Urban Meyer is retiring as Ohio State‘s coach after the Rose Bowl, and offensive coordinator Ryan Day will take over as head coach beginning Jan. 2, the school announced.
Meyer, who has coached Ohio State for the past seven seasons, will formally announce he’s stepping down at a 2 p.m. news conference in Columbus alongside Day and athletic director Gene Smith. The 54-year-old has battled the effects of an arachnoid cyst on his brain, which causes severe headaches, especially when under stress. The cyst was diagnosed in 1998 but worsened the past few years, and Meyer dropped to his knees on the sideline during an October game against Indiana and often looked distressed during games, rubbing his head and wincing.
Meyer repeatedly said he planned on coaching in 2019, but uncertainty remained, even after Meyer seemed to improve in recent weeks and Ohio State won the Big Ten championship in beating Northwestern on Saturday. Several Ohio State staff members told ESPN after the game that they noticed a positive change in Meyer the past two weeks. Smith denied a Football Scoop report last week that Meyer would not coach past the 2019 season and Day would take over as head coach. Meyer declined to comment when asked about the report.
Meyer on Friday called Day “elite” and, when asked about Day’s future career opportunities, said, “Certainly now is not that time, this week is not the time. But there will be a time.”
Ohio State wanted to announce Meyer’s plans before the early signing period (Dec. 19-21) and with most of the coaching staff on the road recruiting. Naming Day as Meyer’s successor shows a commitment to continuity with the staff for 2019 and beyond.
Day, 39, is in his second season on the Buckeyes’ staff after previously working for Chip Kelly with the San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles. The New Hampshire native turned down college head-coaching opportunities and the Tennessee Titans‘ offensive coordinator job after the 2017 season. He was mentioned as a candidate for college head-coaching jobs this year but never strongly pursued any. Day served as Ohio State’s co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2017 before being promoted to the primary coordinator and playcalling role this season.
Day served as Ohio State’s acting head coach for the first three games this season after the school suspended Meyer for mishandling the employment of former assistant coach Zach Smith. The Buckeyes went 3-0 under Day, including a win over TCU in Arlington, Texas, before Meyer returned to the sideline Sept. 22 against Tulane.
The university suspended Meyer two days before training camp in August when Smith’s ex-wife, Courtney Smith, accused Meyer and others within the football program during an interview with Stadium of turning a blind eye to accusations of abuse she made against her ex-husband. Ohio State appointed a special group to investigate the situation, and after several weeks determined that Meyer had not acted properly in keeping Smith on staff despite a history of troubling behavior and did not represent the school well when he failed to tell the truth while answering questions about Smith’s past during Big Ten media days in late July.
Meyer said his close relationship with Zach Smith’s grandfather, Earle Bruce, clouded his judgment when making decisions about the troubled former assistant. Meyer considered Bruce, a former Buckeyes head coach who died in April, his mentor and a father figure in the coaching world.
Ohio State released some of the documents that its special committee used in its investigation, including text messages that raised doubt about how forthcoming Meyer was when news of Smith’s past transgressions first came to light this summer. Three months after completing its investigation, Ohio State has not yet shared the bulk of the public records generated during its investigation. A university spokesman said last week that the school was still reviewing the material to make sure any private information was not shared.
The report also indicated that Meyer used medication that affected his memory. Meyer said that his health issues did not affect his coaching when asked about that medication in early September.
Day, a former quarterback for Kelly at the University of New Hampshire, first worked for Meyer as a graduate assistant at Florida in 2005. He later served as offensive coordinator at both Temple and Boston College, working for former Meyer assistant Steve Addazio.
Meyer also stepped down as Florida’s coach, first in December 2009 before returning to the team and then for good in 2010. Health was a factor then, too, but not the same issues that affected him this season. After spending 2011 as an ESPN analyst, Meyer accepted the Ohio State job on Nov. 28, 2011.
Meyer is 82-9 as Buckeyes coach and 54-4 in Big Ten play with seven division titles (shared or outright), three conference championships and a national championship after the 2014 season, the first year of the College Football Playoff. His teams finished in the top six of the final rankings in five of the previous six seasons. Meyer went 7-0 against archrival Michigan, including a 62-39 victory on Nov. 24. He won 90.1 percent of his games at Ohio State, the best percentage in school history, ahead of Jim Tressel (82.8), Bruce (75.5) and Woody Hayes (76.1).
Meyer is 186-32 as a college head coach at Ohio State, Florida, Utah and Bowling Green with three national championships and seven conference championships.
Meyer said after beating Northwestern 45-24 on Saturday for the Big Ten championship that he would never forget the 2018 Ohio State team.