Unit 02: Reporting of Ethical Violations at Ohio State

Last year a scandal relating to the reporting of ethical violations broke out in the sports world. In August 2018, Urban Meyer, Ohio State head football coach, faced scrutiny for his handling of domestic violence allegations against a long-time assistant coach and friend, Zach Smith. In 2009, while Coach Meyer was head coach at Florida and Smith was a graduate assistant, Smith was arrested for aggravated battery against his wife, Courtney. At that time, Meyer and his wife, Shelley, attempted to help the couple by getting them into counseling. Then in 2015, Zach Smith had two reports filed against him for domestic abuse, felonious assault, and stalking, but no charges were filed. It was not known at the time (2015) if Coach Meyer was aware of these reports. In mid-July 2018, Zach Smith appeared in a Delaware municipal court to face charges of trespassing, and two days after that, Courtney filed a protection order against Zach. Three days after the protection order was filed, news broke about the 2009 and 2015 reports of domestic violence and OSU fired Zach Smith. The day after Zach was fired, Coach Meyer spoke at the Big Ten Media Days and claimed to not know about the 2015 reports.

A week later, news broke that Coach Meyer did know about the 2015 reports, and Courtney Smith did an interview where she claimed that Shelley Meyer also knew about the 2015 reports. Additionally, several news outlets reported that Courtney had sent Shelley pictures and texts about the domestic violence incidents. That same day, OSU put Coach Meyer on paid administrative leave. The next day, the OSU board of trustees hired an independent group to investigate. The investigation concluded two weeks later, in late August 2018, stating (SCU, n.d.):

“Although Urban Meyer did not condone or cover up the alleged domestic abuse by         Zach Smith, he failed to take sufficient management action relating to Zach                     Smith’s misconduct and retained an Assistant Coach who was not performing as             an appropriate role model for OSU student-athletes.”

The OSU board decided to suspend Meyer without pay for the first three games of the season, and they also suspended AD Gene Smith without pay for the same period (August 31-September 18). On December 4th, 2018, Meyer announced his retirement from coaching after Ohio State’s Rose Bowl win. He cited health issues as the reason, but the scandal likely had some involvement.

While not an ethical violation among psychologists, this story is a good tie-in with Unit 02’s “Reporting Ethical Violations” in accordance with the APA Ethics Code. Unit 02 goes in detail about reporting ethical violations, and the protocol for doing so. It discusses how there are policies and procedures for reporting, as well as review, judgment, and sanctions if needed (Penn State, 2019). The APA’s protocol involves the report being sent to the APA Ethics Committee. Unit 02 states the accused member is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and the committee makes its decisions via majority rule using the APA ethical standards and other supporting documents. Only once the decision has been made that a violation has occurred is the record made public (Penn State, 2019).

We can relate the APA Ethics Code policy to OSU’s mission, vision, and values. OSU’s values include excellence, diversity in people and ideas, inclusion, access and affordability, innovation, collaboration, and integrity, transparency, and trust. Most of which were broken by Meyer’s failure to report his knowledge of the ethical violation happening among the team he was leading.


Penn State University. (2019). Unit 02, Lesson 05: APA Ethics Code.

Santa Clara University (SCU). (n.d.). The Practice of Ethical Leadership in Ohio State’s Football Program.

One Comment

  1. Chelsea Kemper February 24, 2019 at 10:22 PM #


    I agree that this is great tie in. I truly love sports and find myself applying everything I learn to a situation in sports. Prior to truly understanding ethics and ethical codes I would have not necessarily thought that Urban Meyer had any wrong doing in this situation. What this course and other courses have opened my up to, is that each of us is responsible for things far greater than just ourselves and our actions. As a leader of the team, and the coach, he needs to set an example for his coaches and his student athletes. Knowing about a violation, like domestic abuse, requires a leader to stand up and say the offense was wrong, and do what is required, regardless of what attention it brings on your organization. The cover up, or in this case, doing nothing, is always going to be worse.

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