to the kick.

Without hesitation, Nuernberger — who is on pace to set the Ohio State record for kicking points in a career (his 276 ranks sixth all-time and the school record is 356 held by Mike Nugent) — sent his kick through the middle uprights and lifted his arms in celebration, as teammates mobbed him before the ball even made it near the crossbar.

Day was named acting head coach since the school announced on Aug. 1 that it had placed head coach Urban Meyer on paid administrative leave after Courtney Smith, the ex-wife of former Buckeyes coach Zach Smith, told college football reporter Brett McMurphy that Meyer knew about a domestic abuse incident in 2015 and did not act.