COLUMBUS, Ohio — Any attempt by Ohio State Coach Urban Meyer to eliminate work-related text messages on his university-issued phone to hide information would be illegal, open records experts said following a two-week investigation into his handling of domestic violence allegations against an assistant coach.

Ohio State suspended Meyer for three games after investigators concluded he mishandled Zach Smith’s repeated professional and behavioral problems and instead protected his protege for years through domestic violence allegations, a drug problem and poor job performance. Among the many questions raised by the investigation into the highly successful coach of the Buckeyes was how he responded when the story broke.

On Aug. 1, investigators say, Meyer and the team’s director of operations discussed ways to change the settings on his phone to eliminate messages older than a year. The discussion came the same day a story said Smith’s then-wife had shared allegations of domestic violence with Meyer’s wife, Shelley Meyer, via texts.

“A bad article,” Brian Voltolini, director of football operations, told Meyer on the practice field, according to investigators.

Courtney Smith alleged her husband attacked her in 2015. Zach Smith has never been criminally charged with domestic violence. The university put Meyer on paid leave and began investigating after Courtney Smith spoke out publicly, sharing text messages and photos she traded in 2015 with Shelley Meyer, who is a registered nurse and instructor at Ohio State. Zach Smith was fired last month after his ex-wife asked a judge for a protective order.

When the university obtained Meyer’s phone on Aug. 2, it was set to only retain texts within a year. Investigators said they couldn’t determine if that setting was made in response to the breaking news story.


“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,” the report said.

The investigation was led by Mary Jo White, an attorney and former chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The investigative team said the “lack of clarity” surrounding Meyer’s text messages was compounded by the university’s failure to promptly respond to two open records requests by the student newspaper, the Lantern, on July 25.

The newspaper asked for emails, text messages and call histories between Meyer and Zach Smith from July 18 and July 24 this year, and between Oct. 25 and Dec. 1 in 2015. The paper asked for the same communications between Athletic Director Gene Smith – no relation to Zach Smith – and Meyer for the same time periods for materials “pertaining to Zach Smith.”

Although top Ohio State lawyers and athletic officials were aware of this records’ request, “no one appears to have actually checked Coach Meyer’s phone or even approached him about the requests,” the investigation found.

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