In the coaching world, timing is everything.
Urban Meyer stepping away from Florida in 2011 made him available to take over at Ohio State in 2012.
Without Meyer, perhaps Buckeye fans would have had to accept Bo Pelini or Luke Fickell as their new head coach. While both would have been just fine at Ohio State, the fact that Meyer was available when he was, allowed OSU to go well beyond “just fine.”
Now, the hope for Ohio State is that timing will once again prove fruitful.
With Meyer mulling a season-long decision to retire, OSU athletics director Gene Smith spent some time this season mulling over possibilities. When looking for Ohio State’s next head coach, however, you don’t really have to delve too deep. There are only a small handful of candidates for such a job at any given time.
The fact that one of those candidates was already at Ohio State was a huge advantage. The way Day got the football program through summer camp and also through the first three games this year without Urban Meyer was about the best audition an assistant coach could have.
“We’re fortunate to welcome Ryan Day into our head coaching family,” Smith said on Tuesday. “We all know the tremendous job he did and the challenging time. He led our program through unbelievable adversity earlier in the year. He offers us a terrific, terrific skill and talent. We’re just so fortunate that he was here.”
This wasn’t just a convenience hire, however.
“We recognized the talent that Ryan Day had early,” Smith said. “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.”
The football program and foundation that Urban Meyer has built is in such a good place right now that it should be able to continue without him. His fingerprints are still everywhere, and they will remain so.
In fact, that’s one of the reasons why Ryan Day was the best choice for this job. Meyer’s formula is proven. Day has learned from the best and there is no need to fix what isn’t broken.
Gene Smith wanted a seamless transition and hiring Day was the best way to make that happen.
“No question,” Smith said. “The counter to that is you bring in someone new, obviously they have a learning curve. They have to go through a total education program, not just about the football team, but about the institution. Ryan has lived it. He’s seen it. And so one of the greatest responsibilities of a coach is personnel management. And there’s over 70 people in the Woody Hayes Athletic Facility. So for us to have a person with his high IQ and EQ, with the understanding of what we’re all about to step into this leadership role, significant, significant.”
Day leading fall camp and then being Ohio State’s head coach for the first three games this season gave him a perspective that only five other men have experienced in the last 60 years.
Being Ohio State’s head coach is a tall task, but it may not scare anybody off until they actually have it. For Day, his taste this past summer only gave him a greater appreciation for the opportunity he now has.
“Walking in those shoes during the beginning of the year, during that time,” he said. “[I] took a step away from just working with the offense and the Xs and Os and then took a wider step back and looked at the leadership role of what it means to be the head coach at Ohio State and understand everybody that comes under your wings there. I have walked in those shoes and had a chance to experience that, and so I’m excited and confident about it.”
Smith likes the fact that Day understands Ohio State’s higher purpose, which is developing the total student-athlete. Day has seen it work first hand and he has the confidence and passion to continue what was started before he arrived. His values match those shared by Gene Smith and Urban Meyer as they worked to enhance the experience for each student-athlete at Ohio State.
But it still comes down to one thing.
“Now, if he wasn’t talented I wouldn’t have him here if he couldn’t X and O, let’s be clear,” Smith said with a laugh and hearty pat of Day’s back. “He’s gotta win ball games. He knows that. Gotta win ball games.”
Day obviously understands wins and losses and the importance of each, but he also understands what this job means to those inside and outside of the walls at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
“We understand what Buckeye Nation is,” Day said.
“We understand what this means for our family. And we’re going to take it very seriously and jump in with two feet.”