Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, seen here in a game against Maryland in College Park on Nov. 17, will announce his retirement from coaching today, according to reports. ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTO
The most widely held insinuation in college football will become a reality this afternoon: Multiple news sources are reporting that Ohio State has called a 2 p.m. news conference at which head coach Urban Meyer will announce his retirement from coaching effective at the end of the Buckeyes’ Rose Bowl matchup with Washington. Cleveland.com is reporting that health reasons are a major factor in Meyer’s decision.
The Buckeyes will promote 39-year-old offensive coordinator Ryan Day to the head coaching position after the bowl game.
Meyer’s departure from the Buckeyes sideline has been an oft-made prediction since September. He was suspended the first three games of the season by the university for mishandling allegations of domestic abuse against a longtime assistant coach, and during a slew of games this season, Meyer’s sideline gesticulations have come under the microscope, with many opining that either the health issues that already led to one short-lived retirement from college football — following Florida’s Outback Bowl win over Penn State after the 2010 season — had returned.
Whatever the reason, the impact of his impending departure will be discussed not just this bowl season, but well into the summer of 2019 as the Buckeyes — always a favorite in the Big Ten — adjust to life without him. In seven seasons with the Buckeyes, he is 82-9 overall, leading them to the 2014 national championship. He was also 7-0 against rival Michigan, including the coup de gras, a 62-39 walloping of the favored Wolverines in Columbus on Nov. 24 that essentially eliminated Michigan from the Big Ten Championship Game and a likely berth in the College Football Playoff.
No question, this will be more than just talk over the next half year. There will be some ramifications to this move for both Ohio State and the other teams comprising the rough-and-tumble Big Ten East division. Whether they’ll be major ramifications or relatively minor ones remains to be seen, of course. But you better believe the rest of the division is not taking this change at the top of its premiere program’s ranks isn’t going to go shrugged-upon by other coaches.
Here are some things to consider:
There are two realities here that need to be addressed.
One is that Ohio State was a great program before Meyer, that Ryan Day is a terrific recruiter, and there are reports circulating that at least most of the current Ohio State staff will be coming back with Day next year.
If you're just waking up to the Meyer retirement news, I've learned that Ryan Stamper (off-field player development), Mickey Marotti (strength coach), Mark Pantoni (recruiting) and Brian Voltolini (football operations are all staying at OSU. Those are Meyer's key people.
— Bill Rabinowitz (@brdispatch) December 4, 2018
The other reality is that recruits like stability. They like big-name coaches at the top of programs. And the biggest ones who would consider programs like Ohio State are also going to be targets for Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State and the like.
Take a prospect like five-star defensive end recruit Zach Harrison, for example. He’s the consensus top recruit in the nation at his position, and guess what three teams seem to be ahead of the dozens of others that have extended scholarship offers his way: Yep…Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State.
It’s likely that he’d be classified as the player atop the wish list for all three schools, but Harrison is from Ohio and has visited the Buckeyes and Penn State a lot over the last few years. Conceivably, could Meyer’s departure be a boon for either Michigan or Penn State? What about for the other prospects deciding between two or three or four schools in the Big Ten East? It will be interesting to watch how recruiting without an absolute lynchpin of a closer like Meyer is affected over the long term for Ohio State, but it stands to reason that the near-term won’t go without some residual affect of the resignation.
An opening for Harbaugh?
There have only been three coaches who have led teams to the Big Ten Championship since Urban Meyer took over at Ohio State before the 2012 season: Bret Bielema, Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio and Penn State’s James Franklin, and Bielema’s win with Wisconsin in 2012 came in a year Ohio State went unbeaten but was sanctioned.
Never having beaten Meyer’s Buckeyes will be a stain on Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh’s resume as long as he coaches the Wolverines, but the future will dictate how big a mark it really will be.
This will be a big year for Michigan, both trying to build off a largely very successful 2018 season (the Ohio State loss aside), and now with a rare chance to recruit against Ohio State in a year of transition.
Of course, there’s also this caveat: Michigan loses a ton of talent on the defensive side of the ball, and there will be some big NFL jobs opening. Might the lure of the Green Bay Packers or another NFL team — and the money that comes with it — finally get Harbaugh back to where most experts seem to think he’ll wind up again anyway?
The pressure on Franklin?
Penn State made Franklin one of the highest-paid head coaches in the nation in the summer of 2017 coming off the Nittany Lions’ magical run to the Big Ten title in 2016. But Penn State has had Ohio State on the ropes each of the last two seasons and not finished the Buckeyes off. In 2017, they had a team talented enough to perhaps make a run at a College Football Playoff berth and didn’t get the job done. This season, Penn State was within a few late collapses, against the Buckeyes and Michigan State, of somehow being in that conversation…but didn’t get the job done.
See the trend?
If you’re of the mindset that a great coach is worth a few points every Saturday, Meyer has probably bought the Buckeyes more than a few wins over the years. Next season though, Ohio State will be ultra-talented as always, but they won’t have Meyer in a year when it stands to reason that Penn State will be very, very good defensively. Sure, Franklin and the Nittany Lions have to figure out what’s going on with the quarterback position — Is Tommy Stevens the answer? Is Sean Clifford ready, if not? — but they’ll conceivably be returning a good offensive line and talented skill players. They might be the favorite in the Big Ten East anyway, but with Day relatively unproven and Michigan’s defense taking some hits, there will be legitimate focus next year on Penn State taking another step.
Hey, there’s always the possibility that Ohio State can get quite a bit better, even without a legendary coach leading the charge.
After all, that legendary coach got showered — and rightfully so — with a lot of criticism this year for his handling of Zach Smith, and it brought to the fore the disciplinary issues his players couldn’t avoid at Florida, where there were more than 30 player arrests in his six seasons at the helm.
It just might benefit the Buckeyes to get away from that scrutiny and start anew with Day in charge. There will be a lot of pressure on him for sure, and I’m not sure this is exactly a Lincoln Riley-type situation — Riley got the Oklahoma job when Bob Stoops retired in June, not essentially two weeks before signing day — but like Riley, Day is a highly regarded young coach. And he was in charge of the Buckeyes for the duration of Meyer’s suspension earlier this season.
And he went 3-0, with blowout wins over Oregon State and Rutgers and an impressive domination of TCU. Ohio State started showing some cracks that kept it out of the playoff as the season went on, but that was after Meyer came back. The team responded well to Day, and maybe he can build a new dynasty in Columbus boosted by a strong start for a program that could use a bit of a break from the controversy.