It was a year ago tomorrow that Urban Meyer released his statement that read like a retirement announcement that wasn’t at all a retirement announcement but ended up being yet another odd footnote in a season where he ended up retiring anyway, and a year ago yesterday that Ohio State placed Urban on administrative leave.
Now, almost a year to the day since then, Ohio State has finally released all the documents related to the Zach Smith saga, including, oddly, Zach and Courtney Smith’s divorce decree. We aren’t interested in that, but we are interested in Urban’s texts — thousands of pages of them.
Many of the texts are redacted, but the ones we can see paint a picture of how the biggest of the big time college football programs are run. And, like everything else in life these days, much of it indeed seems to be run through text messages.
Most of the texts — at least the ones I’ve seen — are related to Zach Smith or at least Smith adjacent, which means we get lots of glimpses into to Ohio State’s wide receiver recruiting for the 2019 class.
For instance, here are Urban, Smith and Ryan Day (notice how Urban apparently saved each of his assistants’ contacts by including their wife’s name) discussing the recruitment of 5-star Austin, Texas wide receiver Garrett Wilson, whom the Buckeyes beat Texas for.
Texas would prove to be a key player in Ohio State’s recruiting, at least in the wide receiver room. Here’s a conversation between Urban, Smith and Brian Hartline about Jake Smith, a 4-star wide receiver from Scottsdale.
And Urban forwarding a text from Smith’s dad, informing Urban the Buckeyes were out of his son’s recruitment. Smith signed with Texas.
And here is a series of conversations between Urban and Carl Washington, father of 4-star St. Louis wide receiver Marcus Washington, who also signed with Texas.
A month after that, here’s Urban asking for a status update on Washington from Smith.
Though coaches are, obviously, privy to the utmost of sensitive information in the intense world of recruiting, they also read the same reports that Joe Fan reads. Here’s assistant AD for player personnel Mark Pantoni forwarding a generic recruiting article to Urban via text. The player in question here ended up signing with Auburn.
But it wasn’t for a lack of trying on Ohio State’s end.
Even when Urban wasn’t talking recruiting, he was talking recruiting. Here’s him brainstorming a way to submarine the Great Crimson Menace down south.
In what is perhaps the most behind-the-curtain look at what it’s like to be the head coach at Ohio State, here’s Urban discussing Mike Vrabel’s attempt to steal Ryan Day away from him and the matter-of-factness in which Urban discusses Alabama’s previously unreported pursuit of Smith as wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator. (Josh Gattis eventually got that job.)
If Urban were to write a for-your-eyes-only memoir about what it’s like to run a major college football program, a perfect title can be found in the third paragraph here.
Days before that, here’s Urban telling Smith not to take the job at Alabama, followed by a discussion of 5-star Fort Lauderdale cornerback Patrick Surtain II, including discussion of hiring Patrick Sr., as a way of winning Jr.’s commitment. Surtain signed with Alabama.
And, to wind the clock back, here are Urban, Ohio State SID Jerry Emig and Ohio State AD Gene Smith brainstorming Urban’s response to the Zach Smith allegations at Big Ten media days the following day.
And here is the Ohio State braintrust huddling on how to manage Smith when the heat was hottest. Note the time which Urban sends the texts at the bottom here.
One more game planning session, this time with consultant Tim Kight, of E+R=O fame.
According to Shelley Meyer, everyone at Ohio State had reason to be worried about Zach’s response.
There’s far, far too much to post everything but what is available is a treasure trove of intelligence and palace intrigue.
Saturday AM Update: Nick Saban has denied offering Zach Smith a job…
Saban on Zach Smith: I really never did ever offer this guy a job. We did interview him. … When we did a background check we decided it was better to hire someone else.
— Alex Scarborough (@AlexS_ESPN) August 3, 2019
Saban on Zach Smith: "I talked to a lot of people about jobs. We do background checks… decide if we wanna hire a job. I think it's common that when someone calls to show interest, you use it as leverage where you are. I never offered him a job… he did a nice job in interview"
— Simone Eli (@SimoneEli_TV) August 3, 2019
Saban implies that Zach Smith used Alabama's interest as leverage. Alabama never offered Smith a job.
— Tony Tsoukalas (@Tony_Tsoukalas) August 3, 2019