Jack looks back | Ryan Day Becomes Ohio State's 25th football coach

Jack Park / For The Columbus Dispatch
Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day leads his team onto the field prior to the NCAA football game against Oregon State at Ohio Stadium in Columbus on Sept. 1, 2018. [Adam Cairns]

Ohio State will open its 130th season of college football against Florida Atlantic with a noon kickoff Saturday at Ohio Stadium. It will be the first meeting between the two schools. Ryan Day will take charge of the Buckeyes’ program after spending the 2017 and 2018 seasons as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. During these two seasons, Buckeyes quarterbacks combined for 90 touchdown passes, the most by any team in the country. Ohio State is Day’s first head-coaching position. He served as the school’s acting head coach during the first three games of 2018.

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Day, age 40, grew up in Manchester, New Hampshire, where he was the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year as a record-setting quarterback and defensive back during his senior year of 1997 at Manchester Central High School. As a quarterback at the University of New Hampshire, Day established school records for touchdown passes and completion percentage (1998 through 2001 seasons). His offensive coordinator and mentor at New Hampshire was Chip Kelly, currently the head coach at UCLA. Before joining the Ohio State staff in 2017, Day worked 15 seasons as an assistant coach, 13 in college and two in the NFL. He was a graduate assistant at the University of Florida under head coach Urban Meyer in 2005.

Day is the 25th head coach to take the reins of one of college football’s most successful programs. The majority of his 24 predecessors have done well during their first games and first seasons leading the Scarlet and Gray. Twenty-two of the 24 were victorious in their first games. Jack Ryder is the lone coach to lose his initial contest as head coach, being defeated at Oberlin 40-0 in 1892. Paul Bixler’s first OSU game was a 13-13 tie at home against Missouri in 1946.

Eighteen of these 24 coaches established a winning record their first year, five suffered a losing mark, and Charles Hickey ended his initial season in 1896 with a tally of 5-5-1. Two coaches had perfect records their first seasons. Carroll Widdoes led the Buckeyes to a 9-0 finish in 1944 and Urban Meyer’s 2012 squad ended its year at 12-0. Three other coaches lost just one game during their initial year: Albert Herrstein, 8-1 in 1906; Francis Schmidt, 7-1 in 1934; and Earle Bruce, 11-1 in 1979.

The Buckeyes had 11 different head coaches during their first 23 seasons (1890-1912), five of them staying just one season and three others only two years. Day is just the 14th leader of the program over the last 107 years (1913-2019). Woody Hayes is the longest-tenured coach with 28 seasons (1951-1978, 205-61-10), John Wilce is second with 16 years (1913-1928, 78-33-9), and John Cooper is third with 13 campaigns (1988-2000, 111-43-4).

Ohio State owns a highly successful record of 113-12-4 over its first 129 season-openers. A 42-0 triumph over Akron at home in 2011 is OSU’s last shutout in a season-opener. Penn State’s overpowering 19-0 victory at Ohio Stadium in 1978 is the last time the Buckeyes were blanked in a season’s first game. This contest also marked Woody Hayes’ final year as Ohio State’s head coach. It came 15 years before the Nittany Lions became a member of the Big Ten in 1993. A 23-12 loss to the University of Miami in the 1999 Kickoff Classic, played at the New Jersey Meadowlands, is the last time the Buckeyes lost a season-opener.

Enjoy the 2019 season!