Meyer Steps Down, University Tabs Day As Replacement

By Jeff Rapp, December 5th, 2018

Urban Meyer decided to step down from his seven-year post as Ohio State football coach effective the day after the Buckeyes face Washington in the Rose Bowl, and the move opens the door for coach-in-waiting Ryan Day, prompting the jaws of fans to gape a little wider.

All of this bombshell news came down on Tuesday and was confirmed during a lengthy mid-afternoon press conference during which the 54-year-old Meyer dipped into his reasoning and the 39-year-old Day was introduced as Ohio State’s 25th head coach.

“Every coach who ever put a whistle around their neck strives to be the head coach at The Ohio State University,” a beaming day told a mass of reporters.

Day, of course, was named as acting head coach at the beginning of the season as Meyer served a suspension as a result of the Zach Smith scandal. With Day at the helm, OSU posted a 3-0 mark including what at the time appeared to be a big win over TCU in September. The Horned Frogs went on to post just a 6-6 record but Day impressed everyone with how he handled the responsibility.

At the top of that list was Athletic Director Gene Smith, who pegged Day to run the operation despite the presence of a former head coach on each side of the ball. Co-offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson came to OSU after being the head coach at Indiana; defensive coordinator Greg Schiano has been the boss at Rutgers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Still, Day now has the challenge of following a legend.

Meyer, who won a pair of national championships at Florida (2006, ’08), was a ridiculous 82-9 while coaching the Buckeyes from 2012-18 and captured the first ever College Football Playoff championship following the 2014 season. He also thrice won the Big Ten title (2014, ’17, ’18), won or tied for first place in the division all seven years and perhaps might be most fondly remembered for posting a 7-0 record against rival Michigan.

Smith hired Meyer at the end of November 2011 and the results immediately were ideal. Even though the 2012 Buckeyes were barred from postseason play because of NCAA sanctions, a tanned-rested-ready Meyer coached them to an improbable 12-0 record – one year after OSU went 6-7 with Luke Fickell in charge.

Ohio State’s year-to-year record under Meyer reads thusly:
2012 – 12-0, 8-0 B1G (no bowl)
2013 – 12-2, 8-0 B1G (L, Orange Bowl)
2014 – 14-1, 8-0 B1G (W, Sugar Bowl, W, CFP national championship)
2015 – 12-1, 7-1 B1G (W, Fiesta Bowl)
2016 – 11-2, 8-1 B1G (L, Fiesta Bowl)
2017 – 12-2, 8-1 B1G (W, Cotton Bowl)
2018 – 9-1, 7-1 B1G (Rose Bowl vs. Washington, Jan. 1)
Record: 82-9 overall, 54-4 Big Ten regular season, 4-2 in bowl games

Meyer is an Ohioan through and through. He was born in Toledo, grew up in Ashtabula and was a student-athlete at the University of Cincinnati before giving up on his dreams of playing Major League Baseball and deciding to pursue coaching.

A defensive back at UC, Meyer graduated in 1986 and that fall began his collegiate coaching career as a graduate assistant at Ohio State, working for his lifelong mentor, Earle Bruce. Meyer was a GA for two seasons at OSU (1986-87) and received his master’s degree in sports administration from Ohio State in 1987.

Meyer served as an outside linebackers coach and later quarterbacks/wide receivers coach at Illinois State. From there he would serve as a WRs coach at Colorado State (1990-95) and Notre Dame (1996-2000) before beginning his head coaching career – at Bruce’s urging – at Bowling Green.

During two seasons with the Falcons (2001-02), he posted a 17-6 mark. It got even better for Meyer as he was a head-turning 22-2 at Utah (2003-04) and soon was regarded as one of the nation’s top coaches while at Florida (2005-10), where he won two national titles and logged a record of 65-15 in six seasons.

Meyer, though, left the profession for a year, citing health reasons, and served as a college football color analyst for ESPN during the 2011 season.

He now appears to be stepping away from the headset for good, retiring with a sterling mark of 186-32. His winning percentage of .853 is the best among all coaches with five or more years of service.

Again the reason is health. In fact, Meyer offered details about the cyst on his brain that has caused him severe headaches. Even though the cyst was drained in 2014, it threatens to worsen, especially if Meyer continues to subject himself to long hours as well as raised blood pressure and stress.

“The style of coaching that I’ve done for 33 years is very intense, very demanding,” Meyer said during the press conference. “You can ask our former players of the expectations and the way I’ve been. I’ve tried to delegate more, CEO-ish more, and the product started to fail. The challenge was can I continue to do that in that style?”

He was in agony on the sidelines a few times because of the condition, most visibly on Oct. 9 during Ohio State’s game with Indiana, which caused him to go to a knee and require assistance. Meyer said he also had a nasty bout with his headaches during a Penn State game a few years ago.

While sad to see Meyer go, Buckeye Nation seemed understanding of the move. Among his supporters is Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James, who told Bill Oram of The Athletic, “I had two reactions. One is he’s been a hell of a coach for the Ohio State Buckeyes for years. But more importantly, his health is more important and that’s what it all boils down to.

“That’s a friend of mine and I’ve loved everything that he’s done at Ohio State being the coach of those kids and the program. But his health is what’s more important.”

Day will take over with a five-year deal reportedly worth $4.5 million annually. He’s never been a head coach at any level but he was a trusted assistant for Chip Kelly in the NFL and quickly has become known for being a bright offensive mind and natural leader.

“It’s rare that you have the opportunity to create a secession plan where you have the right person in place,” Smith told Bucknuts.com. “Any CEO in the public or private environment, you hope that you have that opportunity.

“And so we were fortunate. We recognized the talent that Ryan Day had early. And I spent a great deal of time getting to know him. Did that this summer.

“We actually met in my office in the summertime. Spent some quality time getting to know one another. And then obviously throughout the year. He had an opportunity to audition in a different way. Not relative to winning on the field, but how he mastered leading, not just the football staff, but everyone else around it.

“This is a complex place. And so having someone to be able to continue the stability and consistency that we have was important to me. So I did not feel I needed to conduct a public national search.”