As is the case with most major decisions in life, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer’s choice Tuesday to call it a career — one of the elite runs in major college football — was complicated.
“As I’m reflecting now, it’s been a fast 48 hours,” Meyer said of finally coming to the decision to retire after 17 years as a head coach, the last seven at OSU. “This would be a really tough day if (the program) were a mess.” But he is comforted “to be able to know that we did right, or feel we did right.”
Citing primarily the discomfort he has dealt with for years because of the arachnoid cyst in his skull — a condition that came back with a vengeance in the past couple of months — and secondarily the three-game suspension he dealt with at the beginning of this season after the school’s investigation of his handling of former assistant coach Zach Smith, Meyer opted to retire because he thought the time was right.
“That was a very difficult time,” Meyer, 54, said of the suspension. “But ... I've had to deal with the headaches for many years, and it came to a head in 2014 and again last year and this year as well. As difficult a time as that was (with the suspension), that didn't have an impact as much as the headaches. But it did have an impact.”
The school immediately named Ryan Day, the offensive coordinator, as its 25th head coach.
>>Video: Watch the entire Ohio State News Conference
Meyer will serve through the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1 against Washington before handing the program over fully to Day, who steered the Buckeyes through preseason camp and the first three games of this season while Meyer served his suspension.
“My goal has always been to make this one of the premier and most comprehensive programs in America,” Meyer said. “It's always been a goal to see a healthy, strong program handed to an elite coach and person to make it even better.
He added, “I hired Ryan Day (two years ago) because I thought he was very good coach. What I found out is he is far past those thoughts. He is elite.”
Day, 39, said he understood from day one the expectations of the place.
>>Video: Five things to know about Ohio State's next coach Ryan Day
"It is to win the rivalry game, then every game after that,” Day said, provoking laughter.
But he knows it’s more complicated. He is replacing one of the best to ever coach in Meyer, a three-time national championship winner (twice at Florida) who, with a career record at four schools of 186-32, is third on the all-time winning-percentage list behind Notre Dame greats Knute Rockne and Frank Leahy.
Day received credit for the first three wins this season, but Meyer otherwise is 82-9 through seven seasons at Ohio State.>> Complete coverage: Urban Meyer/Zach Smith investigation
It’s a program that won the first College Football Playoff national title in 2014, that just won its second-straight Big Ten championship (and third overall under Meyer), and that just beat Michigan for the seventh straight time. It’s also one that has gained acclaim for its “Real Life Wednesdays” program, an annual job fair for players, and the further emphasis that Meyer put on the academic side while still winning big.
“You have my word that I am going to give everything I have to continue the excellence and tradition for winning that this program has,” said Day, who agreed to a five-year contract worth $4.5 million per year.
Meyer, meanwhile, will see his contract, which was to pay him $7.6 million this year, end with the bowl game, athletic director Gene Smith said. Smith added that the two will discuss terms of Meyer's continuing in an administrative capacity.
>>Video: Tim May talks about Urban Meyer's retirement, Ryan Day as the new coach
Smith thanked Meyer for helping to set up the succession plan with Day, something that Meyer said he showed interest in after Day’s first season with the Buckeyes in 2017.
“We all strive to do that, to leave a place better than we found it, and hopefully leaving it in the hands of someone who has the capacity to do it better than us,” Smith said. “We're fortunate to have had Ryan in our presence to be able to develop that. He has proven that he's ready for this challenge during these last two years.”
Despite speculation that Meyer probably isn’t done coaching — that just like the way he left Florida in 2010, citing health concerns after six seasons, he will pop up again — he laid that notion to rest. Sort of.
“I believe I will not coach again,” Meyer said. “Fairly certain.”Join the conversation at Facebook.com/groups/BuckeyeXtraFans and connect with us on Twitter @BuckeyeXtra
Then, when asked what he thinks his legacy will be, he didn’t mention wins or the three national titles that put his name up there with the current elites in the game, Alabama’s Nick Saban and Clemson’s Dabo Swinney, but he did offer his longest comment of the news conference.
“I hope it's the truth,” Meyer said. “The truth is that you have a football coach who has devoted 33 years of my life to the love of student-athletes, and not just on the football field. I've never treated a player as No. 36 or a number. I've gotten to know their families. I want to make sure — and we, WE, have even taken that to the nth degree now that we want 100 percent job placement when they're done playing. They deserve that.
“I learned that lesson when my daughter was being recruited. No one talked about — they never talked about jersey numbers and locker rooms. And I don't do that anymore. I talk about the incredible experience that you have at a place like Ohio State, and if you act right, do right, you'll have a job. I — we guarantee that."