The new head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Urban Meyer, comes to the NFL with an impressive résumé from college football. Now he is bringing back an old companion in Tim Tebow, but this does not overshadow the countless scandals that have accompanied the coach again and again.
Urban Meyer has been the Jacksonville Jaguars’ head coach for a few months. He is better known in the football community as a college coach legend. Meyer has a career win rate of a whopping 85 percent at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida and Ohio State. He also won no fewer than three national championships and seven conference championships.
Meyer is one of the few coaches of the last 20 years who can even come close to keeping up with the successes of today’s Alabama coach Nick Saban (7 national championships). But the Jaguars have not only brought an extremely successful coach on board with Meyer.
If you take a closer look – admittedly, a superficial look is now sufficient, since so much has come to light – you will find, however, that in the brilliance of all the victories and triumphs there is also an extremely pronounced shadow side to be found. The Meyer Legacy has become really complicated since his involvement in Gainesville / Florida.
News that begins with the winged term “Florida Man” (in English: “Man from Florida”), which is often used in the US media for news from the Sunshine State, all too often ends with a completely absurd story . In Meyer’s time as head coach of the Florida Gators, however, it was not uncommon for one of his former players to hide behind that synonym.
Urban Meyer: 31 arrests of Gators players during his tenure
The New York Times reported in an article years ago that at least 31 Gators players were arrested for various offenses between 2005 and 2010. If one counts offenses after graduation, it is said to have been 41 of the 121 players in the 2008 team.
We’re not just talking about the usual college offenses related to alcohol consumption, traffic offenses (there are 251 here), and the like.
For example, there is Safety Jamar Hornsby, who is said to have used the credit card of a student 70 times in 2008 who had died in a motorcycle accident months earlier. Or lineman Ronnie Wilson, who allegedly hit and spat on a man outside a nightclub in 2007 and then pulled an AK-47 out of his trunk and started shooting himself. He was later arrested and charged with marijuana possession and assault on several counts.
Cam Newton, who later won the Heisman Trophy after a transfer to Auburn and even became an MVP of the NFL, was caught trying to steal a fellow student’s laptop. When the police arrived, he threw the device out the window. Running back Chris Rainey stalked his ex-girlfriend after quarrels and sent her a text message saying “Time to Die”. That Rainey later ended up with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who released him after being arrested for assault in January 2013.
Then there is cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who left Florida for North Alabama after Meyer’s departure in 2010. He didn’t go willingly. Rather, Meyer’s successor, Will Muschamp, threw him off the team after several arrests for drug possession. Jenkins gave The Orlando Sentinel An interview a few months later and said tellingly: “If Coach Meyer were still coaching, I would still play for the Gators”, because “Coach Meyer knows what it takes to win”.
Urban Meyer “knows what it takes to win”
The later NFL player did not say what he meant by that. But a certain Aaron Hernandez was also part of his time in Florida. And even if hardly anything of his early escapades reached the public at the time – he was questioned by the police about a shootout together with a few teammates, allegedly destroyed a man’s eardrum in a brawl and apparently shot a man in the face research by various media revealed a terrifying picture.
Again and again, possible charges for college stars were dropped, sometimes police investigations were rather slow and, above all, hardly anything came out.
The common denominator of the whole thing is of course Meyer himself, who repeatedly managed to keep all of this under lock and key. On the other hand, everything went flawlessly on the pitch and his success proved him right. One allegation is that he disguised positive drug tests on his players by saying that they were suddenly injured and standing on the sidelines with walking boots.
Meyer denied all of this, of course, and there is no solid evidence anyway. In addition, there were disciplinary measures every now and then, but the cracks were never really tough.
When Hernandez, whom Meyer regularly had at home for Bible study and who led him spiritually, as it was so beautifully said, was finally arrested for murder in 2013 and ultimately convicted, Meyer again rejected all responsibility. “This serious accusation with the University of Florida, myself or my coaching staff in connection or accusing us of this is wrong and irresponsible,” Meyer said in a statement at the time.
His wife, Shelley Meyer, wrote on Twitter at the time: “When do we finally start to hold individuals responsible for their own decisions / actions and stop blaming others / everyone else?” And of course she was right, after all, Hernandez’s worst deeds didn’t happen until years after his time in Florida.
Urban Meyers: Scandals also followed him to Ohio State
But the accusation remains that Meyer made the rise of Hernandez and others possible in the first place. Would Hernandez have made it into the NFL and all his millions if Meyer hadn’t looked the other way when he was in college?
And Hernandez and the countless other offenders during Meyer’s Florida time are not isolated cases. Meyer also made similar allegations from his time in Ohio State, where he successfully worked as a head coach for a total of eight years.
Running back Carlos Hyde was once banned from the Buckeyes for three games after a video surfaced showing him slapping a woman in the face in a bar. Three games by Meyer, who once emphasized respecting women.
But especially the name Zach Smith should be mentioned here. He is said to have violently abused his then wife for years before she filed for divorce. Then he stalked her. The whole story was written down by our colleagues at Sporting News in all disturbing details. The bottom line is that Meyer was again the one who made the situation possible.
Meyer had already hired Smith as a graduate assistant in Florida and then took him to Ohio State in 2012, where he was promoted to wide receiver coach and therefore had a certain standing.
Urban Meyers Rolle im Fall Zach Smith
The abuse cases against his wife are said to have started as early as 2009 and actually had their sad climax when he, heavily pregnant, grabbed her by the neck and forcibly pressed her against a wall. Meyer denied knowing about any of this, but later investigations revealed that he had deleted text messages on his cell phone from the time of some of the incidents. Previously, he is said to have asked a team director how the deletion of such messages works.
Over the course of his time at Ohio State, Smith is said to have racially insulted a player, Trevon Grimes. And Meyer knew about it at the latest, after all, he even traveled to the player’s family to smooth things over. Officially, it was a visit to the player’s sick mother to help her.
When the abuse allegations became public, Ohio State set up an investigation into the incident and was ultimately unable to discover any misconduct on the part of the head coach. Incidentally, the latter had already dismissed Smith without giving any reason after the story became known. Ultimately, Meyer was banned from Ohio State for three games for the 2018 season, but then returned apparently unscathed.
Ultimately, Meyer’s engagements in Florida and Ohio State ended in the same way: health problems forced him to resign and he also wanted to spend more time with his family.
A cyst in his brain, which was discovered many years ago, gave him headaches every now and then, and in his last months in Florida more and more chest pain occurred, which at the time even took him to the hospital.
He announced his resignation in 2009, only to take a longer break. In March 2010 he was back before the 2011 Outback Bowl actually ended. For the following football season, however, he was back on the big stage, this time as a TV expert for ESPN. In 2012 his time at Ohio State started before he abdicated after the Smith scandal in 2018. He then took on an expert job at FOX Sports.