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Urban Meyer Returns to Ohio State After Suspension for Zach Smith Scandal

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistSeptember 17, 2018

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 02:  Head coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes looks on as they play the Wisconsin Badgers during the second half of the the Big Ten Championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 2, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer returned to the team Monday following the completion of his three-game suspension.

Meyer released a statement on Twitter thanking his coaching staff and again expressing remorse for his actions:

Urban Meyer @OSUCoachMeyer

https://t.co/NuJNGZ9uFo

He was suspended as a result of the Zach Smith scandal, with offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ryan Day serving as the interim head coach.

Stadium's Brett McMurphy reported in August that Meyer had been made aware of domestic abuse allegations against Smith in 2015.

According to the Columbus Dispatch's Ray Stein, police were called to Smith's home twice in the fall of 2015. The first was related to an alleged dispute between Smith and his then-wife Courtney and the second was to investigate an report of menacing by stalking.

Prior to McMurphy's report, Meyer told reporters at Big Ten media days he didn't know about the 2015 allegations at the time. However, he subsequently released a statement in which he said he misspoke and had alerted the proper officials to the allegations against Smith:

Urban Meyer @OSUCoachMeyer

https://t.co/wrlRi9jtZz

Ohio State fired Smith in July after a judge granted an order of protection to Courtney Smith.

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The school announced Aug. 22 it was suspending Meyer and athletic director Gene Smith for "[failing] to take sufficient management action" in the wake of the allegations against Zach Smith, per ESPN.com's Dan Murphy.

"Permitting such misconduct to continue is not consistent with the values of the University and reflects poorly on Coach Meyer, Athletic Director Smith, and the University," Ohio State said in a statement. "Their handling of this matter did not exhibit the kind of leadership and high standards that we expect of our Athletic Director, Head Coach, Assistant Coaches and all on the football staff."

Bleacher Report's Matt Hayes was among those who questioned the severity of Meyer's punishment and argued Ohio State valued the success it has enjoyed during the Meyer era over sending a message with his suspension:

"This is all about winning football games, doing the right thing be damned.

"Following protocol didn't prevent Meyer from getting pink-slipped. A 73-8 record in six seasons did.

"Fulfilling obligations of his contract while ignoring any semblance of moral fiber in dealing with disgraced former assistant coach Zach Smith didn't keep Meyer from a humiliating end to his career. A national championship, two Big Ten championships and one unbeaten season did."

After McMurphy released his report, Meyer spoke with director of football operations Brian Voltolini about the process of deleting text messages more than one year old from his phone, according to USA Today's A.J. Perez.

Despite being aware of an open-records request from July 25 for texts made from Meyer's cell phone, the university didn't move to preserve the communications. When Ohio State began searching Meyer's phone, it found the phone only kept text messages made within the past year.

While the criticism directed toward Ohio State is unlikely to quiet down, Meyer has fulfilled the obligations of his suspension and can resume his role as head coach.

Entering the 2018 season, the Buckeyes were once again expected to contend for a national championship. They sat fifth in the preseason Associated Press Top 25 poll and third in the Amway Coaches poll, per ESPN.com

In Meyer's absence, Ohio State went 3-0 and is currently ranked fourth in the Associated Press poll. 

Although Meyer wasn't on the sidelines for those three games, he rejoined the team for practices following Ohio State's season opener but had to abdicate gameday duties to Day.

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