Here’s a quick primer on Ryan Day, the Ohio State offensive coordinator picked to replace Urban Meyer as the leader of the Buckeyes program.
Kirkland Crawford, Detroit Free Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio — After spending most of the first 25 minutes of his introductory news conference as the next head coach at Ohio State, 39-year-old Ryan Day turned his head to the left and fielded a question about recruiting.
The question was aimed at Day and his legendary predecessor, Urban Meyer. It was about how Ohio State plans to move forward. The type of question the head coach answers.
Day then turned to his right and looked at Meyer, deferring to him for an answer.
“Ryan will be the head coach out recruiting,” Meyer said. “I’ll visit with recruits on campus (until stepping down after the Rose Bowl).”
If Ohio State’s fortunate, Day will never look to someone else for an answer again.
And if Jim Harbaugh is fortunate, Tuesday’s news will finally shift the balance of power in one of football’s most storied rivalries.
Day became the official successor to Meyer on a strange day in Columbus on Tuesday, when Meyer announced he will step down at the end of the season, after coaching the Buckeyes in the Rose Bowl, and Day will take over after coordinating one of the most explosive offenses in the country this season.
It was the end to a tumultuous year for Meyer, who was forced to battle through a legitimate medical issue and also a national media firestorm.
Meyer has spent the bulk of his career grinding toward becoming one of the greatest on-field coaches in the history of the game. He has three national titles — he had two when he took over a loaded roster at Ohio State in 2011 — and he has brought instant football credibility with him everywhere he has gone.
And he also has owned Michigan.
But his off-field problems cut that tenure short. Meyer, 54, admitted Tuesday he’d thought about the close of his football career before entering his seventh season at Ohio State earlier this summer.
He didn’t necessarily think it would be like this. But then the domestic violence allegations against OSU assistant Zach Smith exploded, and Meyer was suspended three games in the wake of an investigation into his knowledge of the alleged abuse.
Meyer often looked miserable on the sidelines when he returned, eventually citing headaches from a brain cyst that required surgery in 2014 and could possibly require more treatment if the stress doesn’t subside.
This is Ohio State. The stress for the program’s football coach doesn’t subside. It only grows.
And so Tuesday, as he did at Florida in 2010, Meyer stepped down with gas possibly still in the tank. And Day stepped in to become the first person in 72 years to take over as the non-interim leader of Ohio State’s treasured football program without any head-coaching experience.
This transition happened quickly. Day, who did his best to sound as presidential as possible, admitted none of this has sunk in yet. He didn’t look overwhelmed. He didn’t look completely comfortable, either. That’ll take a bit.
But at some point he’ll sit in the captain’s chair here and have to become the program’s next version of Meyer, who leaves Ohio State with an on-field-success legacy only matched by Woody Hayes.
“Coach Meyer is always going to be a resource for me personally,” said Day, who mostly listened Tuesday, answering nine questions to Meyer’s 28. “Because how many people can say they’ve walked in these shoes?”
Day is not Meyer. Maybe he will be one day. But he won’t be tomorrow.
He can win with Meyer’s talented roster for the next year or two, but whether or not he — or athletic director Gene Smith — will survive here depends on how quickly he can carry himself on the same level as one of the best to do it.
Day did his best to check all the boxes Tuesday. He talked about recruiting a lot; Meyer mentioned it more than 20 times. He spoke about the ridiculously high expectations at Ohio State. And he did his best to stress the importance of the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry, one the Buckeyes have completely controlled with Meyer exiting a perfect 7-0 against the Wolverines.
“I remember being on my grandfather’s couch and watching The Game,” said Day, who hails from New Hampshire. “And just the respect I had for this place, and it was always a dream of mine.”
Being on a couch in Hillsborough County, New Hampshire, is a long way from being in control of a rivalry game that means more to the state of Ohio than any event on the calendar each year. Time will tell if Day figures it out.
And now we’re going to figure out if his new counterpart — Jim Harbaugh — can finally solve the other end of the puzzle.
Meyer’s program has been the biggest thorn in Michigan’s side this century. Harbaugh was supposed to reignite the rivalry when he was hired in 2014, but it hasn’t happened. Meyer owned Harbaugh from start to finish of their shared tenures, including last month’s 62-39 win at Ohio Stadium.
Beating Ohio State was going to be the No. 1 task on Michigan’s to-do list heading into the offseason, regardless of whether Meyer was the coach or not. That doesn’t change. And yet if Harbaugh can’t beat a first-time head coach in November inside Michigan Stadium, the questions about whether he will ever be able to return the Wolverines to prominence will be impossible to ignore.
The program will be spinning its wheels.
This transition is an opportunity for Harbaugh. Meyer is an iconic coach, and his departure will lead to adjustments, probably on both sides, as U-M’s Don Brown — who coached opposite Day at Boston College — will have to figure out how to not give up 60-plus points against Day’s offense next year.
The pressure Day is feeling right now absolutely is reciprocated in Ann Arbor. Harbaugh’s out of explanations as to why he can’t beat Ohio State, and last month’s loss in Columbus has intensified that feeling. If Meyer were still around, maybe you just tip your cap and say, “Hey, we’re getting beat by one of the best ever to do it.” But Meyer’s gone now. And so is that excuse.
Standing in the back of a packed Clinton Room inside Ohio State’s Fawcett Center on Tuesday was 81-year-old John Cooper. He watched the day’s happenings without much fanfare or attention. A coach who once won 70 percent of his games at Ohio State will always be remembered as the guy who couldn’t beat Michigan.
Harbaugh doesn’t want to find out what that’s like on the other side of things.
And next year, in Ann Arbor, he’d better start changing that course.
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