CFB notebook: Meyer apologizes to former assistant’s ex-wife

The Sports Xchange

August 24, 2018 at 8:03 pm.

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer did Friday evening what he was criticized for failing to do at a Wednesday news conference announcing his three-game suspension: apologize to Courtney Smith.

The national media have chastised Meyer for the past two days for what seemed to be a lack of empathy for the ex-wife of fired Ohio State assistant coach Zach Smith, and he issued a two-paragraph statement on Twitter with the aid of Ohio State’s athletics communications office to try to make amends.

Meyer was suspended by the university after a two-week investigation for his mishandling of domestic abuse allegations against Zach Smith. In his Friday apology posted on Twitter, he said he was sorry to all women, men and families impacted by abuse.

“Let me say here and now what I should have said on Wednesday,” Meyer tweeted. “I sincerely apologize to Courtney Smith and her children for what they have gone through.

“I was taught at a very young age that if I ever hit a woman, I would be kicked out of the house and never welcomed back. I have the same rule in my house and in the Football Program at Ohio State. Over the years, we have worked hard to educate and remind our coaches and players of the seriousness of relationship violence. I understand my lack of more action in this situation has raised concerns about this commitment.”

During Wednesday’s news conference, Meyer, university president Michael Drake and athletic director Gene Smith never mentioned Courtney Smith by name in their remarks or in follow-up questions.

When Meyer was asked by a reporter what he’d like to say to Courtney Smith, he responded, “My message for everyone involved in this: I’m sorry that we’re in this situation. I’m just sorry we’re in this situation.”

On Friday, he said his comments at the news conference did not express “how seriously I take relationship violence.”

A 23-page report was released after the news conference on Wednesday detailing the findings of the investigation into the actions of Zach Smith and the response by Meyer and Smith.

Meyer said he knew that police had investigated domestic assault allegations involving the Smiths in 2009 when Meyer and Smith were at the University of Florida and again in 2015 at Ohio State. Meyer had denied at the Big Ten Media Days in late July that he knew about the 2015 allegations.

Courtney Smith has not spoken publicly since Meyer was suspended.

Meyer will miss games against Oregon State, Rutgers and TCU. Interim head Ryan Day will lead the Buckeyes until Meyer returns.

— LSU defensive back Kristian Fulton, who was suspended by the NCAA for last season after failing a drug test and tampering with it, has been reinstated, head coach Ed Orgeron confirmed to several media outlets.

Fulton also was supposed to miss this season, but his lawyers had been consulting with the NCAA in an effort to reduce the penalty.

“Elated, and I know the team’s elated,” Orgeron said. “Was not expecting this at all. … He will now be a factor.”

Fulton will be eligible play for the Tigers in their season opener against Miami (Fla.) on Sept. 2 if he passes a new NCAA-administered drug test.

It was thought that the two-year suspension would be upheld when the NCAA denied Fulton’s initial appeal two weeks ago. However, Fulton’s legal team did not deny their client should be suspended but said the action should have fallen under a different NCAA bylaw than the one that was being used.

The other bylaw calls for only a one-year suspension, and apparently the NCAA eventually agreed.

Fulton is expected to line up in the LSU secondary alongside All-American Greedy Williams.

The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Fulton will be a junior who played in two games as a freshman, making one tackle and one assist.

–Transfer Blake Barnett has won the starting quarterback job for South Florida, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

Barnett, a graduate transfer from Arizona State who started his college career at Alabama, beat out Brett Kean and third-year sophomore Chris Oladokun.

Although Bulls coach Charlie Strong did not reveal a decision had been made when he met with the media on Wednesday, the newspaper reported that Barnett had been informed he will start the season opener versus Elon on Sept. 1.

“They’ve done a really good job and they respect one another,” Strong said. “When you look at it, each day one of them is running (with the first team), like this guy gets to start off with the ones, then the next … so they’ve been given enough reps and it’s been evenly distributed. So now it’s about us. Now we’ve got to go make a decision on what guy it’s gonna be.”

Barnett will take the place of Quinton Flowers, who started the last 38 games for South Florida. Barnett was the backup to starter Manny Wilkins for the Sun Devils last season and threw only five passes.

“I think I’ve been picking up (the offense) pretty quick,” Barnett told the newspaper after Saturday’s scrimmage, when he led three touchdown drives.

“Everyone’s had a fair shot, everyone’s had equal reps. We’re just all trying to apply ourselves and do as best we can to make this team productive.”

A five-star prospect out of Santiago High in Corona, Calif., in 2015, Barnett initially committed to Notre Dame before signing with Alabama.

After redshirting during the 2015 season, Barnett opened the 2016 season as Alabama’s starter against USC. However, Jalen Hurts replaced Barnett as the starter later that season and Barnett transferred to Arizona State.

Kean, who was cleared of a suspension earlier this month, served as the top backup to Flowers the last two seasons. He appeared in 14 games during that time, completing 25 of 37 passes for 193 yards.

–Sophomore running back Morgan Ellison, Indiana’s leading rusher last season, has been suspended indefinitely from all team activities, the school announced.

Indiana did not immediately disclose the reason or length of the suspension, but Ellison is expected to miss the Hoosiers’ season opener against Florida International on Sept. 1 at a minimum.

Ellison rushed for 704 yards and six touchdowns last season to lead Indiana in both categories, gaining 186 yards against Georgia Southern and 149 against Rutgers. He also caught nine passes for 60 yards.

The 6-foot-1, 225-pound Ellison was selected all-district, all-conference and All-Ohio in his senior year at Pickerington Central High School after rushing for 1,841 yards and 29 touchdowns. His team went 13-2 and made it to the semifinals of the state playoffs.

Ellison was rated the No. 37 running back nationally, No. 4 running back in the Midwest and No. 30 overall prospect in Ohio after missing his sophomore year because of a broken left leg and his junior year with a broken right leg.

Without Ellison, Indiana has redshirt sophomore Cole Gest, senior Mike Majette, redshirt senior Ricky Brookins and freshman Stevie Scott to share the running back chores.

–True freshman Artur Sitkowski has been named starting quarterback at Rutgers for the Scarlet Knights’ opener against Texas State on Sept. 1, coach Chris Ash announced.

Sitkowski beat out incumbent Gio Rescigno and Johnathan Lewis in camp to become the first freshman quarterback to start a season opener for Rutgers since Ryan Cubit in 2001.

The Scarlet Knights have not started a freshman quarterback in any game since Gary Nova in 2011.

The 6-foot-5, 224-pound Sitkowski was an ESPN 300 prospect in the 2018 recruiting class, rated as the No. 17 pocket passer in the nation. He played three years at Old Bridge (N.J.) High School before transferring as a senior to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

Sitkowski led IMG to a 9-0 record, completing 107 of 213 passes for 1,190 yards and five touchdowns, in addition to rushing for 254 yards and nine scores.

After enrolling at Rutgers in January, Sitkowski passed for 280 yards and three touchdowns while throwing only 11 passes in the Scarlet Knights’ spring game.

Sitkowski became the second freshman quarterback from IMG Academy to be named a starting quarterback in the Big Ten Conference this week, as Minnesota decided to go with walk-on Zack Annexstad.