The coverage and discussion surrounding Urban Meyer’s suspension as Ohio State head coach has paid significant attention to the terms of Meyer’s contract. OSU has brought in outside help to investigate how the school, football team and athletic department handled domestic abuse allegations made against former Buckeyes assistant coach Zach Smith. To the surprise of many, Smith conducted a series of interviews. He told The Columbus Dispatch that he learned of his then-wife’s domestic violence accusation when Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith contacted him about it. That could mean trouble for the highly regarded AD, according to one sports law expert.
The Dispatch asked Nathaniel Grow, a professor at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business with expertise in sports law, for his expert opinion on potential contract violations for Gene Smith.
“There are definitely several provisions in (his contract) that could trip him up,” Grow told The Dispatch. “The big question is: What did he do with that information once he became aware of it?”
Per Grow, Gene Smith’s contract “requires him to immediately report to the university and athletic department’s compliance departments if he has reasonable cause to believe that a person ‘has violated or is likely to violate or may potentially have violated’ laws or OSU policies, rules or regulations.”
In The Dispatch’s article, Grow indicated Gene Smith’s handling of the 2015 allegations Zach Smith could be seen as problematic in relation to the terms of his contract.
Grow outlined several scenarios of how this might unfold. If Smith failed to go up the chain of command, he probably would be in breach of his contract, he said. If Smith did report it to the proper people and they left the decision to retain Zach Smith to him, Grow said, it could still be deemed a violation of that ethical and moral standards clause.
The Dispatch’s article notes that multiple athletic directors and OSU coaches came to the defense of Gene Smith, unsolicited.
“Gene is a man of high character, high moral value, and it’s difficult to see him be portrayed in a light that is not in an alignment with what I see every day,” longtime OSU gymnastics coach and current associate AD Carey Fagan told the paper.
The full article on Gene Smith can be read here.