When Urban Meyer was placed on administrative leave this summer following the Zach Smith accusations, Gene Smith could have picked two coaches on Ohio State’s staff to fill in who had head coaching experience.
But instead of tapping Greg Schiano or Kevin Wilson, Ohio State’s athletic director chose Ryan Day, who had not been more than an offensive coordinator in his 16 years of coaching.
>>Video: Five things to know about Ohio State's next coach Ryan Day
By then, Day had already established himself as a rising star in the coaching ranks. Ohio State had already given him a substantial raise in February to $1 million after the Tennessee Titans reportedly offered him their offensive coordinator job. A Southeastern Conference team also reportedly offered him a head coaching job.
By all accounts, Day performed well as acting coach while Meyer was away from the team, including the first three games of the season after Meyer was formally suspended.Join the conversation at Facebook.com/groups/BuckeyeXtraFans and connect with us on Twitter @BuckeyeXtra
Now Day, 39, will take over for the retiring Meyer for good. Day will be formally announced as the Buckeyes’ 25th coach at a 2 p.m. press conference on Tuesday. He will succeed Meyer on Jan. 2 after Ohio State’s Rose Bowl game against Washington.
His contract is for five years and a source said the salary will be in the $4 million per year range.
“We've had a tremendous amount of guys to go on to become great head coaches,” Meyer said Friday before Ohio State’s Big Ten championship game against Northwestern. “Ryan Day is elite. I've said that many, many times.”
Day has served as offensive co-coordinator with Wilson the last two years as well as coaching quarterbacks. When Day and Wilson were hired after the 2016 season, the belief was that Wilson would hold more clout based on his experience and offensive success as a coordinator and head coach at Indiana.
>>Video: Tim May talks about Urban Meyer's retirement, Ryan Day as the new coach
But it quickly became clear within the Woody Hayes Athletic Center that Day was a special coach. In 2016, J.T. Barrett was named Big Ten quarterback of the year while setting numerous school and conference records.
This year, Dwayne Haskins Jr. broke most of those records and several others and is now a Heisman Trophy finalist.
Former Ohio State quarterback Joe Burrow, who transferred to LSU after losing a close competition with Haskins this spring, raved about Day in comments today to The Dispatch.
“He brought a certain credibility to our room that helped us all reach our potential,” Burrow said. “What was unique about him was that he didn’t just know the X’s and O’s. He understood the nuances of being a leader.
“He understood that every person is different and when you try to coach them, you have to coach everybody differently. If you try to coach everybody the same, they will not listen. He not only knew it, but taught it to the quarterbacks.
“I think that is what will allow him to be wildly successful as a head coach. I wouldn’t be the player or person I am today without coach Day.”
Burrow, who had a successful season as a starter for the Sugar Bowl-bound Tigers, said that telling Day that he was going to transfer “was absolutely one of the hardest things about leaving.”
Day came to Ohio State with 15 years of coaching experience, including two as a quarterback coach in the NFL under his mentor, Chip Kelly (2015 with Philadelphia and 2016 with San Francisco).
Day played quarterback for Kelly at the University of New Hampshire when Kelly was his position coach and offensive coordinator.
Day, a Manchester, N.H., native, graduated with a degree in business administration in 2002. He earned his master’s from Boston College in 2004.
He and his wife, Christina, have a son, Ryan Jr., and two daughters, Grace and Ourania.