Reality has set in for Ryan Day, or at least the reality of uncertainty regarding the 2020 college football season.
In a previous teleconference with reporters three weeks ago, the Ohio State coach did his best to avoid speculating about the possibility of an altered or canceled season.
On a conference call Wednesday, as evidence mounts that a quick return to normal from the COVID-19 pandemic seems remote, Day acknowledged the changed landscape.
"I think there's been more conversations about what some options are," Day said. "We (coaches) are doing that on a weekly basis, trying to give our input. Certainly, it's going to come down to the different task forces and committees that have come together and the medical authorities on where we start with this."
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Day said it is too early, and the variables too numerous, for anyone to have settled on a contingency plan. He said the priority must be public health and the safety and well-being of the players.
"I think there are a lot of smart people in the world and a lot of smart people in college football and the NCAA," he said. "And I think we'll come up with a great solution if we put our minds to it. But there are still so many unknowns. It's hard to move anything. I do think we can create some models of different plans based on (when we can) return to play."
Day said that any football is preferable to no football, assuming it’s deemed safe to play. That means he’s open to a schedule consisting of conference games only or playing in stadiums without spectators, though he said "that would be eerie, for sure."
If the season is shortened, that could be a rationale for expanding the College Football Playoff from four teams to eight or even 16.
"Anything’s worth considering," Day said.
All of this uncertainty comes at a time when Day hoped to have a semblance of tranquility for the first time as a coach. He was a typically nomadic assistant in college and the NFL until coming to Ohio State after the 2016 season.
After serving as acting coach at the start of the 2018 season, Day led the Buckeyes to a dominating 13-0 record last year before losing in the CFP semifinals.
"Once we got done with the season and got into spring ball," Day said, "that was kind of the first time in about two years where I took half a deep breath and was like, ‘OK, I'm kind of getting my feet in the ground here.’"
Then spring practice was canceled in mid-March because of the pandemic. Day has been leading the program from his Delaware home since the Woody Hayes Athletic Center was closed.
The Buckeyes have stayed connected through social media, phone calls and texts. Players are scattered throughout the country as they finish the academic semester through online instruction.
"I think our staff is doing an excellent job," Day said. "We have unbelievable communication right now with our players through Zoom and phone calls with the parents and parents meetings on Zoom. I couldn't give any higher praise to our staff."
He has challenged the players to treat this time as a test of their maturity. They have to do what they can to stay in shape and engaged on their own.
"I think it’s going to make us stronger in that it gives them some personal accountability in not always having a coach bark at them," Day said. "I think it’s (also) going to bring our team closer together because when you talk to our team right now and our coaches, we just miss each other.
"That’s probably the hardest part of all this. We don’t get to hang around and be around our team. I keep telling the guys, ‘I miss you guys and I can’t wait to get back together.’"