Report Shows Urban Meyer Had Old Text Messages Deleted, Ohio State Failed To Check Meyer’s Phone After Initial Records Request
On Wednesday night, Ohio State suspended coach Urban Meyer for the first three games of this season after a two-week investigation found that the football coach “failed to take sufficient management action” in handling domestic assault allegations made against former assistant coach Zach Smith and misrepresented what he knew about Smith’s allegations while speaking to the media in July.
According to a report released by the school Meyer discussed how to adjust settings on his phone to delete text messages older than a year following Brett McMurphy’s bombshell report.
On August 1, 2018, a widely shared news report claimed that Urban and Shelley Meyer had been aware of Courtney’s Smith’s allegations of abuse in 2015 and of law enforcement’s investigation. The reported information included two incident reports from the Powell PD, as well as text messages between Courtney Smith and Shelley Meyer.
Upon seeing this report when it first came out (at about 10:17 a.m.), Brian Voltolini, who was on the practice field with Coach Meyer went to speak with him, commenting that this was “a bad article.” The two discussed at that time whether the media could get access to Coach Meyer’s phone, and specifically discussed how to adjust the settings on Meyer’s phone so that text messages older than one year would be deleted.
According to the report, Meyer’s phone did not show messages older than one year when he handed over his phone to investigators but they weren’t able to conclude when Meyer deleted the messages.
Our review of Coach Meyer’s phone revealed no messages older than one year, indicating that at the time it was obtained by OSU on August 2nd, Coach Meyer’s phone was set to retain text messages only for that period, as Coach Meyer and Brian Voltolini discussed. We cannot determine, however, whether Coach Meyer’s phone was set to retain messages only for one year in response to the August 1st media report or at some earlier time.
It is nonetheless concerning that his first reaction to a negative media piece exposing his knowledge of the 2015-2016 law enforcement investigation was to worry about the media getting access to information and discussing how to delete messages older than a year.
On July 25th, school newspaper “The Lantern” requested to see Meyer’s emails and texts but the school failed to obtain those records. Investigators report that “no one appears to have actually checked Coach Meyer’s phone or even approached him about the requests”.
The lack of clarity surrounding this issue is compounded by the failure of OSU personnel to respond promptly to two July 25, 2018 records requests from the school paper, “The Lantern,” for emails and text messages, as well as any call history, between Urban Meyer and Zach Smith from July 18, 2018 through July 24, 2018 and between Oct. 25, 2015 and Dec. 1, 2015, and the same communications between AD Gene Smith and Coach Meyer for the same dates for any materials “pertaining to Zach Smith.”
On July 25, 2018, these requests were forwarded to Julie Vannatta, Senior Associate General Counsel, who, on July 25th, emailed AD Smith, and Diana Sabau, Senior Associate Athletics Director, and instructed them to retrieve responsive emails and texts from Coach Meyer’s phone. On July 26th, Vannatta asked Amy Nicol, Director, Internal Operations for Football, and Brian Voltolini to “go get [Coach Meyer’s] phone and check his texts with Zach.” Although all of these individuals were aware of the requests – and indeed both AD Smith and Sabau responded that they had no documents on their end – no one appears to have actually checked Coach Meyer’s phone or even approached him about the requests. Had Coach Meyer’s phone been examined and processed promptly at that time, we would know definitively that the August 1 article’s revelations had no impact on the evidence we received for July 23rd and dates in 2015.
Definitely not a good look for the school or Meyer.
You can read Ohio State’s full report on the Urban Meyer investigation here.