TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama football coach Nick Saban confirmed Saturday that he interviewed disgraced former Ohio State assistant Zach Smith in early 2018, but he denied ever offering Smith a position on his Crimson Tide staff.
“I really never did offer this guy a job,” Saban said. “We did interview him, and he did a nice job in the interview, but when we did the background check, we decided that there was a better opportunity to hire somebody else, and that’s what we did.”
Saban was responding to a question about text messages between former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer and Smith. In the texts, Meyer and Smith said Alabama offered Smith a “wr/passing game coord(inator)” coaching position in mid-January 2018, a position later given to Josh Gattis.
The texts were part of more than 2,000 pages of documents released Friday evening by Ohio State University. They were related to Smith’s 2018 firing following past allegations of domestic violence made by his now-ex wife, Courtney Smith. Meyer was later disciplined with a three-game suspension during the 2018 season for how he handled the Smith allegations. Meyer subsequently retired following last season and is currently a Fox Sports analyst.
In a text message dated Jan. 21, 2018, from Meyer to an individual whose name was redacted by Ohio State, Meyer complained that Smith “went (to Alabama) to talk to Saban.”
“At first thought maybe he should go then decided that all effort I’ve put u to him and it’s Alabama. I told (Smith) to stay and he turned it down,” Meyer wrote.
In a Jan. 18, 2018, text exchange between the two, Meyer told Smith: “After much thought, I want u to stay. I have personally invested far too much in u to get u in position to take next step. U need to step away from other situation and let’s go win it all … again.”
Smith responded: “Yes sir I agree. They offered me the job and I wanted to sleep on it last night before deciding but it doesn’t feel right. I love this place (Ohio State), my players and am loyal to you for everything you’ve done. I just want to grow and keep my career on track but I’m confident that’s here. I’m ready to be a difference-maker and ready to win it all again. I appreciate everything coach.”
Saban implied Saturday that Smith likely used Alabama’s initial interest as “leverage” with Meyer and Ohio State.
“I talk to a lot of people about jobs, and I think that we do background checks and reviews on people and we decide whether we want to hire a guy or if we don’t want to hire a guy,” Saban said. “I think it’s pretty common that sometimes people that get interviewed at some place or someone calls and shows interest in them that, it’s the way this profession works, you go in and use that as leverage to try to improve your situation you’re in now, especially if you have a job, or you decide that’s a better opportunity for you.”
The domestic violence allegations against Smith originally came up in 2009, when Smith was a graduate assistant under Meyer at Florida. Smith was later arrested on two felony charges but was not prosecuted. In an interview with Stadium college football reporter Brett McMurphy in mid-2018, Courtney Smith also alleged verbal and physical abuse continued once Zach Smith was named the receivers coach at OSU, and she claimed others, including Meyer’s wife, knew of the abuse.
For his part, Zach Smith maintains his innocence and said last August that Meyer “never protected” him from the allegations.
Published 1:51 PM EDT Aug 3, 2019