Tom Herman had to know it was coming.
“As you guys should know, I left the program after the 2015 season, excuse me, the 2014 season,” Herman said. “The things that occurred to my knowledge happened in late 2015. I really don’t think it would be fair or appropriate, to be honest with you, for me to comment about a situation in another program that happened while I wasn’t there.”
The questions came in response to bombshell allegations published by former ESPN college football reporter Brett McMurphy on Wednesday that all the coaches wives knew about accusations of domestic violence against former Ohio State wide receivers coach Zach Smith, according to his ex-wife.
The timeline is especially important as it concerns Herman — Courtney Smith was separated from her ex-husband in October of 2015 when he allegedly assaulted her. However, that was hardly the first instance of assault revealed by Smith and police reports:
Photos that Courtney said she shared via text with other wives show bruises on Courtney’s neck and arms from beatings she suffered in 2014 and 2015. Another photo shows blood gushing out of her thumb when Zach cut her with the metal top of a smokeless tobacco can after another 2014 incident.
Was Herman’s wife Michelle aware of those photos in 2014 when her husband was still the offensive coordinator?
In a follow-up question, Herman was asked about that.
“Again, it’s always been my policy to not comment on another program,” he said. “We’re at Texas. Been at Texas for a year and a half. As sensitive of a subject as this is, to comment in a forum like this I feel would be very inappropriate.”
While that is hardly an answer, it was a tactically well-crafted response from Herman — there’s not much else that he could say publicly.
Herman’s statement stands in stark contrast to the one released on Friday by Urban Meyer, the Ohio State head coach who is currently on paid administrative leave:
In it, Meyer admits to knowing about the 2015 incident and admitted that his statements at Big Ten Media Days were not “clear, compassionate, and most all, completely accurate.”
Since it’s not clear when Courtney Smith notified the other wives about the incident in 2014, it’s difficult to say whether Michelle Herman might have known about it.
But the current Texas ties to Ohio State go deeper than that, as offensive coordinator Tim Beck was in Columbus in 2015.
Herman also declined to comment about whether he’d asked Beck about his potential knowledge of Zach Smith’s credibly alleged abuse.
“That’s at another program that I’m not going to comment on,” Herman said.
As it pertains to the Longhorns program, the Texas head coach did say that he and his staff receive extensive training on Title IX compliance.
“We understand the importance of it,” Herman said. “We understand the power of the roles that we have. The great thing about working at a place like the University of Texas is that we are trained extensively in what to do in situations like that.
“Through that training, we understand in a supervisory role we have a duty to report. If something comes across my desk or an assistant coach’s desk, he is very specifically trained as to what to do and how to do it, which is to report it to a supervisor and start it working up the chain of command.”