Urban Meyer's Most Controversial Moments

Disgraced football coach Urban Meyer has had a career filled with more downs than ups. He started his coaching career at Bowling Green State University, but most notably coached the Florida Gators from 2005-2010, and then the Ohio State Buckeyes from 2012-2018. On paper, Meyer is recognized for his incredible accomplishments in college football, including an overall 187-32 record and three National Championship wins, per Sports Reference. As a coach, however, his legacy is complicated by a number of scandals and controversial behavior, ranging from criminal cover-ups to a toxic locker-room environment for both players and staff, and even an inappropriate viral video.

After a scandal at Ohio State, Meyer retired in 2018 and appeared to be off the sports radar for good. In January 2021, however, he later pursued a career in the NFL after being hired as head coach by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Following a rocky season both on and off the field, Meyer was fired after one season. Now that he is out of the spotlight, here's a look at some of the coach's most controversial moments over the years.

His rocky years at the University of Florida

Throughout his time as a coach at the University of Florida, Meyer led the Gators to two conference championships and two national titles. However, these successes would become overshadowed by disciplinary and criminal issues within the team, which many later attributed to a culture that Meyer created himself. Per AL.com, the Meyer era was filled with "drug use among players, a philosophy of preferential treatment for certain players, a sense of entitlement among all players, and roster management by scholarship manipulation." This included establishing a "Circle of Trust" among players, which gave special treatment to star players by ignoring issues like criminal activity and drug tests to keep players on the team and further advance in the Southeastern Conference (SEC).

Meyer's six seasons at the University of Florida consisted of 31 football player arrests, with many charges including felonies like aggravated assault, domestic violence, and larceny, per The New York Times. The crime did not stop with the Gators, however, and a staggering 41 of the 121 players on UF's 2008 roster were either arrested in college or afterward. Meyer's handful of favorited players included tight-end Aaron Hernandez (who would later be arrested and charged for the murder of Odin Llyod in 2013), and Janoris Jenkins, who was arrested twice for marijuana possession while with the Gators. After Meyer left, Jenkins was dismissed by head coach Will Muschamp in 2011, and later told The Orlando Sentinel, "No doubt, if Coach Meyer were still coaching, I'd still be playing for the Gators."

He left the Gators after a disappointing season

In 2009, Urban Meyer was still reeling in the success of his 2008 season with the Florida Gators as he led the team to a second National Championship win that year. The following 2009 season was also strong for the team as they finished the regular season with a 12-0 record but ultimately lost the SEC Championship game against Alabama, as reported by Gators Wire. It was immediately after this loss that Meyer took a leave of absence, citing health issues as the main reason. "After consulting with my family, Dr. Machen, Jeremy Foley and my doctors, I believe it is in my best interest to step aside and focus on my health and family," he said in a statement (via The New York Times).

Meyer's leave of absence was temporary and in the spring of 2010, he returned to his head coaching position — though that season would be his last at the university. Despite having the No.1 ranked college team in the nation with multiple four and five-star recruits, the Gators had a bad year, with a record of 7-5 for the regular season, the most in Meyer's 10-year coaching career, per ESPN. Though the team secured a win in the 2011 Outback Bowl, the bumpy season, stricken with losses, proved to be enough for Meyer and he stepped down as head coach in 2011, claiming personal reasons for the decision. Less than a year later, however, Meyer would return to college coaching at Ohio State University.

The scandal he covered up at Ohio State University

In November 2011, Urban Meyer took on the head coach position at Ohio State University, per ESPN. While with the Buckeyes, Meyer led the team to a National Championship win over the Oregon Ducks in the 2014 season, but his success would be cut short by a scandal cover-up that was revealed in 2018. In 2015, Courtney Smith, wife of OSU assistant coach Zach Smith, and Meyer's wife, Shelley Meyer, exchanged text messages in which Smith described her husband's spousal abuse and pushed Shelley to tell Meyer, as reported by AP News. At some point after this exchange, Meyer was aware of Smith's behavior, but handled the situation internally rather than report it, which he was required to do under Title IX.

According to NPR, Meyer was suspended for three games in the 2018 season shortly after he fired Smith on July 23, 2018. Smith's firing came as reports of a domestic violence civil protection order by his then-wife Courtney, were brought to Meyer's attention. Though firing Smith was the right call, an investigation launched by Ohio State University found that Meyer knew about the abuse since at least 2015 and "failed to take sufficient management action" against Smith afterward, per Courier Journal.

With a season and reputation damaged by yet another scandal, Meyer announced his retirement from college football in a similar fashion to his departure from the University of Florida on December 4, 2018, once again citing his health as the main reason, as reported by CNN.

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He made a controversial move with the Jacksonville Jaguars

Following his departure from Ohio State University and subsequent retirement from college football, Urban Meyer took a three-year hiatus from football, which led many to believe that he would be done with his career in the sport for good. In January 2021, however, many were shocked when he took on the head coach position with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Meyer's first professional season in the NFL would not be complete, however, with at least some controversy.

In February 2021, Meyer's coaching staff was revealed and immediately drew criticism when Chris Doyle was revealed to be among the new staff. According to USA Today, Doyle was hired as the director of sports performance for the Jaguars but previously worked as a strength and conditioning coach at the University of Iowa for over 20 years. In June 2020, the university fired Doyle after several football players, mostly Black, "alleged Doyle disparaged, demeaned and bullied them while in the program," as reported by ESPN.

The move to hire Doyle, according to a statement from Meyer to the press, was influenced by his personal relationship with him as well as his reputation as one of the best strength coaches in the sport. "I've known him. I've studied him. We've had a relationship. I vetted him thoroughly, along with our general manager [Trent Baalke] and owner [Shad Khan]. Feel great about the hire, about his expertise at that position," Meyer explained (via NFL.com). Doyle ultimately resigned in February 2021, per The New York Times.

Tensions were strong between Meyer and the Jaguars staff

Given Urban Meyer's show-stopping 187-32 record in his college coaching career (via Sports Reference), the Jacksonville Jaguars were eager to take him on as coach in 2021. Despite Meyer's clear ability to win games in college, he was not as successful in the NFL. By December 2021, the Jaguars had a disastrous 2-10 record, and reports revealed that the losing streak was in part due to tensions between Meyer and both the staff and the players.

According to a report by NFL.com, Meyer allegedly pointed the finger at his players and coaching staff, at one point calling his assistant coaches "losers" while "challenging each coach individually to explain when they've ever won and forcing them to defend their résumés." In addition, he constantly threw around firing threats toward assistant coaches when he felt that they were underperforming.

For athletes on the Jaguars team, the treatment was no different. Per the NFL.com report, players allegedly felt demeaned by Meyer and claimed that he did not treat them like adults. In one instance, Meyer ordered Jag's star running-back James Robinson to be benched after he fumbled during a game against the LA Rams, but Meyer claimed that the move to bench Robinson was injury-related, per CBS Sports. Meyer's tensions with players continued to sour and hit an all-time high after a former Jaguar later revealed that the coach got physical with him while doing a warm-up during practice.

Meyer once went viral...for the wrong reasons

Amidst his season with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Urban Meyer faced scandals both on and off the field. On October 4, 2021, footage of a man who appeared to be Meyer at a restaurant in Columbus, Ohio reached Twitter, according to The New York Post. While seated, the man in the video was seen letting a younger woman dance close to his lap while seemingly moving along with the music. Based on two other Twitter posts, Meyer was the man in the video, which immediately went viral and drew criticism, as Meyer was married at the time of the recording.

In a press conference, Meyer apologized for his actions, saying in part (via ESPN), "I just apologized to the team and staff for being a distraction. Just stupid, and so I explained everything that happened and owned it. Just stupid. Should not have myself in that kind of position." He additionally noted that his family was "very upset" by his actions, according to a tweet from sports journalist Mia O'Brien.

The kick heard around the world

Urban Meyer's single season with the Jacksonville Jaguars was filled with plenty of controversy, but nothing quite had an impact on his reputation and job than the revelation of a physical altercation between Meyer and another player. In December 2021, Jaguars kicker Josh Lambo recalled to The Tampa Bay Times a situation in which Meyer physically kicked him during practice and verbally abused him while he was doing warmups during a preseason practice in August 2021. "I'm in a lunge position. Left leg forward, right leg back. Urban Meyer, while I'm in that stretch position, comes up to me and says, 'Hey Dips–t, make your f–king kicks!' And kicks me in the leg," Lambo explained to the publication.

After Lambo fought back against Meyer, he allegedly told the kicker that he could do whatever he wanted because of his coaching position. In May 2022, Lambo filed a lawsuit against the Jaguars, claiming that his in-game performance suffered due to the mistreatment and abuse by Meyer, per Sports Illustrated. The lawsuit sought his $3.5 million salary, along with damages, but Meyer denied any wrongdoing regarding the situation. "Josh's characterization of me and this incident is completely inaccurate, and there are eyewitnesses to refute his account," he told The Tampa Bay Times. Not long after the Lambo story hit the press, the Jaguars fired Meyer on December 16, 2021, as reported by ESPN.