Things may be awkward for Day with Meyer nearby

Rob Oller
Incoming Ohio State head football coach and current offensive coordinator Ryan Day listens to outgoing head coach Urban Meyer during a press conference to announce Meyer's retirement and Day's hiring as head football coach at Ohio State's Fawcett Center in Columbus on Dec. 4, 2018. [Adam Cairns]

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith has retirement plans for Urban Meyer, including having the football coach work with donors and prepare assistant coaches to become head coaches.

Smith also knows what he expects Meyer not to do. One specific no-no: unsolicited advice for new coach Ryan Day.

That potential risk is on everyone’s mind, right? With Meyer retiring Jan. 3 but likely remaining on the scene — possibly with an office in the football facility — what will it be like for Day to have his former boss and current Buckeyes legend looking over his shoulder? Or at least observing how the football program progresses with a first-time head coach running the show?

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Smith is adamant that Meyer understands the boundaries and will abide by them. But just in case, Smith will monitor the situation closely.

“Urban understands that the football program on Jan. 3 is Ryan Day’s. Period. He makes all the personnel and strategy decisions,” Smith said Thursday on WOSU radio. “Now, if Ryan decides, ‘I’ve got an iconic, successful football coach (in Meyer), I’m going to go get some advice on this particular piece,’ he has access to him. Urban understands that very clearly, that he doesn’t jump into that space unless asked.”

Smith’s firm stance should be applauded, but the devil may be in the details.

Example: Meyer’s son-in-law, Corey Dennis, serves as a graduate assistant/quality control coach for the Buckeyes who works closely with Day and the quarterbacks. Does Day give up his role as quarterbacks coach (likely) and promote Dennis to the position? How would that play out for public consumption, considering the 26-year-old has limited experience?

I’m not saying it would be a mistake to elevate Dennis, who might turn out to be an excellent QB coach, but the potential awkward challenge facing Day is obvious, especially if he opts to bring in a quarterbacks coach from outside. Dennis could remain in his current role, or decide to look for another opportunity, which could mean Meyer’s daughter and 2-year-old grandson leaving the area, too. How would that affect the relationship between Day and Meyer?

That is just one of multiple possibilities concerning Meyer’s continued presence around the program. But there are many positives, too, including Day having the ability to bounce ideas off a coach with a .901 winning percentage at Ohio State. Day would be foolish not to invite Meyer into some conversations.

Smith stressed that Day and Meyer will not struggle working out the parameters of Urban’s reach.

“It’s all about people’s relationships,” Smith said. “Me, Urban and Ryan Day, we’re joined at the hip. We have personalities where we check our egos and do what’s right for our student-athletes and Buckeye Nation.”

Of course, Meyer might not want to perform the duties Smith has in mind.

“It’s kind of a smorgasbord of different things, but we’ll have something together for him by the time he’s done in January,” Smith said after his WOSU radio appearance. “Right now, he wants to do something here, but I always try to be humanistic with people when they’re going through transition. I think he really needs to take his space with his family, particularly (his wife) Shelley, and really think through things. My hope is he comes back, because I’d love to have him, but he may choose to do something else.”

Meyer would be an asset to the university and football program. As for risk, ultimately it is up to Day to establish and enforce ground rules. The new sheriff in town needs to act like it, especially with the old sheriff not exactly riding into the sunset.


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