In his interviews late last week, former Ohio State assistant coach Zach Smith said that athletic director Gene Smith was the first one to inform him of the 2015 domestic violence allegations brought forth by his now ex-wife.
Zach Smith said that Gene Smith took him off the recruiting trail at the time. In the statement he released just before his former assistant’s small media tour, head coach Urban Meyer said he ran the reports up the chain, fulfilling his obligations.
The fact that both seemed to put the onus on Gene Smith did not go unnoticed. There is obvious heat on Urban Meyer, who is on administrative leave during the investigation, but Smith may be in just as much peril.
That is, in part, due to contract language in Smith’s deal with Ohio State.
Bill Rabinowitz of The Columbus Dispatch spoke to a sports law expert about how Gene Smith’s contract language could play a role in his future at the school amid the Zach Smith allegations.
Indiana professor Nathaniel Grow took a look at Smith’s deal with Ohio State, and identified some clauses that could come into play, if Ohio State tries to move on from him.
“There are definitely several provisions in here 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?”
Smith’s contract requires him to “personally comport himself at all times in a manner consistent with the high moral, ethical and academic standards of OSU and the athletic department.”
Grow cited a section in Smith’s contract that 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.
According to Grow, if Gene Smith sent the issues up the chain, and was told that the call to keep or fire Zach Smith was his, he could also be liable.
He also notes the fact that no charges would brought, as the best possible defense for Smith, considering the “likely to violate or may potentially have violated laws” language.
Gene Smith’s contract, which pays him just under $1 million annually, is set to expire at the end of the 2019-2020 school year.