The last time an Ohio State head football coach was recognized as Big Ten Coach of the Year was 1979, the same year that current Buckeye coach Ryan Day was born.
On Tuesday, however, Day bucked the Buckeye trend of not winning the award and was named the winner of the Dave McClain Big Ten Coach of the Year Award, as voted on by the conference’s media.
Almost exactly one year to the day earlier, Day was announced as Ohio State’s new head coach, taking over the reins for Urban Meyer on December 4, 2018.
That month of December and the offseason were filled with uncertainty for the Ohio State football program. Inside the doors of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, however, everyone was confident that Day was the right man for the job.
On the outside, people wondered what a first-year head coach could do. Day knew he had to live up to Meyer and the standard that he set at Ohio State.
But one year later, he has shown just how far he has come and how much he has accomplished.
The Buckeyes are the No. 1 team in the nation and have been the most dominant team in college football all season long. Some have even said this is the best OSU football team they have ever seen.
There have been 25 coaches in Ohio State’s 130 year history, but Day is just the second OSU coach to start his career 15-0, joining his mentor Meyer who set the all-time school record with 24 consecutive wins in 2012 and 2013 to open his tenure.
Still focused on the postseason ahead, Day isn’t quite ready to reflect on the year that he has had.
“I’m looking forward to reflecting on it, everything that’s gone on this year,” Day said this week. “But I don’t think now is the time. I really want to get this team ready, get the coaching staff ready to go win this game.”
But Day’s players and assistant coaches had nothing but good things to say about the Coach of the Year as a person beyond the game, as well as the coach on the field. Every player and coach that spoke with the media this week raved about Day.
“Coach Day, man he’s a great dude just personally,” senior wide receiver Austin Mack said. “I can go in and talk to him. I do a lot of things off the field, as a man he loves to just sit down and talk to you and open up. His office is always open he says ‘just come in and hang out, you don’t even have to talk to me just come hang out. I want to be with you guys.’ He’s just a great guy period.”
Mack’s love for Day, however, continues on the field.
“As a coach man he’s a fighter. That’s really been his motto all year, but he’s really about it,” Mack said. “I mean you can see the passion and joy in his eyes. Even after this past win it’s great, he’s a great leader and inspiration. I love being able to play for this guy. He’s a great coach.”
Co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Jeff Hafley has a long standing history with Day. Still, he is impressed with the season the Buckeyes have had under Day’s leadership. In his mind, there was no question that Day deserved the Coach of the Year honors.
“First-year head coach, takes over a job that is obviously one of the best jobs there is, but first-year head coach, goes undefeated through the regular season, had some things he had to go through the season, the way he handled it, the way these players play for him, the way these players care about him,” Hafley began.
“Take out the record, the way he treats these players and the staff and the way these players play for him and the way these coaches coach for him and then combine that with the record. I don’t think there’s a better coach in the country.”