Ohio State does not do coaching changes like most schools.
After forcing out Jim Tressel in May 2011, the athletics department messed around and ended up with a two-time national champion within six months.
That coach, Urban Meyer, was hired in time to salvage a top five recruiting class the same year, hanging on to most of the players who committed before Tressel’s exit and tacking on another dozen or so from around the country, a sign of things to come.
(The latter group included Butler offensive tackle and future All-American Taylor Decker.)
He also whipped the returners into shape quickly, coaxing 12 wins out of a team that won just six the year before, and winning a national championship in year three.
As transitions go, they don’t get much better.
Meyer was introduced at the Fawcett Center on Nov. 28, 2011.
Seven years and six days later, he was back in the same building to say goodbye Tuesday.
Meyer’s hiring was celebrated by Ohio State fans and hailed as a home run by pundits near and far, and there will be little controversy in this coaching change, either, as Meyer’s replacement, Ryan Day, was already in place before his retirement was official.
“He understands our higher purpose, which is the total student-athlete development strategy,” Ohio State director of athletics Gene Smith said of Day. “He understands the profiles of the student-athletes we need to recruit. And the reality is we have a strong infrastructure in place that I know that he has embraced and will continue to embrace.”
Day should benefit from taking over a program even stronger than the seven-time Big Ten champions Tressel left behind.
While Tressel won 82.8 percent of his games at Ohio State (then the best among coaches who lasted more than two years), Meyer upped that to 90.1 with a game to go.
Tressel’s recruiting classes averaged a national ranking of 10th, ranging anywhere from No. 1 to 25 in 10 years.
Meyer’s worst class checked in at No. 8 and overall averaged right around No. 3.
Meyer had the Big Ten’s best class every year, something Tressel could only manage four times.
Expect recruiting to continue to be a focus under Day.
“This recruiting gig, that’s all laser lights have to be on that, 100 percent,” Meyer said. “And I know he’s, first of all, he’s a great recruiter. And I think the way that things are set up here, that can be full-time energy on that and not some other stuff.”
Of course, Day doesn’t face any lingering NCAA issues, either. That was something hanging over Meyer’s head when he came in, making his 12-0 debut season all the more improbable and also a little frustrating since those Buckeyes couldn’t play for a Big Ten championship, let alone the national title.
While Meyer had a way of doing things he brought to Ohio State, Day’s apparent willingness to maintain much of the status quo is probably the No. 1 reason he got the job — not to mention why Meyer felt comfortable stepping aside now rather than trying to fight through his health issues longer and why Smith seemed more than happy to sign off on the move.
“I hired Ryan Day (as an assistant two years ago) because I thought he was a very good coach,” Meyer said. “I knew he was (because) he was with me before. What I found out was that he’s far past those thoughts. He’s elite.
“And I think in trying to build the most comprehensive premier program in America, you also want to hand it off to someone at some point so it can get even stronger. And my witnessing of the work Ryan has done and made this decision, not as difficult as I thought, because I know the infrastructure, like Gene talked about, is going to be secure with (strength coach Mickey) Marotti and the rest of the staff. I think it’s very healthy. We recruited very well.”
Ohio State fans won’t have to wait long for the first indication if this new arrangement will work out or not.
The early signing period is just two weeks away, and Day planned to right away start preserving and enhancing a class that was No. 12 in 247Sports Composite rankings as of Wednesday.
“Every coach whoever put a whistle around their neck strives to be the head coach at The Ohio State University,” Day said. “I fully understand the challenges that await for me. And being on the same list as (former Ohio State coaches) Paul Brown, Woody Hayes, Earle Bruce, John Cooper, Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer, it’s extremely humbling, but I’m prepared and ready for the task.”
Thank you for reading the Journal-News and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to exclusive deals and newsletters.
Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Journal-News. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.