In 2017, Alabama was again rebuilding its staff for what we hoped we be the last time of Saban’s tenure. With many new positions to fill, and roles to be established, it does not come as a surprise then that Nick Saban allegedly offered Ohio State’s troubled WR Coach/Recruiting Coordinator Zach Smith a position in Tuscaloosa.
“After much thought, I want u to stay,” Meyer texted Smith on Jan. 18, 2018. “I have personally invested far too much in u to get u in position to take the next step. U need to step away from other situation and let’s go win it all … again.”
Per OSU’s 2000-page document dump last night [always bury bad news on Friday, kids — that’s lawyering 101], Smith informed Meyer that he had been offered a promotion; recruiting coordinator and passing game coordinator for Alabama. Urban Meyer, who has had the 34-year-old Smith attached to his hip for over a decade, apparently waffled on the move. before urging him to decline the offer.
Meyer’s text to now-head coach of OSU, Ryan Day, alluded to the situation.
And, oh yeah, it’s a little salty:
Zach smith was offered wr/passing game Coord. At Alabama. [He] Went there to talk to Saban. At first thought maybe he should go then decided that all effort I’ve put u to him and it’s Alabama. I told him to stay and he turned it down.
That’s the one funny takeaway from a situation lacking much humor: Urban viewing Saban as so much of an existential threat or rival that he torpedoed his own coach’s career development, talking Smith out of taking a promotion out of the conference.
To my memory, Nick Saban has never done so, even giving recommendations to members of his staff in direct and present competition with him in the SEC. When you can recommend that the best defensive coordinator in the game leave your staff, weakening your own program in the process, to go to Tennessee of all places, that’s walking-the-walk — backing up Saban’s long-stated belief that one of his core responsibilities is to advance his own staff’s professional development.
But, hey, Urban Meyer is a selfish POS. What else didn’t we know?
As for the content of the dump? The emails, texts and Facebook messages (cuz Urbz’s an old), are horrifying. There is no way that he should have been permitted to stay employed, much less be given a valedictory position as an AD at OSU following his deserved departure.
Some of the lowlights include:
- Attempting to destroy, failing to preserve, and actually destroying communications despite direct orders to the contrary
- Multiple communications to Meyer about Smith’s behavior from sources as wide-ranging as his staff, admins at the Athletic Department, and even his from wife, Shelley Meyer. To wit: heavy drinking; anger issues; the fear that he was dangerous, unstable, and was going to seriously hurt someone; allegations of battering; abusing stimulants (note: the heavy use of which are associated with sudden, unpredictable outbursts of violence); possible sex addiction; an actual memo from a treatment center stating that the athletic department had directed Smith into treatment and counseling for his substance abuse and other issues; Smith mislaying and/or misusing athletic department equipment, and so much more.
- “Specifically with regard to Meyer, investigators found that he had failed to fully notify Gene Smith of Zach Smith’s past when OSU hired Smith in 2012. Smith had been hired at Meyer’s urging. Meyer’s conduct also proved inconsistent with reporting obligations found in both the university’s sexual misconduct policy and in Meyer’s employment contract. Investigators also rebuked Meyer for “misstatements” in the press conference”
- And, then the coup de grace, from the attorney assigned to investigate the matter: “It didn’t make sense to me why a school like Ohio State would keep him as a coach if he had all of these domestic violence issues, didn’t complete his rehab and the other things he reportedly did in the past several years.”
With all due respect to Mr. Sarrat (the attorney above), the answer to your question is clear. he was retained because Smith is an outstanding recruiter in a multi-billion dollar industry. And Ohio State trailed only Alabama and Georgia on the five-year composite, during which time Smith was directing the Buckeyes’ effort. It’s a sleazy game. And, the fact that OSU was willing to tolerate it, and Meyer, shows a commitment to expedience and a win-at-all-costs mentality.
But, don’t think for a second that Alabama is going to get a free ride on this one. There were two separate allegations against Smith before Saban allegedly offered him a job and before the third episode and messy divorce drama that cost Smith his job. One in 2009, at Florida, when Smith allegedly battered his pregnant wife. Another in 2015, also allegedly against his wife Courtney. We say allegedly, because no convictions were ever made: as is wont to happen in these instances, she sought to have charges dropped or failed to cooperate sufficient for the state to advance its case.
At a minimum then, this would be a horrific lack of due diligence on the part of Nick Saban. Those arrests were public record, and Smith’s reputation was not exactly a hidden one among his peers. At worst, if these facts were known by Alabama, it shows a remarkable degree of callousness and tone-deafness, particularly in light of the SEC’s just-then-passed domestic violence policy. We don’t second guess ole’ Nick very often, but like the Jonathan Taylor signing we viciously excoriated, it would show that Saban and Meyer aren’t too different after all; both willing to overlook bad actors in exchange for a win.
But, I’m not going to cast those stones just yet into this scuzzy glass house of college athletics. We don’t know that the interview had reached due diligence stage. Hell, we don’t even know if Smith even actually interviewed with Alabama. At the time, if you will recall, Ohio State was in the process of searching for an offensive coordinator. This very well could have been a ploy by Smith to be elevated within the program. He would not have been the first employee to lie about an offer or interest in him to leverage a raise or promotion, nor would he be the last. And, if that was the case, then it failed: Urban Meyer hired another abusive person for the job.
So, until all facts are fully known, and Saban addresses this, I’ll withhold judgment. Because, frankly, the alternate explanation is simply too depressing.
And we were so close to making it out of the offseason.