The Jaguars have hired Urban Meyer as their new head coach, turning to one of the most successful college coaches in NCAA history to help spur a turnaround of one of the NFL’s worst franchises.
“I’m ready to coach the Jacksonville Jaguars,” Meyer said in a statement. “Jacksonville has an enthusiastic fan base, and the fans deserve a winning team. With upcoming opportunities in the NFL Draft, and strong support from ownership, the Jaguars are well-positioned to become competitive. I’ve analyzed this decision from every angle — the time is right in Jacksonville, and the time is right for me to return to coaching. I’m excited about the future of this organization and our long term prospect for success.”
Meyer won three national championships and compiled a 187-32 college coaching record during stints at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida and Ohio State.
He won two of those titles (2006, 2008) with the Gators, whom he led to a 65-15 record in six seasons.
He also led the Buckeyes to the 2014 national title and compiled an 83-9 record in seven seasons in Columbus, Ohio.
Meyer also was embroiled in a controversy during his final season in Columbus after he was placed on paid administrative leave Aug. 1, 2018, after reports surfaced that Meyer knew about spousal abuse allegations against assistant coach Zach Smith.
Ohio State had fired Smith the previous week.
After an investigation, Meyer was suspended for the first three games of the 2018 season.
The Buckeyes went 12-1 but missed out on the College Football Playoff, and Meyer announced that he was retiring from coaching after the Rose Bowl for health reasons.
Those health issues have not been resolved as he heads back to coaching.
Former Ohio State great Cris Carter last year shared alarming details about Meyer’s health and how it affected his well-being and ability to coach.
“Urban’s a very, very close friend of mine. His biggest problem is he wants to coach, but physically he can’t coach,” Carter said. “I think it’s been well-documented, as far as the cyst on his brain. When he gets agitated, upset … when he gets in coaching mode, it becomes very to almost impossible for him to coach because the cyst begins to leak fluid, which leads to — not a migraine headache, but a splitting headache. When we saw him double over on the sideline, that was not because of anything else but the cyst and it rupturing.”
Meyer suffers from an arachnoid cyst, which can reveal itself especially during stressful situations.
“I started dealing with some issues last year,” Meyer said. “We had conversations back then. It’s not your elbow or your foot.”
Meyer was diagnosed with the cyst in his brain back in 1998 while an assistant coach at Notre Dame.
So what, exactly, is an arachnoid cyst?
“It’s a benign cyst on the membrane tissue that covers the brain,” says Dr. Robert Brodner, a board-certified neurosurgeon at Good Samaritan Medical Center in West Palm Beach. “They occur congenitally in about 5 to 6 percent of the population — with the vast majority being asymptomatic.”
In other words, most people who have one are never even aware of it.
However, sometimes people do suffer symptoms (as was described in Sports Illustrated of Meyer experiencing two episodes of blinding head pain while on the sidelines during games in 1998 and 2003).
When that happens, it’s because, says Brodner, “Over time, the cyst can slowly, progressively enlarge as it imbibes spinal fluid. The enlargement can then exert pressure on the part of the brain in closest proximity to the cyst.”
The associated symptoms depend on which part of the brain is being pressured.
But, Brodner said, the most common ones are “headaches, nausea, vomiting and gait disturbance.”
From the 2009 book, Urban’s Way:
“Since his days when he blacked out and nearly fell while on the sidelines as an assistant at Notre Dame, Meyer had tried to learn how to better control his emotions. It turned out to be an arachnoid cyst on his brain, benign, but it also caused severe migraines when aggravated by emotional stress. The doctors told Meyer to “cool it with the screaming and yelling”, which he did until he became a head coach at Utah. During a game against Oregon, in a tense moment or the fourth quarter, he almost passed out. Doctors helped him pinpoint those emotional outbursts – usually, in the fourth quarter – and he began to alter his behavior pattern.”
Meyer had brain surgery in the spring of 2014 after suffering consistent headaches for nearly a month.
The complex surgery removed a subdural fluid collection caused by the cyst to relieve increased intracranial pressure, according to Dr. Thomas.
After that surgery, Meyer had been able to manage the pain. It flared up at times in 2015 and 2016.
The problem returned in full force in his final season at Ohio State and it led to his decision to quit his dream job.
While broadcast duties can be intense, it will be nowhere near the pressure of being a head college football coach, and health professionals believe Meyer’s cyst can remain under control if he gets rest and takes care of himself.
“By the time someone takes on a stressful job, the brain has already adapted to the presence of an arachnoid cyst,” said Dr. Nicholas Marko of UC Health. “Stress by itself may not affect arachnoid cysts, but other issues around stress – poor sleep or diet, for example – can complicate life with it.”
If Meyer is not the eventual choice, or decides to stay retired, Jacksonville is expected to look hard at the offensive side of the ball.
Ohio State coach Ryan Day, whose team is currently set to face Alabama in the NCAA National Title game, is also set to receive interest from the Jaguars according to Rapoport.