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Jaguars, under intense criticism, announce Chris Doyle’s resignation

Chris Doyle, shown here in 2018, departed Iowa this summer after a number of Black former players accused him of mistreatment. (Charlie Neibergall/AP)
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The Jacksonville Jaguars, under sharp criticism for hiring strength coach Chris Doyle, announced his resignation Friday night.

The move came one day after the Jaguars added Doyle to recently hired head coach Urban Meyer’s staff as the director of sports performance and hours after the diversity group that works closely with the NFL on its minority hiring called the hire “simply unacceptable.” Doyle was accused of mistreating players and making racist comments while at the University of Iowa.

“Chris Doyle came to us this evening to submit his resignation and we have accepted,” the Jaguars said in a written statement originally attributed to Meyer and later revised to be attributed to Meyer and General Manager Trent Baalke.

“Chris did not want to be a distraction to what we are building in Jacksonville. We are responsible for all aspects of our program and, in retrospect, should have given greater consideration to how his appointment may have affected all involved. We wish him the best as he moves forward in his career.”

Meyer previously defended the move. Earlier on Friday, the Fritz Pollard Alliance added its voice to those condemning the hire.

“At a time when the NFL has failed to solve its problem with racial hiring practices, it is simply unacceptable to welcome Chris Doyle into the ranks of NFL coaches,” the group said in written statement. “Doyle’s departure from the University of Iowa reflected a tenure riddled with poor judgment and mistreatment of Black players. His conduct should be as disqualifying for the NFL as it was for University of Iowa. Urban Meyer’s statement, ‘I’ve known Chris for close to 20 years,’ reflects the good ol’ boy network that is precisely the reason there is such a disparity in employment opportunities for Black coaches.”

The Fritz Pollard Alliance’s criticism of the move came after a hiring cycle in which only one Black head coach was hired, David Culley by the Houston Texans, after the league enacted new measures aimed to improve minority hiring. Those measures included a rule, ratified by team owners, to award a pair of third-round draft picks to a team that develops a minority candidate hired by another franchise as a head coach or general manager.

Roger Goodell says hiring cycle did not meet NFL’s expectations after diversity measures

Culley is one of three active Black NFL head coaches, with the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Mike Tomlin and the Miami Dolphins’ Brian Flores. There were two minority head coaches hired during this cycle, Culley and the New York Jets’ Robert Saleh, and three Black general managers hired — the Washington Football Team’s Martin Mayhew, the Detroit Lions’ Brad Holmes and the Atlanta Falcons’ Terry Fontenot. Even so, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said last week the outcome of the hiring cycle “wasn’t what we expected, and it’s not what we expect going forward.”

The Fritz Pollard Alliance had not been alone in seeking for the Jaguars and Meyer to reconsider the hiring of Doyle.

“Urban Meyer should not hire Doyle and the media, the league, the players the fans and the Fritz Pollard group should not be quiet until this is undone,” former Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns executive Joe Banner wrote Friday on Twitter. “We can’t pretend to be making progress and let this stand.”

The Jaguars announced Thursday they had hired Doyle nearly eight months after Doyle departed a similar role at Iowa after allegations surfaced that he had belittled players while with the Hawkeyes football program.

“I’ve known Chris for close to 20 years; our relationship goes back to my time at Utah, and he was the number one strength coach,” Meyer said Thursday in a video news conference. “Really, he was doing sports performance before sports performance became a high priority in college sports. So I’ve known him. I’ve studied him. We’ve had a relationship. I’ve vetted him thoroughly along with our general manager and owner. I feel great about the hire, about the expertise at that position. So we vetted him thoroughly. Sports performance is going to be a high, high priority. … I wanted to get the best of the best.”

Doyle, who had served under Kirk Ferentz as Iowa’s strength coach since 1999 and was said to have unusual authority for an assistant in his position, was placed on administrative leave June 6 and signed a separation agreement with the school eight days later. As part of the agreement, the nation’s highest-paid strength coach at $800,000 annually would receive 15 months’ salary and 15 months of benefits for him and his family, though the latter would end if he found new employment.

Many of the allegations against Doyle, who is White, were raised by former players who are Black. Manny Rugamba, a starter at cornerback in 2017 and 2018 who later transferred to Miami (Ohio), described numerous instances of cultural insensitivity on Doyle’s part while in the team’s weight room.

“I was lifting in the weight room and one of the lifts we had to do was open and close your hands in a bowl of rice, while walking to the bowl of rice one of my Black teammates and close friends just left the rice station and was at the bench rack,” Rugamba wrote on Twitter in June. “After benching there was some rice left back on the bar. Coach Doyle then says, ‘wtf is this s--- clean it up.’ The player walks over to clean it up and walks away from Doyle. Doyle then says, ‘why you walking wit all that swagger I’ll put you back on the streets.’ The player comes from a happy home with both parents.

“A separate incident happened before one of our team lifts. He asked the same player where he was the night before the player says, ‘my girl house.’ Coach Doyle then pulls his pants halfway down to sag off his but turns his hat backwards puts one hand in his pants and starts to strut while mocking the player saying ‘I was at my giiirrrlllss house’.

“At 18-21 years old, Seeing others be treated like this made you walk around the football facility on eggshells. Unable to be yourself constantly trying to fit the Iowa Culture caused anxiety that could be unbearable at times with your dreams and career on the line.”

Another former player, walk-on Terrance Pryor, said he was confronted about quitting the team by Doyle, who suggested he take up rowing.

“Oh wait, Black people don’t like boats in water, do they?” Doyle is alleged by Pryor to have said.

In a statement released June 7, Doyle said he never “crossed the line of unethical behavior or bias based on race.”

An external review of the Iowa football program, conducted by a law firm and released in July, found that Black players often felt they were treated more harshly than White players and that the program’s rules “perpetuated racial or cultural biases and diminished the value of cultural diversity.” Doyle and Ferentz were the only coaches mentioned by name in the report, though three coaches were accused of bullying players and being verbally abusive.

Iowa previously had admonished Doyle over a 100-squat workout in January 2011 that led to 13 players being hospitalized for rhabdomyolysis, a breakdown of muscle tissue that can lead to serious complications, such as kidney failure. Nonetheless, Ferentz gave Doyle the “Assistant Coach of the Year” award at a booster-club event in spring 2011.

Asked why he hired someone with Doyle’s track record, Meyer said Thursday there “were a lot of hard questions asked and vetting involved.” He added that he was “very confident” there would not be similar issues with the Jaguars.