Jags’ Meyer defends hiring ex-Iowa coach accused of racism

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FILE – Ohio State NCAA college football head coach Urban Meyer answers questions during a news conference announcing his retirement in Columbus, Ohio, in this Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018, file photo. A person familiar with the search says Urban Meyer and the Jacksonville Jaguars are working toward finalizing a deal to make him the team’s next head coach. The person spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021, because a formal agreement was not yet in place. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete, File)

Jacksonville Jaguars coach Urban Meyer defended the hiring of a former Iowa assistant accused of racism, saying Thursday he “vetted him thoroughly along with our general manager and owner.”

Iowa agreed to pay strength coach Chris Doyle $1.1 million in a resignation agreement last June after more than a dozen former players said he bullied and discriminated against them. Doyle denied the allegations. An investigation by an outside law firm later found that the program’s rules “perpetuated racial and culture biases and diminished the value of cultural diversity,” and allowed coaches to demean players without consequence.

A lawyer for 13 Black ex-Iowa football players has filed a lawsuit alleging his clients suffered racial discrimination under longtime coach Kirk Ferentz. Doyle is among the defendants.

Meyer officially hired Doyle as Jacksonville’s director of sports performance — part of his 30-person staff — and said he will assist the strength and conditioning and athletic training programs. Doyle served as Iowa’s strength and conditioning coordinator for more than two decades (1999-2019).

“I feel great about the hire, about his expertise at that position,” Meyer said. “I vet everyone on our staff, and like I said, the relationship goes back close to 20 years and a lot of hard questions asked, a lot of vetting involved with all our staff. We did a very good job vetting that one.”

Meyer added that owner Shad Khan was involved with all of the “high-end hires,” including Doyle. Meyer said he’s confident the addition won’t be an issue with current player or potential free agents.

“I know the person for close to 20 years and I can assure them there will be nothing of any sort in the Jaguar facility,” Meyer said.

Hiring Doyle rekindled memories of Meyer protecting assistant coach Zach Smith for years at Ohio State. The Buckeyes suspended Meyer for three games shortly before the 2018 season for mishandling Smith’s misconduct that included domestic violence allegations, a drug problem and poor job performance.

An investigation turned up “a pattern of troubling behavior by Zach Smith: promiscuous and embarrassing sexual behavior, drug abuse, truancy, dishonesty, financial irresponsibility, a possible NCAA violation, and a lengthy police investigation into allegations of criminal domestic violence and cybercrimes,” according to summary investigative findings released by the university.

Meyer knew about at least some of the issues and did little, if anything, before finally firing Smith after his wife asked a judge for a protective order.

Meyer spent nearly a month working to assemble a staff that can help him make a successful transition from college to the NFL, and surely could have found someone with less baggage than Doyle.

The new group includes Darrell Bevell as offensive coordinator, Joe Cullen as defensive coordinator, Brian Schottenheimer as passing game coordinator/quarterbacks coach, and Brian Schneider as special teams coordinator. Meyer made most of the hires weeks ago, but waited to announce them until after each one signed.

Meyer also made former Louisville, Texas and South Florida coach Charlie Strong his assistant head coach/inside linebackers coach. Strong was one of three key hires who had no previous NFL experience, along with tight ends coach Tyler Bowen and safeties coach Chris Ash. Strong spent the better part of the last four decades in the college ranks.

Meyer kept seven holdovers from fired coach Doug Marrone’s staff, including veteran offensive line coach George Warhop, cornerbacks coach Tim Walton, nickel cornerbacks coach Joe Danna and assistant linebackers coach Tony Gilbert.

Fernando Lovo will serve as Meyer’s chief of staff.

Meyer insisted when he took the job in mid-January that he would build a “great staff” with plenty of NFL experience, and his main four coordinators have a combined 67 years of pro experience.

Doyle, though, drew most of the attention Thursday.

“Keeping players healthy at their maximum performance is a high, high priority,” Meyer said. “My mind has really changed over the year about the priority of that, and Ohio State, we became, you know I’m very biased, but we became the best in college football. Now our job is to make sure we become the best in professional football.”

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