Ohio State football coach Ryan Day exceeds expectations in annual performance evaluation

Joey Kaufman
Buckeye Xtra
Ryan Day received glowing praise on his performance review of the 2019-20 season after leading Ohio State to the College Football Playoff for the first time in three years.

Ryan Day exceeded expectations in his first season leading Ohio State’s football program, according to an annual performance evaluation led by athletic director Gene Smith.

The 2019-20 season review, which was conducted last June, was released by the school on Friday in response to a public-records request from The Dispatch.

In a two-page letter, Smith went over on-field and off-field areas in which Day had stood out while succeeding former coach Urban Meyer.

“Your first year leading our football student athletes exceeded my expectations,” Smith wrote. “The academic and athletic success we recognized in the 2019-2020 academic year was extraordinary.”

Highlighted areas included a combined 3.27 grade-point average achieved by players, as well as an unbeaten regular season and Big Ten championship, allowing the Buckeyes to clinch a berth in the College Football Playoff.

Their season ended when they suffered a 29-23 loss to Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl. It was Day’s first loss.

“While the outcome of our semifinal was a heartbreaking loss for our young men and Buckeye Nation, I couldn’t be more proud of the performance of our team and staff for the successful year they had,” Smith wrote.

The Buckeyes had missed out on the playoff in previous seasons in 2018 and 2017, undone by a loss in the Big Ten.  

Prior to the performance review, Day already made a favorable impression on his boss.

In February 2020, he received a pay raise and three-contract extension running through 2026. In a statement at the time, Smith remarked that his mentorship and leadership had proved “exceptional.”

No performance evaluation has been released for Day following his second season at the helm.

Last fall, he led the Buckeyes to the College Football Playoff final in a season that was shortened because of the coronavirus pandemic. Ohio State finished 7-1 overall.

As part of the 2019-20 evaluation, Smith also praised Day’s effort in establishing a strong culture for the program.

It was critical last spring as the Buckeyes had seen workouts shut down due to the pandemic, and many players returned to their hometowns before athletics facilities on campus re-opened in June.

Players spent several months training alone or in small groups without the supervision of the coaching staff.    

The murder of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, by police in Minneapolis on Memorial Day weekend, also drew the attention of the team, and players organized a demonstration outside Ohio Stadium.

“As we head into these times of uncertainty due to the pandemic, and calls for social justice reform, it is that strong culture that allows us to support these young men and help them manage the adversity they are going through," Smith wrote. "This will not be an easy road moving forward, but with your leadership guiding our team, I couldn’t be more optimistic about what our future brings.

"It will be more important than ever this upcoming year to focus on the mental health of our student-athletes. These are unprecedented times they are going through and there is no playbook for how to help them navigate it. We need to ensure they are connected to the resources we provide, and also staying connected to each other. Team and family are important now more than ever."

In a recent interview with The Dispatch, Day discussed how he sought to prioritize mental health among the team last year as the pandemic provided a number of challenges for players.