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Urban Meyer to remain as Ohio State’s head coach, but suspended for first three games without pay

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Exactly three weeks after being forced to the sidelines, Urban Meyer is back.  Eventually.

Following an executive session of its Board of Trustees that lasted nearly a dozen hours, Ohio State announced Wednesday night that Meyer will be retained as the Buckeyes’ head football coach.  However, Meyer will be suspended, without pay, for the first three games of the 2018 season.

The suspension means that Meyer will be sidelined for games against Oregon State, Rutgers and TCU.  He will be eligible to return for the Sept. 22 game against Tulane.

Meyer will also be suspended through Sept. 2.  That suspension will prevent the coach from taking part in the Buckeyes’ preparations for the season opener against the Beavers Sept. 1.  He will, however, be permitted to take part in all football activities leading up to the Rutgers and TCU games, including practices, player meetings, coaches meetings, etc.

Additionally, athletic director Gene Smith will serve a suspension from Aug. 31 through Sept. 16.  His suspension will be without pay as well.

The investigative team, which presented its findings to the university’s Board of Trustees informally Monday and then formally during the marathon executive session Wednesday, concluded that “[a}lthough Coach Meyer made significant misstatements about his knowledge of the 2015 events relating to Zach Smith and his former wife at the Big Ten Media Days, they were not part of a deliberate cover-up effort to keep Zach Smith on the coaching staff in the face of evidence of domestic violence by him that Athletic Director Smith and Coach Meyer credited.”

The report presented to the board, which consisted of 40 witness interviews and the review of “over 60,000 e-mails and 10,000 text messages,” also concluded that “Coach Meyer has ‘a sincere commitment to the Respect for Women core values that he espouses and tries to instill in his players.'”

From the report:

The Independent Counsel also concluded that Coach Meyer would not hesitate to terminate any coach if spousal abuse was established:

“We believe [Coach Meyer] as did Zach Smith, that if [Coach Meyer] ever came to learn or believe that Zach Smith had physically abused his wife, Coach Meyer would have fired Zach Smith or any other coach on the spot.

In a prepared statement before taking questions from the media, Meyer acknowledged that his loyalty to Earle Bruce, who Meyer considers the most influential male in his life after his father, impacted his judgment when it came to the assistant coach who is the grandson of the former OSU head football coach.

“I followed my heart and not my head,” Meyer stated. “I fell short in pursuing full information because at each juncture I gave Zach Smith the benefit of the doubt.

“As I reflect, my loyalty to his grandfather Earle Bruce, who was my mentor, likely impacted how I treated Zach over the years. I did not know everything about Zach Smith, what Zach Smith was doing and I am pleased that the report made this very clear.

“However, I should have demanded more from him and recognized red flags.”

Meyer was placed on paid administrative leave Aug. 1 as questions into his handling of domestic abuse allegations made against his now-former assistant coach, Zach Smith, surfaced.  The university announced the launching of an investigation into Meyer’s actions the day after the head coach’s leave was announced.

In a statement Aug. 3, Meyer claimed that he has “always followed proper reporting protocols and procedures when I have learned of an incident involving a student-athlete, coach or member of our staff by elevating the issues to the proper channels.” Allegations of domestic abuse stemmed not only from Zach Smith’s time at OSU, but while he was on Meyer’s Florida staff in 2009 as well.

Gene Smith confirmed in the press conference tonight that the university was not aware of Zach Smith’s off-field issues at Florida when he was hired by Meyer as wide receivers coach in December of 2011.  As a result of that, OSU is expected to revamp their hiring procedures and policies — and background checks — when it comes to prospective coaches.

In an Aug. 1 report that preceded Meyer’s initial leave of absence, Courtney Smith, the now-ex-wife of Zach Smith, claimed that Meyer’s wife, Shelley, was aware of the allegations that she was being abused by the then-OSU assistant coach.  Below is the text message exchange between Courtney Smith and Shelley Meyer in 2015:

Shelley: “I am with you! A lot of women stay hoping it will get better. I don’t blame you! But just want u to be safe. Do you have a restraining order? He scares me”
Courtney: “Restraining orders don’t do anything in Ohio-I tried to get protection order which is what started this whole investigation. And that should go through soon finally. It’s hard bc you have to prove immediate danger. Legal system is tough. Basically you have to prove he will kill u to get protective order”
Shelley: “Geesh! Even w the pics? Didn’t law enforcement come to your place ever??

During Wednesday night’s press conference, Meyer claimed that he was never aware of any text messages between his wife and his ex-assistant’s ex-wife “at the time.”

The findings of the investigation concluded with the following:

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. Permitting such misconduct to continue is not consistent with the values of the University and reflects poorly on Coach Meyer, Athletic Director Smith, and the University. Their handling of this matter did not exhibit the kind of leadership and high standards that we expect of our Athletic Director, Head Coach, Assistant Coaches and all on the football staff.

While Meyer apologized to “Buckeye Nation” on at least three occasions — and apologized for the situation everyone found themselves in — he never apologized to Courtney Smith even as he was afforded the opportunity to do so by at least one reporter who mentioned her by name.  The lack of a public apology to the alleged victim, while multiple ones were made to the fanbase, has led to the national media blistering both the coach and the perceived “football-first” culture of the university.

In reports that preceded the official announcement, it was suggested that Meyer was balking at accepting a suspension; when asked if he thought he deserved to be suspended for three games, Meyer’s curt response did nothing to debunk the suggestions.

“I trust and support our president.”

“I know the impact that the events of the last three weeks have had on this institution – an institution that I love – and how challenging this has been for our community and our president, a man for whom I have great respect. And for that, I am deeply sorry,” Meyer said in a statement subsequently distributed by the school. “I am fully aware that I am ultimately responsible for this situation that has harmed the university as a whole, our Department of Athletics and our football program. I want to also apologize to Buckeye Nation.

“The suspensions are tough, but I fully accept them.”

LSU students will go to class on Saturday to make up for national title game

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LSU students who got to skip class for the national title game (and the ensuing celebrations…) were hit with a dose of reality returning to Baton Rouge on Friday.

According to an announcement from the university, classes that were cancelled on Monday and Tuesday for the championship game have been rescheduled. As a result, students will have to go to class on Saturday, Jan. 25 and Saturday, Feb. 8.

So yes, Saturdays in the fall have resulted in a few Saturdays of work in the spring.

The school had received a bit of criticism when it was announced that classes were cancelled on the dates surrounding the championship game. While the practice has happened elsewhere, the nature of the game being less than an hour from campus in New Orleans certainly made things unique for the Tigers and their large fan base.

While some students no doubt had hoped that the classes at the time were indeed cancelled, it turns out they were in fact just being rescheduled. Going to school on a Saturday probably isn’t what many had in mind when signing up for the spring semester but there’s probably not a soul in purple and gold will take issue with the change given that it comes as a result of hoisting the ultimate football trophy on Monday night in the Big Easy.

Virginia safety Chris Moore enters transfer portal

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The transfer portal has claimed another name.

As first noted by ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg, Virginia safety Chris Moore has entered his name into the database as he explores a move out of Charlottesville.

Moore started five of his nine appearances for the Cavaliers in 2019 and wound up recording 42 tackles. While he was in line to become one of the key members in the secondary going forward, a prior  suspension for violating team rules back in November may have wound up playing a role in his departure and standing with the team.

The safety had previously missed all of the 2018 season with an injury as well.

Moore was originally a three-star recruit out of Ashburn, Va. in 2016 and, assuming the redshirt senior has a degree, likely has a season remaining as a grad transfer.

DL Jay Tufele, WR Tyler Vaughns skipping draft to stay at USC

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Clay Helton has a lot of issues to deal with at the moment. Having a talented USC football team is not one of them.

The Trojans received a rare bit of good news on Thursday evening as two key players announced they were skipping the 2020 NFL Draft. In back-to-back announcements, defensive lineman Jay Tufele and wideout Tyler Vaughns confirmed they would remain in Los Angeles for the 2020 season.

Tufele is one of USC’s best defensive players. He recorded 42 tackles and 4.5 sacks last season as a redshirt sophomore despite dealing with a handful of injuries. With leading sacker Drake Jackson also back, there’s a nice tandem up front for whoever the team hires as defensive coordinator to work with going forward.

Vaughns returning also makes a dangerous receiving corps that much deeper. Michael Pittman Jr. was lost to graduation but the next three top wideouts are set to be back in 2020. Add in a group of solid tailbacks and both J.T. Daniels and Kedon Slovis at QB and USC will once again have one of the top offenses in the Pac-12.

Whether it will all help save Helton’s job again remains to be seen. If nothing else though, there’s at least there’s some positive news for the cardinal and gold this offseason with Tufele and Vaughns back in the fold going forward.

Nebraska and OC Troy Walters “mutually agreed to part ways”

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A year after significantly falling short of expectations, an offseason of change has commenced at Nebraska.

In one of the first big moves since Scott Frost took over at his alma mater, the Cornhuskers and offensive coordinator Troy Walters announced on Friday that they had ‘mutually agreed to part ways.’

“Troy has been a valued member of our coaching staff for the past four years,” Frost said in a statement. “Troy is a good mentor for his players, provides great energy on and off the field, and carries himself with a presence off the field that will be missed. I want to thank him for his work on our coaching staff, and wish him and his family all the best going forward.”

The duo first came together when Frost was hired at UCF and led a number of prolific offenses, including the undefeated 2017 team for the Knights. Walters was a finalist for the Broyles Award that same season though has not called plays for either team.

Walters had a distinguished career as a player at Stanford that included All-American honors and a Biletnikoff Award in 1999. He spent several years in the NFL before going into coaching during stops at Texas A&M, N.C. State and Colorado.

The departure of Walters could interestingly lead to a reunion between Frost and a familiar name in Mark Helfrich. The latter was head coach at Oregon when Frost was elevated to offensive coordinator for the Ducks and is in search of a job after being let go by the Chicago Bears from a similar role.