The Jacksonville Jaguars announced the team’s full coaching staff today. Making the hires was new head coach Urban Meyer, whom the Jaguars recently coaxed out of a stress– and scandal-induced retirement with a big pile of cash, promises to upgrade team facilities, and the freedom to do whatever he wanted. One of the things Meyer wanted, evidently, was to hire Iowa’s former strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle as director of sport performance.
You’ll notice some fine bullet points here: a 21-year tenure at Iowa, 16 bowl games, and lots of players conditioned to NFL-ready shape. Was it by some stroke of luck that Doyle happened to be available and willing to take this job? Is this a coup for Meyer? Not exactly.
There is, in fact, a specific and persuasive reason why Doyle was no longer working at Iowa. Dozens of former Hawkeyes football players this past summer described him as one of the worst offenders in a program they said was characterized by racist abuse and bullying. At the time, Doyle was the highest paid strength and conditioning coach in the country, making $800,000 a year.
In June, Chicago Bears offensive lineman James Daniels, who played at Iowa from 2015 to 2017, said that there were “too many racial disparities in the Iowa football program.” More than 50 former players responded with their own stories, many of them involving Doyle. “Coach Doyle is the problem in that building,” Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson replied, going on to recall that Doyle “would go around stepping players fingers as they would warm up before a lift.” Cedric Boswell, a defensive back who transferred to Miami (Ohio), remembered throwing away a water bottle with some water left in it and being forced by Doyle to dig through the weight room’s trash can—”where athletes bleed, sweat, and vomit”—in front of the team to retrieve it.
After players spoke out, head coach Kirk Ferentz suspended Doyle, and later that month, Doyle reached a separation agreement with the university, which agreed to pay him 15 months of his salary. (Kirk’s son Brian Ferentz, Iowa’s offensive coordinator and the second-most frequent character in players’ stories of abuse, kept his job.)
In his previous life, when he failed to act after the wife of one of his assistants said she was being abused, Meyer made clear what matters to him, and what matters most to him is winning. If the year has changed or the league is different, Meyer and that almighty fixation are not. Asked today about Doyle’s hiring, Meyer told reporters that he “vetted him thoroughly” and feels “great” about the hire, which means he was either inclined to take Doyle’s word over that of 50 black players, or that he is aware of all of their stories and just doesn’t care.
To get a complete sense of this grand web of abuse and failing upward, consider that Meyer left Ohio State on his own terms and ended up just fine; that Doyle had actually hung on to his Iowa job after one of his workouts put 13 players in the hospital in 2011; that Ferentz, Ferentz the Younger, and Iowa athletic director Gary Barta are all still employed; and that we’ve just completed a deeply frustrating NFL hiring cycle that proved yet again that white coaches will always be trusted and redeemed for the fact of being white. The institutions in question are the ones designed to reward men like Chris Doyle. They’re working just as intended.