Ryan Day passed his public audition earlier this season, and now he’s earned the part full-time.
Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer will retire at the end of the season following the Rose Bowl against Washington on Jan. 1. The school announced the somewhat expected bombshell news Tuesday morning. Yahoo! Sports’s Pete Thamel was the first to report on Meyer’s retirement.
Rather than go through the all the unwanted fuss of hiring a search firm and looking for Meyer’s replacement, the Buckeyes already have one in Day, their 39-year-old offensive coordinator. Day took over for Meyer after he was suspended for the first three games of the season for mishandling domestic abuse allegations against former wide receivers coach Zach Smith. During that time Ohio State went 3–0, including a 40–28 win over a then-No. 15 TCU at AT&T Stadium.
Even after Meyer returned and Day stepped out of the spotlight, he continued to prove himself by coaching the Buckeyes' explosive offense, which he’s been in charge of since the 2017 season. Ohio State averaged 43.5 points per game in 2018 and is second in total offense, led by Heisman Trophy finalist quarterback Dwayne Haskins. While Ohio State’s defense was largely inconsistent, the offense and its second-half scoring outbursts always kept this team in contention for a Big Ten title. The Buckeyes outscored opponents 270–158 in the second half this season.
The unit’s finest performance came when it needed it most. With its six-game winning streak against Michigan in doubt, Ohio State clobbered its rival 62–39. It was the most points any team had ever scored on the Wolverines—and this year UM boasted the nation’s No. 1 defense.
Heading into this season, Ohio State’s roster was believed to have more talent than any other in Meyer’s previous six seasons in Columbus. Offensively, Day was fortunate to work with Haskins, running backs J.K. Dobbins (1,029 yards, nine touchdowns) and Mike Weber (858 yards, five TD) as well as receivers Parris Campbell (992 yards, 11 TD), Terry McLaurin (19.7 yards per catch) and Chris Olave (Michigan game hero). But Day also gets credit for having his group prepared and focused, despite so much off-field drama. He has experience at every level of football—from FCS to the NFL—and has worked for Meyer for almost three seasons (one as a graduate assistant at Florida).
While Day wasn't officially named coach-in-waiting, there were reports that senior officials were considering the role. Now it seems he might have been it in an unofficial capacity, being named Meyer's succesor. Yahoo! Sports reported that Meyer, 54, envisioned the transition to Day mirroring the one at Oklahoma, when Bob Stoops retired at age 56 and handed his program to then 33-year-old offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley. Since then, Riley has produced a Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 draft pick (Baker Mayfield) and a Heisman finalist (Kyler Murray), and taken the Sooners to the College Football Playoff in consecutive years. Those are high expectations for Day to follow, but not necessarily unrealistic. Day has young talent coming back, including sack leader Chase Young and possibly Haskins, the latter of whom can opt for the NFL draft.
When Day was named interim head coach in September, he received daily text messages from his coaching mentor Chip Kelly, whom he played for at New Hampshire and coached with in San Francisco and Philadelphia. Kelly’s message? “You’re built for this.”
Now, he has no choice. Ohio State has named him its new man. Day will replace a coach that’s taken the Buckeyes to a national championship and three Big Ten titles, and will be expected to continue the program’s winning tradition, go head-to-head with Jim Harbaugh and regularly compete for more championships.