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Urban Meyer disputes Ohio State report, blames deleted text messages on ‘IT person’

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Urban Meyer whiffed on a question about Courtney Smith during his press conference, where all Ohio State personnel failed to issue her an apology.
USA TODAY Sports

Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer is disputing a key finding in his university’s investigation of him by saying he didn’t discuss how to delete text messages on his phone with a staff member in early August.

He said the text messages on his phone were not deleted by him but instead were deleted by an unnamed information technology staff member several months ago.

In an interview with ESPN, he also said he doesn’t recall having a conversation with football staff member Brian Voltolini about changing the settings on his phone on Aug. 1. Later on Monday, he did recall a conversation about his phone with Voltolini but said he told Voltolini there was “nothing to hide” on it.  

His version of events contrast with Ohio State’s investigative findings, which said Meyer “specifically discussed” with Voltolini on Aug. 1 “how to adjust the settings on Meyer’s phone so that text messages older than one year would be deleted.”

The contents of his phone became potential evidence that day after a media report came out alleging that Meyer had made inaccurate denials about his knowledge of domestic violence allegations against one of his assistant coaches from 2015. The university then investigated how Meyer managed that coach, Zach Smith, and subsequently punished Meyer with a three-game suspension.

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Meyer made his first public comments since his suspension at a news conference Monday and in a recent interview with ESPN.

“My phone started to lock up throughout the spring,” Meyer said Monday. “The IT person would take my phone, and whatever he did, he did, to increase the storage capacity. And I found out several months ago, I think late spring is when I was told, is that he changed my setting to one year. So once again, I never changed the setting on my phone. I never changed a text message on my phone, and when I heard that, I just… with all due respect to the (Ohio State investigative) report, I would never do that, I did not do that, I don’t even know how to change a setting on my phone.”

Ohio State’s report found that he discussed changing settings on his phone on Aug. 1 but could not determine whether he actually did change the settings then or at an earlier time.

That was the same day that college football reporter Brett McMurphy published an article that included text messages from 2015 written by Meyer’s wife, Shelley, in which she discussed Smith’s alleged abuse with the woman who was accusing him of it: Smith’s ex-wife, Courtney.

Ohio State investigated to find out what Urban Meyer knew about the allegations and whether he covered up for Smith. Meyer said he wasn’t aware of his wife’s text messages then about Zach Smith. University investigators found no text messages on his phone older than one year.

“While we do not know if messages older than a year had been on Coach Meyer’s phone before August 1st or whether Coach Meyer deleted any messages, we do know that he at least thought about and discussed it with Brian Voltolini in response to learning of the negative article,” Ohio State’s report said. “Often, although not always, such reactions evidence consciousness of guilt.”

Meyer disputed this in an interview with ESPN.

“All due respect to the report, there was no consciousness of guilt about what was on my phone,” Meyer said. “None.”

ESPN reporter Tom Rinaldi also asked Meyer about having that discussion with Voltolini.

“I don’t recall the exact conversation,” Meyer said.

On Monday, he told reporters that he did recall discussing his phone with Voltolini but said he affirmed then that his phone was not a concern and there was nothing to cover up or hide.

Ohio State released records that indicate Meyer had an iPhone, which typically has a default setting to retain text messages “forever.” Limiting message retention to the last 30 days or year typically requires manually changing this setting.

Meyer said his phone capacity became an issue because he has “hundreds of videos of my grandson and other family videos.” He said, “It’s not uncommon for me to recruit over 100 players a day and send out graphics and videos.”

“Many, many people have access to my phone, including IT people, including people who help me recruit,” Meyer said.

Ohio State didn’t say in its report whether it used digital forensic tools to try to recover any deleted text messages. It also didn’t answer questions about whether it did. Experts say such tools often are successful at recovering deleted texts.

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Follow USA TODAY Sports reporter Brent Schrotenboer on Twitter @Schrotenboer

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