Jacksonville Jaguars' Urban Meyer defends hiring controversial Chris Doyle

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville Jaguars coach Urban Meyer is defending his hiring of Chris Doyle, a former strength coach at the University of Iowa who was accused of making racist remarks, belittling and bullying players.

Meyer's decision to hire Doyle as the team's director of sports performance came to light Thursday when the Jaguars announced his 28-member coaching staff. Meyer also confirmed the hiring of offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, defensive coordinator Joe Cullen, and former Louisville, Texas and South Florida head coach Charlie Strong as assistant head coach/inside linebackers coach.

But it was the hiring of Doyle, who had been Iowa's director of strength and conditioning from 1999 until this past June, that drew the most attention. Over the past year numerous former Iowa players spoke out about mistreatment within the Iowa program. A number of Black players said that Doyle used racist language and treated them differently based on their race.

Meyer said he researched Doyle, had some intense conversations with him, and is confident that there will not be problems.

"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," Meyer said. "We did a very good job vetting that one.

"... I met with our staff and I'm going to be very transparent with all the players like I am with everything. I'll listen closely and learn and also there's going to have to be some trust in their head coach that we're going to give them the very best of the best, and time will tell. ... The allegations that took place, I will say [to the players] I vetted him. 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 that he knows Doyle from when he coached Utah and Doyle was the No. 1 strength coach, but Meyer was head coach at Utah from 2003 to 2004 and Doyle was there for one year in 1998 before moving on to Iowa.

Some of the issues raised by the numerous former Iowa players who spoke out on social media last year were: Black and white players were held to different standards, Black players were mistreated, Doyle and other assistants made racist remarks, and Black players felt they had to conform to specific ways of dress and behavior. Their complaints sparked the university to hire a Kansas City law firm to conduct an external investigation into the football program.

The issues were not strictly related to race.

Former Iowa offensive lineman Jack Kallenberger said last June on Twitter that he retired from football in January 2019 after he became despondent because of what he described as bullying related to a learning disability. Doyle was among the coaches he named who harassed him.

The university placed Doyle on administrative leave on June 6 in the wake of those allegations. One day later Doyle defended himself in a statement posted to Twitter that read, in part: "At no time have I ever crossed the line of unethical behavior or bias based upon race. I do not make racist comments and I don't tolerate people who do."

On June 14, it was announced that Doyle was out at Iowa. Doyle, who was the nation's highest-paid strength coach at $800,000 annually, received 15 months' salary (roughly $1.1 million) and he and his family were awarded benefits from Iowa for 15 months, or until he found employment elsewhere, which he did this month with the Jaguars.

Cornerback Greg Mabin is the only former Iowa player on the Jaguars' roster. He played for the Hawkeyes from 2014 to 2016 and responded to a June 5 tweet from former Iowa offensive lineman James Daniels that said there were too many racial disparities within the Iowa program with a tweet of his own that read: "We appreciate the opportunities the Iowa program brought us, but I do hope bringing these issues to light can stimulate positive change."

Meyer said he doesn't believe there will be any problems between the players and Doyle and that he's not concerned that Doyle's presence could hinder the Jaguars' chances of attracting free agents next month.

"If I was, I wouldn't have hired him," Meyer said. "Once again, I'll explain that if that becomes a question. The one thing I'm very confident is that I would imagine within a year or two we'll have the best sports performance team in the National Football League."