Another scandal at Ohio State University
Ohio State University found itself mired in another scandal when the school placed its revered head football coach Urban Meyer on paid leave this week after a longtime assistant coach was fired amid spousal abuse allegations.
The school is investigating what Meyer knew about allegations of spousal abuse by former wide receiver coach Zach Smith. Smith was terminated on July 23, days after he was served with a civil protection order involving his ex-wife, Courtney Smith.
She told the Stadium sports network her ex-husband had abused her, starting in 2009. In 2015, Meyer’s wife, Shelley, was made aware of the allegations, and said she would speak to her husband, Courtney Smith told the network. But Smith did not follow up to see whether Urban Meyer had been told.
Zach Smith has denied the allegations.
Ohio State has been embroiled in several scandals, including one involving a once-heralded former football coach and another involving a now-dead athletics doctor:
Resignation of football coach Jim Tressel
In 2011, Meyer took over a beleaguered football program a season after former Buckeyes head football coach Jim Tressel left under a cloud of controversy. During his tenure, Tressel won the 2002 national championship and seven Big 10 championships.
Tressel left his position under pressure after he was fined $250,000 and suspended for lying to NCAA officials investigating allegations that his players received special benefits from local businesses.
Several players, including star quarterback Terrelle Pryor, had allegedly swapped team and personal memorabilia and equipment for tattoos and other benefits.
Tressel learned of the allegations, which violated NCAA rules, but did not report them on a form all coaches are required to submit, drawing the ire of the NCAA.
“Of great concern to the committee was the fact that (Tressel) became aware of these violations and decided not to report the violations to institutional officials, the Big Ten Conference or the NCAA,” the NCAA Division 1 Committee on Infractions said in a report issued in December 2011.
By then, Tressel already had resigned; Ohio State later recharacterized his departure as a retirement, quoting him as saying he took “full responsibility for my mistakes.”
But the episode cost the Buckeyes.
The team was forced to vacate all 12 of its wins from the 2010 season and to suspend five players for the first five games of the next season. The NCAA cited the school for “failure to monitor, preferential treatment and extra benefit violations.”
Allegations of sexual misconduct against school doctor
More than 100 former Ohio State students have reported firsthand accounts of sexual misconduct by former OSU team doctor Richard Strauss, the university said late last month. Strauss killed himself in 2005.
The 100 former students were interviewed as part of an investigation into Strauss after former male athletes on 14 sports teams alleged they had been victims. In recent weeks, several former Ohio State athletes have come forward to publicly claim Strauss abused them under the guise of a medical examination.
The university said the alleged abuse took place between 1979 and 1997. Strauss worked for the university from 1978 to 1998.
Some accusers have claimed that US Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio — an OSU assistant wrestling coach between 1987 and 1995 — knew about the abuse but didn’t act. Jordan has repeatedly denied having any direct knowledge of sexual abuse. Jordan said last month he had been interviewed as part of the investigation.
The university announced the investigation into the sexual misconduct allegations in April and hired law firm Perkins Coie to look into the allegations.
Two class-action lawsuits were filed last month by former student wrestlers alleging Ohio State turned a blind eye to the doctor’s alleged abuse.
In a statement last month, the university said, in part, that Ohio State remains “actively committed to uncovering what may have happened and what university leaders at the time may have known” about Strauss’ alleged actions.
Class-action lawsuit involving OSU
In a separate class-action lawsuit involving Ohio State, accusers claim diving coach William Bohonyi preyed on female divers.
The civil lawsuit filed last month accuses USA Diving, the sport’s governing body, of failing to protect its athletes after Bohonyi was alleged to be sexually abusing female athletes. The Ohio State University Diving Club, where Bohonyi coached, was also named as a defendant.
The club, which provides recreational diving lessons, is billed on its website as having the second-highest ranked junior USA Diving team in the nation.
According to that suit, Bohonyi “demanded oral sex” from a female diver who was a student at Indiana University at the time. It claimed Bohonyi “forced her to trade sex for diving coaching.” Another diver said she was 16 when Bohonyi began to sexually abuse her in 2014.
Ohio State said: “Immediately upon learning of the allegations regarding a dive club member in 2014 against Will Bohonyi, the university placed him on administrative leave and opened an administrative investigation.”
The university said it also notified Franklin County Children Services, university police and USA Diving at the time.
University police also opened an investigation on Aug. 19, 2014; that investigation was closed at the request of the diver, according to a university spokesman.
University police also notified law enforcement in Maryland in August 2014, the spokesman said. The university investigation resulted in Bohonyi’s termination nearly two weeks later, according to the spokesman, and the results of the administrative investigation were reported to USA Diving in 2014.
The university said it reopened its police investigation in January after the former dive club member contacted them, and is working with the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office.
Bohonyi could not be reached Thursday. It was not immediately known if he has retained an attorney.