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Hamrick: Fired OSU coach Smith had clean sheet before hired at MU

August 3, 2018

HUNTINGTON - Marshall University Athletic Director Mike Hamrick said Thursday that at the time of his hire as a football assistant coach for the Thundering Herd in 2010, Zach Smith had nothing on his record to indicate a history of domestic violence.

Smith was fired as Ohio State University’s wide receivers coach July 23 after a report from former ESPN reporter Brett McMurphy outlined an investigation into Smith’s history of domestic violence.

McMurphy also secured an interview with Courtney Smith, Zach Smith’s ex-wife and alleged victim in the domestic cases.

Courtney Smith outlined a history that dates back to an incident in 2009 while he was a graduate assistant at the University of Florida, which predated his hiring at Marshall as wide receivers coach on Jan. 4, 2010.

The circumstances surrounding the 2009 incident indicate Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, then the head coach at Florida, and his wife Shelley knew of the incident and did not report it, which could be a direct violation of Title IX, which states that a college that receives federal funding might be held legally responsible when it knows about and ignores sexual harassment or assault in its programs or activities, and Ohio State’s sexual misconduct policy, which outlines an employee’s duty to report.

Meyer was placed on paid administrative leave Wednesday while an investigation is conducted into his knowledge of the 2009 incident outlined by Courtney Smith to McMurphy.

“When he was hired at Marshall, no one was aware of anything that has surfaced here recently,” Hamrick said. “Before we hire anybody in the athletic department, they have to go through the university’s background check. If there would have been anything along those lines, that would’ve appeared. I can tell you that we’ve looked at it, and his background check showed nothing that would’ve given us any indication that there was any issue, which seems to appear today.”

Hamrick said since the reports from McMurphy came out, Marshall officials have gone back to double-check the background check done on Smith and it revealed there was nothing indicating any incidents between him and his wife at the time of his hire.

“We’ve discussed it and we went back and checked the background check that we did in 2009,” Hamrick said. “If we had seen any sign of this behavior, we would’ve never hired him as a coach. It never showed up on a background check.”

The reason it never came to light on a background check is because no charges were ever filed in the case. The incident occurred following a function at Meyer’s house on June 21, 2009, according to a Gainesville (Fla.) police report obtained by McMurphy.

However, charges were never filed by Courtney Smith, who said in an interview she was coerced by Earle Bruce, who was Zach Smith’s grandfather, a mentor to Meyer and a successful former Ohio State head coach, and Hiram de Fries, Meyer’s “life coach,” to drop the charges.

“If he would’ve been (charged), that would’ve been on his record, which would’ve shown up on the background check,” Hamrick said. “Therefore, we would’ve been aware of it.”

Smith was hired at Marshall on Jan. 4, 2010, as part of Thundering Herd head coach Doc Holliday’s first staff. He served in the capacity as wide receivers coach for one season and was hired by Steve Addazio - also a former Meyer assistant - at Temple University following the 2010 season.

Holliday knew of Smith because he worked with him at Florida on Meyer’s staff from 2005-07. Smith joined Meyer’s staff at Florida in 2004 as a quality control coach before being named as a graduate assistant with the Gators in 2007.

Following his time at Florida, Holliday joined the staff at West Virginia University and stayed in Morgantown for the 2008 and 2009 seasons prior to his hiring at Marshall and he wasn’t in Gainesville, Florida, at the time of Smith’s alleged incident there.

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