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Title IX contract clause could pose problem for Urban Meyer

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer

Ohio State’s investigation to determine whether football coach Urban Meyer knew of a 2015 domestic abuse allegation by Courtney Smith against her ex-husband, recently fired assistant coach Zach Smith, is in its early stages, but the university’s Title IX policy and the role it plays in Meyer’s contract is in the spotlight.

In a story posted on Facebook Wednesday by reporter Brett McMurphy, Courtney Smith detailed allegations against her ex-husband and provided photographs of injuries along with alleged text messages between her and several wives of Ohio State coaches, including Shelley Meyer, wife of Urban Meyer.

“All the wives knew,” Smith told McMurphy. “They all did. Every single one.”

Smith said she did not know if Shelley Meyer ever told her husband, but in another interview with Stadium, she said she believes Meyer knew.

During the investigation, Meyer will receive paid leave.

Zach Smith has never been convicted of domestic violence, but there are at least nine reported domestic dispute reports by the Powell police department involving Zach or Courtney Smith.

But the kicker revealed by multiple outlets Wednesday night is language added to Meyer’s contract in April. His $8.49 million contract runs through Jan. 31, 2023. The updated contract stipulates Meyer must “promptly report to Ohio State’s Title IX Coordinator for Athletics any known violations of Ohio State’s Sexual Misconduct Policy (including but not limited to sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, intimate violence and stalking) that involve any student, faculty or staff … For purposes of this Section 4.1 (e), a 'known violation' shall mean a violation or allegation of a violation of Title IX that Coach is aware of or has reasonable cause is taking place or may have taken place.”

Title IX is a federal law that applies to public educational institutions and has come to the forefront in recent years in the wake of a number of sexual assault cases involving student-athletes.

More: Wojo: Urban Meyer could be done at Ohio State, felled by arrogance

More: Chris Spielman: Ohio State bigger than Urban Meyer

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, right, and his wife, Shelley.

Interestingly, because Shelley Meyer is a registered nurse and an instructor at the OSU College of Nursing, she falls under the university-wide umbrella of Title IX standards.

Urban Meyer’s contract addition is not unique. Several universities are adding Title IX clauses to coaches’ contracts, but Michigan and Michigan State have not done so, according to spokespeople from both schools.

Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio was asked Thursday at the Spartans’ first preseason camp practice about the situation involving Meyer and Ohio State.

“You know, I think, first of all, domestic abuse is a very serious issue in today’s society,” Dantonio said. “But I also think that it would be inappropriate for me to talk about that at this time.”

The Dallas Morning News reported this week that some Texas A&M coaches have Title IX clauses added to their contracts. According to the Morning News, the coaches must contact the school’s Title IX coordinator, the athletic department’s senior woman coordinator or law enforcement “in the case of an emergency situation … alleged or suspected illegal gender discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, intimate partner violence, stalking and/or related retaliation.”

Michigan has a 37-page policy online “book” that was introduced in July 2016 on student sexual and gender-based misconduct and other forms of interpersonal violence. All Michigan administrative staff, coaches and student-athletes must adhere to the policy. The athletic department also has yearly education seminars for athletes and staff on Title IX, assault and violence.

The Michigan policy “requires Responsible Employees who learn about sexual assault, intimate partner violence, sexual and gender-based harassment, stalking, and violation of interim measures to share that information with the Office for Institutional Equity.

"Thus, it is important for you to know if you are a Responsible Employee and, if you are, what you must share and how you may do so.”

The Michigan football team had its previously scheduled annual meeting on Title IX on Thursday. Among those addressing the players and staff was Brenda Tracy, a gang-rape survivor and founder of On her website, Tracy asks high school and college coaches to “download this pledge and #SetTheExpectation with your athletes that sexual assault and physical violence are NEVER okay.”

Tracy on Thursday tweeted a photo of her with Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, praising him for understanding “her vision.”

Michigan State has a “University policy on relationship violence and sexual misconduct” that was updated last August. Ohio State’s policy, Michigan’s policy and Michigan State’s policy are all similarly worded and require university employees to report what they know.

Ohio State will have to determine through its investigation what or if Meyer knew about his former assistant’s domestic allegations. With the added clause to his contract, not reporting if he did, in fact know, would be a violation.