Why did Urban keep Zach Smith? It's complicated

Urban Meyer may have had other things on his mind at a key point in the timeline putting his future at OSU in doubt

The question keeps coming up, “Why would Urban Meyer endanger his future as Ohio State’s head football coach for Zach Smith?”

It’s a confounding mystery, for sure, and one whose answer likely lies deeper than simple allegiance born out of Meyer’s affection to the late Earle Bruce, Smith’s grandfather.

Meyer at first denied, repeatedly, staunchly, vigorously and convincingly, that he knew anything about a domestic violence incident involving Smith and his ex-wife, Courtney, on Oct. 26, 2015.

If Meyer knew about it, as he now has admitted, and if he reported it to his superiors, as he now contends, why was no disciplinary action taken against Smith at the time?

We may never know, but it might be instructive to examine what could he distracted Meyer or taken priority with him and his bosses on that late-October weekend almost three years ago.

In the fall of 2015, OSU began the season the first unanimous No. 1 team in the history of The Associated Press college football poll.

With players like Ezekiel Elliott, Joey Bosa, Cardale Jones, Michael Thomas and many other mainstays from the 2014 national championship team returning, OSU seemed on an inevitable course toward back-to-back titles.

But the Buckeyes’ offense never quite clicked in the early part of that year.

Jones started at quarterback, but J.T. Barrett’s return from injury introduced an uncertain dynamic -- one that progressively knocked OSU off the top of the polls, even though they remained undefeated.

Finally, in late October, Ohio State seemed to find its stride with a 49-7 win at Rutgers in which Barrett seemed to grab the reins at quarterback.

That Saturday night, after the team plane landed in Columbus, Barrett got arrested for DUI in the wee hours of Sunday morning.

The next day, reports show Smith and his ex-wife got into a disagreement that resulted in her calling Powell Police.

So now Meyer is faced with tandem dilemmas -- what to do about Barrett, and what to do with Smith.

The coach ultimately suspended Barrett for one game on Oct. 31, an off Saturday for OSU.

Smith kept his job as wide receivers coach.

Dismissing him at that time would have left OSU not just short one assistant, but short at a position that was massively underachieving amid the struggles of the team’s passing game.

Perhaps that explains why Meyer did what he did, or perhaps it explains nothing.

But it explains the context of what was going on in and around the team at the time of an incident that now threatens Meyer’s future as head coach.

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

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