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Texas Coach Tom Herman, a former Ohio State assistant coach, tipped sports reporter Brett McMurphy to details of the Zach Smith-Courtney Carano Smith relationship that led to Smith’s firing, Urban Meyer’s paid-administrative leave and the investigation that has currently engulfed the Buckeyes’ program, several sources told me.
Furthermore, Tom and wife Michelle Herman encouraged Courtney Smith to go public with her claims that her ex-husband had physically abused her, sources say.
“They wanted Zach Smith fired,” one source said. “They had some dirt on him and wanted him off of Ohio State’s staff.”
The Hermans have even helped pay for Courtney Smith’s legal fees, two of my sources told me.
Tom Herman’s motive?
Herman was furious after five-star receiver Garrett Wilson committed to Ohio State in April over Texas, sources say. Wilson played at Austin (Texas) Lake Travis High, just miles from the Longhorns’ campus. Zach Smith was the Buckeyes’ primary recruiter in getting Wilson’s commitment.
Given that Texas is one of the most pressure-packed and highest-profile jobs in the country, and following a 7-6 season in his first year as Texas coach, Herman needs to secure a recruiting base close to home to turn the Longhorns around. And there were no bigger stars in his own city than Wilson.
Herman was hired by Meyer as the offensive coordinator when he accepted the job in December, 2011, along with Smith, Earle Bruce’s grandson, as receivers coach. The two assistants then became very close, but had a falling out after Herman left the Buckeyes following the 2014 national championship season to take the head coaching job at Houston.
“They had a bad falling out and now, they just do not like each other at all,” one source said.
Ironically, they developed into recruiting competitors, specifically for some of the best football talent in the state of Texas. And when Smith won the last head-to-head battle over Wilson’s future, Herman reacted.
More importantly, Michelle Herman and Courtney Smith remained close as their husbands coached at schools more than 1,200 miles apart.
“Best friends, still,” one source said. “They talk almost every day, even though the Hermans have been gone from Columbus for four years.”
Which led Courtney Smith to trust McMurphy, who spoke often with Herman in July, according to his twitter account. As a sports reporter with extensive experience covering college football, McMurphy has developed a close relationship with the second-year Texas coach, sources say.
Tipped by Herman to the 2009 incident in which Zach Smith was arrested in Gainesville, McMurphy then obtained court records and discovered Smith’s arrest. He then spent three days in Columbus and Powell, Ohio, where the Smiths live. There, he interviewed Courtney Smith and obtained text messages and cell phone pictures from her as she told of being physically abused by her then husband. The Smiths were married in 2008 when Zach Smith was a graduate assistant under Meyer at the University of Florida.
Herman denied knowing any details about the Ohio State investigation, or the details that led up to it, as recently as August 2 when asked at a press conference in Austin.
Meyer and his wife Shelley Meyer recently became aware that Herman was the tipster who connected McMurphy to Courtney Smith.
Told by the university not to comment on anything to do with the investigation, Urban Meyer has remained silent since issuing a statement August 3. However, Shelley Meyer responded to a text message asking for comment.
“I really do appreciate you doing your job with integrity and checking on all the points, unlike some others,” Shelley said, via text Saturday afternoon. “I just can’t comment and I am very sorry. Thank u.”
So far, attempts to reach the Hermans have been unsuccessful. Tom Herman is currently in the middle of coaching the Longhorns during summer camp.