Update: Ohio State AD Gene Smith addressed the report Sunday morning by not addressing it.
“We obviously are appreciative of Coach Day’s great work, and hope he continues to be one of our offensive coordinators for a long time, but we are more than confident Coach Meyer will be our head coach for quite some time,” Smith said.
We obviously are appreciative of Coach Day’s great work, and hope he continues to be one of our offensive coordinators for a long time, but we are more than confident Coach Meyer will be our head coach for quite some time.
— gene smith (@OSU_AD) September 23, 2018
Ryan Day acquitted himself well in serving as Ohio State’s acting head coach through training camp and the Buckeyes’ first quarter of the season. He led No. 5 Ohio State to a 3-0 mark, and the program paid him an extra $487,000 for his efforts, according to the Columbus Dispatch.
But the Buckeye brass was apparently so impressed by Day’s performance that the school is reportedly considering making Day’s ascension to the Ohio State head coaching chair more of a formal arrangement, as Ari Wasserman of The Athletic reported Saturday night the school is considering naming Day as the Buckeyes’ head coach-in-waiting.
Ohio State has been consistently impressed with Day ever since he arrived in Columbus ahead of the 2017 season. Hired on the recommendation of Chip Kelly, he was brought to Columbus to fix the Buckeyes’ struggling downfield passing game. He boosted J.T. Barrett’s yards per attempt average from 6.7 to 8.2 in his one year working with him, and to date in 2018 Ohio State has displayed the best passing attack this side of Tuscaloosa. Dwayne Haskins is completing 72.5 percent of his throws for 9.78 yards per attempt with 11 touchdowns and one interception through four games, while backup Tate Martell is 13-of-14 for 154 yards with a touchdown.
In January, Ohio State promoted Day from co-offensive coordinator to offensive coordinator while also handing him an unprecedented 3-year contract worth $1 million a year, both firsts in Buckeyes history. Such were the requirements after Day was pursued for the Mississippi State head job and the Tennessee Titans’ offensive coordinator job under former Buckeye Mike Vrabel.
“Ryan is clearly a very talented coach who has been an outstanding addition to our program,” Urban Meyer said at the time. “He has been approached by other schools numerous times this off-season for coordinator and head coach opportunities, and by the National Football League for a coordinator opportunity. I am pleased that he has elected to continue to work on this staff and to lead, mentor and coach the terrific young men we have in this program.”
And now, according to Wasserman, the Buckeyes are considering offering Day a carrot to remain in Columbus for years to come.
Such such a move come to pass, it would be interesting for three reasons:
First, the head-coach-in-waiting fad came and went around a decade ago, and there’s a reason no one has used it in a while — the arrangements usually ended in acrimony. The first and most famous arrangement was at Florida State, where Bobby Bowden had to be pushed out in order for Jimbo Fisher to take over. James Franklin was named head coach-in-waiting at Maryland, and took his first head job at Vanderbilt. Texas named Will Muschamp its head coach-in-waiting, he later became the head coach at Florida.
Second, the fact that Ohio State is thinking about naming Day its head coach-in-waiting means, by necessity, Ohio State is thinking about the post-Urban Meyer era. Meyer is 73-8 at Ohio State, he’s only 54 years old, and his built Ohio State’s coaching staff and roster to be among the elite of the elite in the sport.
To be sure, this all seems to be in the discussion phase, and nothing is in writing as of yet. Here’s how Wasserman described Ohio State’s thinking:
After what Ohio State just went through with Meyer, you can bet the Buckeyes want him to stick around. Ohio State is recruiting at a high level, and it is one of a handful of teams that seemingly could win a national title every season. That Ohio State is thinking about Day isn’t an indication that will be done any time soon.
But it’s impossible to view this report divorced from the context surrounding it. Meyer’s handling of the Zach Smith saga was a black eye on the public image of the entire university, and it’s going to hang around him — maybe in the periphery, maybe not — for as long as he remains at Ohio State. One has to wonder if the Ohio State brass viewed Day’s audition and thought they could have Meyer-like success without Meyer’s newfound baggage.
Finally, it’s noteworthy that, if Ohio State is indeed thinking about the post-Meyer era, the Buckeye brass is willing to hitch its wagon to Day for the long term. The 39-year-old has zero head coaching experience outside of this month’s stint, and Ohio State seemingly has a deep bench of possible head coaching prospects with ties to the program and/or the state.
Luke Fickell is a former Buckeye player, GA, position coach and coordinator, and he’s 4-0 in his second season as the head coach at Cincinnati.
Matt Campbell became a star after knocking off No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 4 TCU at Iowa State last season. He’s just 38, has head coaching experience at Toledo and Iowa State, and is a native Ohioan who played at Mount Union and coached at the Mount, Bowling Green and Toledo.
Jason Candle is also 38 years old, a native Ohioan, a former Mount Union player, and 23-8 as the head coach at Toledo.
Heck, perhaps Vrabel would even consider leaving the NFL to be the head coach at his alma mater.
And this says nothing of whom Ohio State could potentially snag on the open market.
But none of those coaches are under contract at Ohio State like Day is, and Ohio State is clearly brainstorming ways to keep its current mojo going for as long as possible.
As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.