Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer was suspended without pay for the first three games of the season for his handling of domestic violence accusations made against one of his former assistant coaches, the university announced Wednesday.
Meyer is suspended through Sept. 2, will miss the first three game days of the season and will forego six weeks of pay. In addition, Ohio State suspended athletic director Gene Smith without pay from Aug. 31 through Sept. 16.
Courtney Smith, the ex-wife of former Ohio State assistant Zach Smith, claimed in a report published last month that several people close to Meyer knew of the domestic violence accusations she made against Smith in 2015 -- years before Meyer fired Smith on July 23.
In a statement, Ohio State president Michael V. Drake said an independent review found Meyer and Smith "did not exhibit the kind of leadership and high standards that we expect." Mary Jo White, the lead independent investigator, said Meyer publicly misrepresented his knowledge situation and that he was aware of a 2015 law enforcement investigation into the allegations. In addition, the probe found Meyer and Smith did not report the accusations to Ohio State's compliance office.
"Although neither Urban Meyer nor Gene Smith condoned or covered up the alleged domestic abuse by Zach Smith, they failed to take sufficient management action relating to Zach Smith's misconduct and retained an assistant coach who was not performing as an appropriate role model for OSU student-athletes," the review concluded.
Meyer won't be on the sideline for games against Oregon State, Rutgers and TCU. He's eligible to coach against Tulane on Sept. 22.
"I am fully aware that I'm ultimately responsible for the situation that has harmed the university as a whole and our department of athletics and football program," Meyer said while reading a statement at a news conference Wednesday night. "I want to apologize to Buckeye Nation. I followed my heart, not my head. I fell short of pursuing more information because at each juncture I gave Zach Smith the benefit of the doubt.
"I did not know everything about Zach Smith, which was what Zach Smith was doing, and I'm pleased that the report made this very clear. However, I should have demanded more from him and recognized red flags. I needed to show more caring concern for the entirety of the situation and the people involved. ... I should have done more and I'm sorry for that."
Gene Smith said Meyer failed to relay his knowledge of domestic violence accusations made against Zach Smith in 2009 when the assistant was hired by the Buckeyes in 2012. Meyer said Zach Smith's grandfather, former Ohio State coach Earle Bruce, was a mentor and "father figure" to him and that his relationship with Bruce "likely impacted" how he treated Smith.
Meyer said a protection order obtained by Courtney Smith on July 20 prompted his decision to fire Zach Smith three days later. The firing came a day after college football reporter Brett McMurphy revealed the protection order and the past allegations.
When asked about the accusations during Big Ten Media Days the next day, Meyer told reporters he never knew about it previously. He later apologized in a letter posted to Twitter for not being "clear, compassionate and most of all completely accurate" in responses to questions about the issue.
"There was no intent to mislead," Meyer said Wednesday. "The suspensions are tough, but I fully accept them. I wish I could go back and make different decisions, but I can't."
Meyer had been on paid administrative leave since Aug. 1 when Ohio State announced it was opening an internal investigation into matter.
Buckeyes offensive coordinator Ryan Day is serving as the team's acting head coach in Meyer's absence.
UPDATE: Meyer was criticized for not apologizing to Courtney Smith on Wednesday, and he issued the following statement Friday on Twitter: