During his 17 years as a college football head coach, Urban Meyer won three national titles, led four programs to prominence and established himself as one of the best coaches of his era. However, Meyer's legacy also includes health concerns and controversial departures from Florida and Ohio State. Meyer, who on Thursday was named the Jacksonville Jaguars' new coach, is a no-nonsense coach whose coaching philosophy was largely influenced by former Ohio State coach Earle Bruce, who also served as an assistant under legendary Buckeyes coach Woody Hayes. While Meyer's program isn't for everyone, it led to near-instant success for Bowling Green, Utah, Florida and Ohio State during his time on their respective campuses. We'll dive a bit deeper into Meyer's coaching past to provide context and an outlook on what Jacksonville can expect moving forward.
A 2-9 team prior to his arrival, Bowling Green went 20-6 under Meyer during his two seasons with the Falcons. Bowling Green finished in the top-25 both years while winning consecutive bowl games for only the second time in school history. Meyer then turned a Utah team that went 5-6 the previous year into a 10-2 outfit in 2003. The next season, Utah, led by quarterback Alex Smith, capped off a 12-0 season by routing Big East champion Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl. Two years later, Meyer held up his first of three crystal footballs after leading Florida to a stunning upset win over Ohio State in the BCS National Championship Game. Two seasons later, Tim Tebow helped Meyer win his second national title in Gainesville following a BCS title game win over Oklahoma.
Meyer's first championship -- Florida's 41-14 win over Ohio State -- is what truly put the then 42-year-old coach on the map. The win was the start of the SEC's ongoing dominance over the rest of college football. The win also showcased Meyer's innovative spread offense, which at the time featured Tebow and Percy Harvin. Meyer's spread offense was eventually copied by every successful college program. It has also found its way into the NFL, as just about every offense has plays that mimic what Meyer popularized 15 years earlier.
This is where the story takes an unceremonious turn. In 2009, following his team's loss to Alabama in the 2009 SEC title game, Meyer announced his resignation, citing health concerns that included chest pains and severe headaches. Meyer, after announcing that he would instead take a leave of absence during the offseason, returned to the sidelines for Florida's Sugar Bowl win over Cincinnati. Meyer ultimately stepped down after the Gators posted a disappointing 7-5 record in 2010.
In April of 2012, the Sporting News published a story accusing Meyer of giving select players special privileges while including them inside his "Circle of Trust". Meyer later denied having a "Circle of Trust" but did acknowledge that certain players probably received special privileges. Florida also dealt with a slew of off-field incidents during that time. Over 30 players were arrested during Meyer's six seasons at Florida, with the charges including aggravated assault, battery, theft, display of a concealed weapon, drug possession, and unauthorized use of a credit card.
The next step in his journey
After a year in the media, Meyer accepted the offer to become Ohio State's new coach in November of 2011. At his introductory press conference, Meyer said that he had signed a family contract that would force him to live a more balanced life upon his return to coaching. Meyer also stated that he had addressed the health issues that contributed to his departure from Florida.
Meyer took over a Buckeyes program that was in the midst of an NCAA investigation that resulted in a postseason ban for the 2012 season. Despite the ban, Meyer's first Ohio State team posted a perfect 12-0 record that included a win over arch-rival Michigan. Meyer would win his first 24 games in Columbus before leading the Buckeyes to an improbable national championship run in 2014.
More controversy, health concerns follow
While Meyer elevated Ohio State's status as a college football power, he again faced controversy in the summer of 2018. In August of that year, he was placed on administrative leave that included a three-game suspension after reports surfaced about Meyer's knowledge of spousal abuse allegations against former assistant coach Zach Smith. While he never discussed the specifics of his knowledge of Smith's domestic situation, Meyer admitted to having a "blind spot" as it related to Smith, who was the grandson of Meyer's coaching icon, Earle Bruce.
After returning to lead Ohio State to a Big 10 title, Meyer, citing health concerns, announced that he would retire following Ohio State's Rose Bowl matchup with Washington. Following the Buckeyes' 28-23 win, Meyer acknowledged that his suspension at the start of the year was a factor in his decision to retire.
The pivot to broadcasting
Meyer returned to broadcasting during the last two college football seasons. He also continued to be employed by Ohio State, with his official job status being the Assistant Athletics Director -- Athletics Initiatives and Relations. Meyer and his wife, Shelley, continue to serve on the board of the Columbus Women's Care Center. The couple also created a fund for cancer research at The James Cancer Hospital, which is located on Ohio State's campus.
While he had his faults, Meyer was a proven winner on the college level. His challenge at the next level would be finding a way to connect with millionaire athletes who probably won't love the prospect of early morning runs, which is Meyer immediately integrated after coming to Columbus. But if Meyer is able to get enough players to buy into his culture-heavy philosophy, the Jaguars could find success under Meyer sooner than most would expect.
"Relentless effort (not talent or intelligence) is the key to achieving great things in your life," Meyer wrote in his 2017 autobiography. "Struggle is part of the process. It is hard and often painful. But it's also necessary, because it's in the struggle that great things are achieved."