In the first video of an exposé series titled "An Unfair Game," Project Veritas presents undercover footage of four former players under multi-time national championship-winning coach Urban Meyer, formerly the coach of the University of Florida Gators and the now-suspended head coach of the Ohio State University Buckeyes.
Meyer was placed on administrative leave on Wednesday as Ohio State investigates Courtney Smith's claims that several people close to Meyer, allegedly including his wife, knew about a 2015 domestic violence allegation against her now ex-husband, former OSU assistant football coach Zach Smith, who was fired last month.
Meyer's reputation has already taken some major hits for his time at Florida, where he won two national championships but appears to have looked the other way while his players were involved in a stunning number of crimes. "During Meyer's six-year tenure at Florida, some 31 players were arrested, with at least 10 accused of crimes ranging from misdemeanor battery to felony domestic assault to felony theft to domestic battery," ESPN reports.
O'Keefe's undercover video (below) presents another unflattering aspect of Meyer's approach to coaching that has not been emphasized in previous reports: his alleged "history of physical and mental abuse" of players. In videos filmed "in separate meetings throughout late 2017 and 2018 across the country," four different players describe Meyer's tenure at Florida as being characterized by a reckless disregard for players' health. Project Veritas reports:
According to these players, Meyer would blatantly disregard player’s health and wellbeing. Xavier Nixon, who played at the University of Florida for coach Meyer, recalled an incident where Omarius Hines, a teammate at the time, was severely injured during a weight training session Meyer oversaw called “The Valentine’s Day Massacre.”
“They had a guy’s quads explode in the weight room on the leg press during what we call the Valentine’s Day Massacre. You basically do everything until failure and the lactic acid had built up in his legs so much that his quads literally exploded, they erupted, and he had to be taken out in an ambulance."
Another player corroborated Nixon's account. According to all four players, "there was a culture under Coach Meyer where injured players would be mocked, and the severity of their injuries would be kept from them," Project Veritas reports.
One particularly troubling case involved former UF player Gideon Ajagbe, "who contracted a severe infection in his shoulder that led to hospitalization. Before he was hospitalized, Ajagbe was forced to practice and was purposefully subjected to ridicule from the team."
Nixon said Ajagbe “was literally dying.” Despite having “bacteria eating the muscle in his shoulders,” Ajagbe was forced to carry “a 45-pound plate over his head … he was crying.” Nixon believed Meyer’s staff “didn’t adequately acknowledge” Ajagbe’s injury. Ajagbe confirmed this event in his own words:
“… it was bad. A lot of what played into my depression was they humiliated me. They thought I was trying to skip out on practice … the word they used, imma be frank, they said I was a pu**y ..."
Ajagbe eventually became "suicidal," partly blaming the humiliation he suffered while on the team.
ESPN provides more details on OSU's investigation of Meyer:
Then-graduate assistant Zach Smith [was] arrested in 2009 for allegedly shoving his pregnant wife against a wall. Meyer explained last week at Big Ten media day that he and his wife, Shelley, got involved to help Smith and his wife through counseling. Meyer went on to deny knowing that Smith was investigated for domestic violence in 2015. Courtney Smith, Zach's now-ex-wife, said Wednesday that she told Shelley about both the 2009 and 2015 incidents. ...
Meyer brought on Smith, a man Meyer knew had been alleged to abuse his pregnant wife. He brought on former Indiana coach Kevin Wilson, who resigned after he was accused of mistreating his players. He stuck by Greg Schiano after a deposition came to light alleging that Schiano knew about Jerry Sandusky's child abuse at Penn State, allegations Schiano denies.
Among the most famous of the players that were on Meyer's scandal-plagued Florida squads was Aaron Hernandez, who committed suicide in prison in 2017 after being convicted of the murder of Odin Lloyd in 2013. While he was living in Gainesville, the star tight end was questioned by police about a shooting but was never charged or arrested.