Following a rocky and scandal-plagued season, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer announced Tuesday that he will retire from coaching at the end of the season. Meyer will patrol the sidelines for the Buckeyes one last time when the team takes on Washington in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day.
Meyer will be replaced by Ryan Day, effective January 2.
Meyer has dealt with a number of health problems over the years, most notably an arachnoid cyst on his brain that causes severe headaches, particularly during times of stress. Meyer’s symptoms have gotten worse over the last few years after his initial diagnosis in 1998. Meyer has often been seen rubbing his head and wincing on the sidelines during games.
Meyer said numerous times during the season that he planned to stay in his current position next season before abruptly announcing his decision to retire on Tuesday. Ohio State struggled with consistency this season, but Meyer’s attitude and disposition reportedly took a turn for the better over the last two weeks. Not coincidentally, Ohio State beat rivals Michigan and then topped Northwestern in the Big 10 Championship Game in the last couple of weeks.
However, the impressive late-season performances were not enough to get the Buckeyes into the College Football Playoff, as they were beaten out for the fourth and final spot by Big 12 champion Oklahoma.
The timing is important, as Ohio State wanted to get the news of Meyer’s departure out before the upcoming early signing period for new recruits, which starts December 19 and ends on the 21st. The school believes its decision to replace Meyer with somebody already on the coaching staff shows a commitment to continuity. Day has been serving as Meyer’s offensive coordinator.
Day is about to complete his second season on Meyer’s staff. The 39-year-old previously worked under Chip Kelly when Kelly was the head coach of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers. Day has reportedly turned down a number of other collegiate head coaching offers in the past, as well as the chance to become the offensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans in 2017. This is Day’s first season as Ohio State’s playcaller after spending last season as the team’s co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
Day got a taste of the job earlier this season when he served as the interim head coach while Meyer was serving his 3-game suspension. Meyer was suspended by Ohio State for his mishandling of the situation involving one of his former assistants, Zach Smith. Earlier in the year, Smith’s ex-wife, Courtney, accused Meyer and others inside Ohio State’s football program of essentially ignoring accusations of domestic abuse she had made of her ex-husband.
Ohio State then invited a third party to investigate the matter. The investigation determined that Meyer had not acted properly in his decision to keep Smith employed in spite of the accusations. It was not the first red flag involving Smith, either, and Meyer subsequently dodged questions regarding the situation during Big 10 media day in July.
Meyer eventually claimed that his own relationship with Smith’s grandfather, Earle Bruce, negatively affected his judgment when deciding how to deal with the situation. The investigation revealed some text messages between Meyer and Smith that showed that Meyer knew of the accusations against the latter. Meyer ultimately fired Smith in July.
Ohio State has a sexual misconduct policy that requires university employees to report allegations, proven or unproven, of domestic violence by another faculty or staff member. Clearly, Meyer (and others within the Ohio State program) failed to do so.
Meyer ultimately issued an apology that said, “I want to apologize for Buckeye Nation. I followed my heart, not my head. I gave Zach Smith the benefit of the doubt…I should have been more demanding of him.”
Later in the month Meyer tried to change the subject when he announced that the cyst had been giving him severe headaches and that it could ultimately end his coaching career. At the time, Meyer said he would continue to coach Ohio State “as long as I can.”
Day first worked for Meyer while the two were at the University of Florida back in 2005. Day was a graduate assistant on Meyer’s staff. He subsequently served as the offensive coordinator at Temple and Boston College, where he worked on the staff of head coach Steve Addazio, a former Meyer assistant.
Of course, this is not the first time Meyer has announced his retirement from coaching. Meyer stepped down as the head coach at Florida in 2010. He claimed that he did so in order to address his health and spend more time with his family. However, Meyer spent most of the following season as a traveling ESPN analyst before taking the head coaching gig at Ohio State in November of 2011.
Meyer’s tenure in Columbus has been quite successful. He has an overall record of 82-9 with the Buckeyes and he led the team to a national championship in 2014. Ohio State won 3 Big 10 championships under his watch, and the Buckeyes have finished in the top-6 of the end-of-season rankings in 5 of the last 6 years.
Meyer was also a perfect 7-0 against arch rivals Michigan, which is a strong mark for any Ohio State head coach. The Buckeyes’ 62-39 victory over the Wolverines was the largest margin of victory Meyer enjoyed in his 7 meetings with Michigan. The team won 90.1 percent of the games he coached, which is the best mark in the history of the program. Jim Tressel (82.8 percent), Earle Bruce (75.5 percent) and Woody Hayes (76.1) are Nos. 2 through 4.
Meyer has an outstanding overall record of 186-32 as a head coach in the college ranks. His other previous stops include Utah and Bowling Green. He has racked up a total of 3 national championships and 7 conference titles during his career.
Meyer said he believed the Buckeyes deserved a chance in the College Football Playoff after his team’s 45-24 win over Northwestern in the Big 10 Championship Game. He told reporters, “We were up and down. And that’s what happens when you have some injuries you’re dealing with. You have a little bit of adversity to deal with. And not many teams out there are perfect. But we’re 12-1 champions of arguably the best conference in America.”
This will be the first time Meyer will have coached in the Rose Bowl. After it was revealed Ohio State will be playing in the game, Meyer said, “I dreamt of it. We came close a few times. I know Florida one time I thought we were close to going. Then here in 2014 I thought we were going. There was one other time that I thought we were going, and we didn’t. And no disrespect to the other bowl games, because they’re awesome, but the Rose is one we’ve always looked forward to.”
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