Ohio State officials, players deny accusation former assistant used racial slur against player at practice

The father of former Ohio State receiver Trevon Grimes says former Ohio State receivers coach Zach Smith called him the N-word during an altercation at practice in 2017, according to a report published this week by the digital television network Stadium.

Multiple Ohio State football players past and present quickly posted Tweets defending coach Urban Meyer and the article’s implication that he covered up the incident, and Meyer said legal action is being considered in response

Johnnie Dixon, Parris Campbell and Austin Mack are all Ohio State receivers who played for Smith. 

Former Buckeye captain Josh Perry also defended Meyer on social media. 

So did fellow former linebacker Darron Lee, among others. 

Grimes, a 2017 top-100 recruit from Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas who transferred to Florida in January, refused to comment in the story. Zach Smith, who was fired in August after publication of the existence of a domestic protection order obtained by former wife against him, said in the report, “I’ve never said that word (N-word) in my entire life. I’ve never been in a fight with a player in my life. Never. That never happened.”

Eli Goins, a former Ohio State receiver, said he witnessed an incident between Smith and Grimes in practice but that he did not hear Smith use a racial slur. 

According to the article, the incident between Smith and Trevon Grimes is what led him to transfer, contradicting the widely publicized reason: He needed to be closer to his mother, Leah, who had been diagnosed with cancer. That situation was a factor in Grimes’ being granted an NCAA waiver allowing him to play right away this fall rather than sit out a year.

Leah Grimes also declined to be interviewed for the story and apparently obtained legal representation as a result of continued efforts by the reporter to reach her.

She also released a statement asking her health to be kept out of the story and indicating neither she nor Trevon have anything to do with his father. 

The claim was first reported this week by Brett McMurphy, a former national reporter at ESPN and CBS Sports who now works for startup digital television network Stadium. 

Ohio State president Dr. Michael Drake and director of athletics Gene Smith issued strongly worded statements defending Meyer and condemning the report. 

“The Ohio State University unequivocally and vehemently disputes the unfounded allegations by Brett McMurphy,” Drake said. “Any allegations of racism are outrageous and false. The university told McMurphy that we have found no evidence to support these allegations. 

“Reporting in this manner is irresponsible, inflammatory and a severe invasion of privacy of a student athlete and his family as well as a baseless personal attack on Coach Meyer. It is regrettable that McMurphy and his employer would use such poor judgment in running this inaccurate story.” 

Gene Smith (no relation to Zach Smith) called the accusations “unequivocally false.” 

“Urban Meyer embraces diversity and would absolutely never support an environment of racism,” Smith said. “It simply isn’t tolerated here. And as an African-American, football player and collegiate administrator, I personally can say that our coaches, student-athletes and support staff know there is no place for any such behavior within our programs, at The Ohio State University or anywhere.” 

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