In these times, with social media so relevant, it’s nearly impossible to find something too surprising. Almost nothing can be hidden, and everyone has an opinion to share. That apparently includes attorneys in the sports world’s most recent high-profile scandal.
Rex Elliott, the attorney for Ohio State athletics director Gene Smith, went to Facebook to share his own personal sentiments behind the investigation into what Buckeyes football head coach Urban Meyer knew and did with domestic abuse allegations involving former assistant coach Zach Smith and his ex-wife, Courtney Smith, in 2015.
Meyer was slapped with a three-game suspension, while Smith was given a 17-day, unpaid suspension by The Ohio State Board of Trustees. Elliott believes “two great men fell on the sword for a University they dearly love.”
Here is the full statement:
The biggest problem in this OSU matter is the rush to judgment and the erroneous reporting of details by some irresponsible media and the amateur reporting of false information on social media. So, as a lawyer deeply involved in the investigation on behalf of Gene Smith, I am compelled to simply state the facts. The investigation was commenced to determine 2 issues: did OSU cover-up domestic violence and did Urban lie to the media in furtherance of a cover-up.
After an exhaustive investigation that involved 40 witness interviews and thousands of documents, the investigators who were searching for information to enable them to answer these questions yes, answered them both NO. But to justify a 500k investigation you have to find something. The facts established that Gene Smith learned of the 2015 allegations and immediately pulled Urban off the practice field to inform him and ordered the Assistant back to Columbus not to Ohio State but to go directly to the Powell police to answer their questions. He then discussed the matter with the Title IX Compliance Official and Public Safety Liaison and Human Resources and he ordered OSU police and OSU officials to monitor the Powell investigation. No OSU official can interfere in a criminal investigation or take steps to make it appear they are influencing an investigation. Powell concluded there was no evidence to support the allegations and we now know this person made false reports on other occasions. But the investigation had to find something so they said Gene and Urban should have reported it to Compliance. Really? Compliance handles NCAA matters not domestic violence. And try as they might investigators could not find any evidence that Urban lied to anyone. They concede that Urban was confused by the question and thought he was being asked the same thing he was the day before when someone suggested Zach Smith had been “arrested” for domestic violence which to this day has never occurred. Despite digging deep, the investigators concluded Urban misspoke and did not lie to anyone. So, why the sanction? Well, isn’t it obvious? The country was lathered into a frenzy based on erroneous information and a long delay and OSU needed to appease the lynch mob that had formed as soon as the unproven allegations were made. As a result, two great men fell on the sword for a University they dearly love. And both men faced a room full of reporters and admitted they failed in their duties to better manage and react quicker to a troubled employee even though they had no idea about the information that has since come out about some of the things he may have been doing. Those are the facts. Two men who don’t deserve the public flogging but who agreed to take one for the team so this great University can move forward with all of its amazing athletic and academic initiatives. Sorry for the length of this and I am not looking for debate. Just wanted to make sure the facts are straight.
I should also share one more thing from the report. The investigators again after 40 interviews and thousands of records concluded that Gene and Urban share a commitment “to the Respect for Women core value” that Urban instills in his program. Neither has any tolerance for domestic violence and I think we can all agree it has no place in our society.
Elliott, a partner at the firm Cooper & Elliott in Columbus, then followed up to make sure everyone knew this was only his opinion and not one of his client or Ohio State University:
For an investigation that has already reached a verdict, it sure seems like the entire situation is far from over.