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The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)


CHICAGO — When Urban Meyer became OhioState's football coach seven years ago, he established some rules that he regarded as "core values" for his program.

One of them is a zero-tolerance policy regarding violence toward women. On Monday, after OSU receivers coach Zach Smith's ex-wife filed a civil protection order against him and an allegation of previous domestic violence surfaced, OSU fired him.

"Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer has announced the termination of wide receivers coach Zach Smith," a brief statement from OSU read. "Coaching staff adjustments will be announced at a later date."

Meyer is scheduled to speak on Tuesday at Big Ten media days in Chicago. He arrived by early Monday evening but did not respond to requests for additional comment.

Smith, the grandson of former Ohio State coach Earle Bruce, was the last remaining member of Meyer's original 2012 OSU coaching staff.

Courtney Smith, a resident of Powell, filed the civil protection order Friday in Delaware County Domestic Relations Court. An Aug. 3 hearing is scheduled to discuss the matter, according to court records.

Zach Smith's attorney, Bradley Koffel, has argued that a misdemeanor charge of criminal trespassing filed in May was baseless and that Smith was just dropping off one of his children at his ex-wife's apartment.

Koffel told The Dispatch last week that there were no threats, argument or physical altercation.

"They pick up and drop off like every other divorced family," he said. "They said, 'He was told by one of our officers five months ago not to drop off at her apartment.' I said that's not enough to override a domestic-court order on where he's allowed to drop off or pick up his kids. It's a court order that controls this."

But in a court filing, Courtney Smith said her ex-husband has harassed, stalked and intimidated her. The Smiths divorced in 2016.

"I am now in even more fear than ever before," she wrote in a sworn affidavit. "Zach believes he is above the law and has no respect for the authorities. I fear for my safety and my life."

Koffel said Courtney Smith is using the media and an order typically used for battered women to "regulate the pickup and drop-off of her kids."

Powell Police Chief Gary Vest said that there was never any evidence of physical violence or threats, as would be required for criminal charges.

"There are no elements that fit a crime," he said, noting that a protection order often is based on perception and fear.

"Sometimes in a domestic situation, (it's) 'I may not trust this person. I don't want them around,' " Vest said.

The order requires Smith to stay at least 500 feet away from his ex-wife for the next five years.

"The courts allow some distance for them to cool down a little. It's a good system to let people catch their breath," Vest said.

Vest said the order's length is likely connected to the age (8 and 6) of the couple's children. He recommends that custody exchanges take place at police stations "to reduce the stress on the kids."

According to court records in Alachua County, Florida, Smith was arrested by Gainesville Police on a charge of aggravated battery in June 2009. That charge was dismissed because of insufficient evidence.

Koffel told The Dispatch that the case eight years ago occurred after Courtney Smith recently became pregnant and she called the police after an argument.

"As they do in these cases now, the first person to call the police is the victim," Koffel said. "The second is the defendant and goes to jail."

He said that Zach Smith was "briefly detained" during that incident.

"She quickly realized what she had done and asked to have the case dismissed," Koffel said.

The charge was dismissed.

Former Buckeyes and NFL receiver Brian Hartline is now an offensive quality-control coach for Ohio State and would be a logical candidate to replace Smith. Another possibility is fellow offensive control-coach Corey Dennis, who is Meyer's son-in-law.

The new receivers coach will take over a room loaded with veterans, led by returning starters Terry McLaurin, Austin Mack and hybrid back Parris Campbell. Of the 10 receiver and/or hybrid backs who made a catch in 2017, nine are back, including the team's leading pass catcher K.J. Hill, Johnnie Dixon, C.J. Saunders, Binjimen Victor, Demario McCall and Jaylen Harris.

And on the recruiting front, the Buckeyes already have gained a commitment for the 2019 class from consensus five-star Texas prospect Garrett Wilson. He answered questions about whether he was hedging on his OSU pledge by posting on Twitter, "I'm solid. Please stop asking. #GoBucks."

Dispatch reporter Tim May contributed to this story.



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