What You Need to Know: Urban Meyer

What is Title IX and what does it have to do with Urban Meyer?

Trustees from Ohio State have appointed a special committee to investigate allegations that head football coach Urban Meyer knew that one of his assistant coaches was physically abusing his wife and that he chose not to report the assistant to university authorities.

On Thursday night, the university announced that a six-member "independent board working group” would look into the allegations that former assistant coach Zach Smith had physically assaulted his wife, Courtney, during their marriage, and that Courtney Smith had told Meyer’s wife, Shelley, about at least one incidents of domestic violence.

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Smith was fired as an assistant coach on July 23.

Meyer was put on paid administrative leave on Wednesday following a report posted on Facebook Wednesday by reporter Brett McMurphy, that Meyer's wife knew about abuse allegations in 2015.

Meyer told reporters at a Big Ten Conference media event that he didn't know about the 2015 allegations until just before Smith was fired last month.

Courtney Smith said she told Shelley Meyer about the abuse well before her ex-husband was fired. Smith said Shelley Meyer told her that she would “have to tell Urban” about the situation. Smith said she told her she “should tell Urban. We can’t have somebody like this coaching young men.’”

The committee will determine what Meyer knew and when he knew it and if he failed to report the allegations to the proper Ohio State officials, according to the school.

If Meyer knew of the abuse and failed to let officials at the school know, he could be in violation of Title IX, a federal law that applies to educational institutions that take federal money.

A contract extension that Meyer signed in April requires the coach to report “known violations” of the school’s sexual misconduct policy to the Title IX compliance officer.

Awareness of Title IX violations has become more prevalent since more student athletes are reporting sexual misconduct or “intimate abuse,” abuse by a spouse, girl or boyfriend or acquaintance. 

What is Title IX and what does it mean to Meyer? Here’s a look at the law.

What is Title IX?

Title IX is a federal law that is part of the Education Amendments Act of 1972. In short, it protects anyone involved with any education program funded by the federal government from discrimination based on their gender.

Title IX reads: "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."

Which colleges fall under Title IX?

Nearly every college in the United States falls under Title IX, including private colleges, because they receive federal funds through financial aid programs. 

Does it apply only to athletics?

No, Title IX covers all areas of education from the courses offered to financial assistance to housing and employment at the school.

What does it cover when it comes to athletics?

According to the NCAA, it covers participation, scholarships and other benefits connected with playing sports at a college level.

The legislation requires that men and women have an equal opportunity to play sports at the college level, but it does not require colleges and universities to offer identical sports programs. For instance, a university does not have to have a woman’s football team if they have a men’s football team.

As for scholarships, the school must provide the same ratio of scholarships to female athletes as it does to male athletes. 

The school must also offer the same equipment, travel allowances, locker room facilities, housing, coaching, scheduling of practice time and of games, access to tutoring, medical services, publicity and promotion, support services and recruitment of athletes.

How is it determined that a school is in compliance?

Title IX does not require that a school spend equal dollars on men’s and women’s programs. Institutions must provide resources proportion to participation for each program.

How does Title IX apply to the Meyer situation?

Meyer received a contract extension in March. In the contract is a clause that says Meyer must report “any known violations of Ohio State’s Sexual Misconduct Policy” to the school’s Title IX coordinator or deputy coordinator for athletics.

The school’s policy says employees must report, “sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, intimate violence and stalking” involving any student, faculty or staff. 

The policy states that it applies to sexual misconduct that takes place on university property or at “university-sponsored events regardless of their location.” 

It goes on to say the policy may “apply to alleged sexual misconduct that occurs off-campus, including virtual spaces, when the Title IX coordinator or deputy coordinator determines that the alleged sexual misconduct could reasonably create a hostile environment” for students or student athletes.

A “known violation,” per Meyer’s contract, refers to an incident that the coach knows has happened or has “reasonable cause to believe is taking place or may have taken place.”

What does the contract say about not reporting such instances?

According to his contract, failing to report instances that violate the Sexual Misconduct Policy could result in his firing “for cause.” He is responsible to not only report on himself but also “the assistant coaches, students or other persons under the direct control or supervision of Coach, as determined by Ohio State.”

Meyer can also be fired for an act that puts either him or the university “into public disrepute, embarrassment, contempt, scandal or ridicule or failure by Coach to conform Coach's personal conduct to conventional and contemporary standards of good citizenship, with such conduct offending prevailing social mores and values and/or reflecting unfavorably upon Ohio State's reputation and overall primary mission and objectives, including but not limited to, acts of dishonesty, misrepresentation, fraud or violence that may or may not warrant criminal prosecution by the relevant authorities.” 

What happens to Meyer if he is “terminated for cause”?

If Meyer is fired for misconduct that was spelled out in his contract and is terminated for cause, he is not eligible to receive any further compensation from the university.

Source: NCAA Title IX

FILE - In this Jan. 1, 2016, file photo, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer hugs his wife, Shelley, after their 44-28 win over Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football game, in Glendale, Ariz. Ohio State placed Meyer on paid administrative leave Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2018, while it investigates claims that his wife knew about allegations of abuse against former Buckeyes assistant Zach Smith, who was fired last week. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri, File)

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