The List: The people and organizations that failed Courtney Smith

A new Defector article by reporter Diana Moskovitz goes deep on the abuse allegations levied by Courtney Smith against her ex-husband, former Ohio State assistant coach Zach Smith

Andy Downing
Columbus Alive
In this Sept. 17, 2016, file photo, former Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, right, and then-assistant coach Zach Smith, left, gesture from the sidelines during a football game against Oklahoma.

When the allegations of abuse Courtney Smith levied against her ex-husband, former Ohio State assistant football coach Zach Smith, became public in 2018, she often appeared in stories as a secondary concern to the various institutions and individuals attempting to defend their reputations. 

For a new, must-read Defector article, reporter Diana Moskovitz combed hundreds of pages of text messages between former head coach Urban Meyer and OSU officials in which Courtney Smith was referred to as either "the ex-wife" or an unnamed problem that required managing. “In more than 200 pages of text messages covering a period of years,” Moskovitz wrote, “I only found her name used once.”

In the article, titled “Courtney’s Story,” we finally get Courtney Smith’s full accounting of events, which doubles as a portrait of individual and institutional failure. Here are just a few of those who dropped the ball. (But, really, take the time to read this whole piece.)

Zach Smith

The myriad allegations of abuse, all of which Smith denied to Moskovitz, are heinous. But the reporter also detailed the ways in which he’s used the allegations “to rebrand himself as a renegade college football expert, the kind who could tell you stories about what it’s like to work with Meyer and complain about how the real victims of ‘the system’ are men like him.”

Given that, Smith’s reaction to the story is about what one might expect.

Urban Meyer

Moskovitz opens her piece writing about Courtney Smith’s experience watching the former Buckeye head coach give a press conference on July 24, 2018. “‘Oh my God, please tell the truth,'” Smith recalled saying as Meyer spoke. “I was on my hands and knees, going, ‘Please tell the truth, Urban, please.'”

Meyer, of course, failed Smith in that moment, establishing a pattern in which he consistently stonewalled and offered contradictory statements, all while expressing more concern for the university’s reputation than the issue of violence against women. “I’m sorry we’re in this situation,” he said during one presser in which he managed to apologize to “Buckeye Nation” but not Courtney Smith.

When Courtney Smith was interviewed by Powell police in 2015, Moskovitz reported, she relayed to officers where she believed Meyer’s true allegiances existed. “Urban I feel like will do anything to protect his guy,” she said. “He doesn’t want anything to get out and look bad for his program.”

Yep, he’s still the worst.

Former Ohio State football players

No one would have expected college kids to voice support for Courtney Smith in the moment back in 2018, considering even their coach avoided the issue. But Moskovitz writes that former players continue to associate with Zach Smith, which reads as tacit support. Most recently, former Buckeye star Braxton Miller appeared at a tailgate event advertised by Zach Smith.

Powell Police

The police withheld hundreds of pages of records documenting the allegations of abuse, along with hours of audio and video recordings, with then-Powell Police Chief Gary Vest insisting he could not release them to anyone because doing so would identify Zach Smith, Moskovitz wrote.

Courtney Smith’s mother, Tina Carano

Contacted by Defector, Carano said there was “no substantiated case of domestic violence,” said Zach was innocent, and blamed the media coverage on the MeToo movement. But Moskovitz also reported on conversations between Carano and Powell Police Detective Ryan Pentz that took place in 2015, during which Carano said she knew Zach Smith had been abusing her daughter for years.

Delaware County Prosecutors

According to Moskovitz, prosecutors in the case failed to present a 2015 domestic violence investigation against Zach Smith to the grand jury. “We didn’t present it because after going through everything we went through, we didn’t find any felony charges that we thought we could prove,” Delaware County Prosecutor Carol O’Brien told the Dispatch in 2018. As a result, criminal charges were never filed in the case.

Ohio State fans

On social media, the team’s “fans” were quick to label Courtney Smith a liar, crazy and worse, defending a coach (Smith) and a program as if they were beloved family members, all at the expense of Courtney Smith.

Note to scarlet and gray stans, don’t be this guy:

Ohio State University

Last but certainly not least. For months, the university appeared to take a hands-off approach, with Moskovitz writing that OSU left Courtney Smith “twisting in the wind,” failing to release the most damning evidence against Meyer until after the head coach had left the school. (In fact, OSU even called on Meyer to teach a course in leadership and character at its business school following his 2018 retirement as head coach.)

Moskovitz also wrote that by 2015, according to OSU, Zach Smith “was regularly late to practice and workouts, missing scheduled recruiting visits but saying he had made them, having a sexual relationship with a football staff secretary who did not report to him, having sex toys delivered to Ohio State’s athletic facilities, and taking sexually explicit photos of himself at various Ohio State facilities.”

Somehow none of this was reported in Zach’s personnel files for 2015 or 2016. “The only hint of a problem is 2017,” Moskovitz wrote, “when under areas for improvement his evaluation mentions ‘personal matters.’”

The same year, Ohio State gave Smith a raise of more than $73,400, increasing his salary to $300,000.