Ohio State University Football Media Conference
Tuesday, December 4, 2018
GENE SMITH: Let me thank all of you for being here. I appreciate you taking your time. As you know, the announcement has already been made about the decision of Urban Meyer and his family, our head football coach, and our decision to hire Ryan Day.
Before I have Urban come up I just wanted to say a few words. Please bear with me. This is a great time in our history to have an opportunity to recognize a coach and a family who’s done such a tremendous job for our student-athletes and Buckeye Nation and our community, but also to welcome in a new leader.
First and foremost, I want to thank our president, Michael Drake. I want to thank our trustees. I want to thank my colleagues on the President’s Cabinet for supporting us in this process that we’re going through right now. I want to thank the football players who were notified this morning for their great work. Want to thank them for their Big Ten Championship and wish them the best in the Rose Bowl.
I can still vividly recall when I met Urban and Shelley in a hotel room in Atlanta to invite them to be a part of Buckeye Nation. That time was filled with promise. We knew we were getting an elite coach. When he went 12-0 in the first season we realized Urban was really going to be a game-changer. What Urban has brought to Buckeye Nation by far exceeded expectations. Not only has he elevated the quality and status of our program, but his presence has elevated Big Ten football.
To compete with Urban-coached teams, the Big Ten colleagues have had to elevate their programs. Urban has a very, very special gift. He’s an elite coach. His Ohio State teams excel both on and off the field. And I emphasize off the field. He was a brilliant leader of men. His command of football strategy is second to none. He’s a tireless recruiter and an innovator in creating programs for student-athletes beyond the field.
The Wednesday Life program is certainly an elite program. A hallmark of great leadership is to leave a program better than you found it. There’s little doubt that Urban has done that. Buckeye Nation is deeply grateful for the peak experiences we’ve all had cheering for his magnificent teams.
Shelley and Urban are also leaders in this community, especially Shelley. They are called upon often to donate their time and resources, and they’ve always stepped up to do that.
While we’ve enjoyed an incredible run, I also recognize the toll that it takes. I support Urban in his desire to step aside as our head coach and contribute to Buckeye Nation in a different way in the years ahead.
We’re grateful to Urban and Shelley and their family for all they have given us. They are exemplary people and professionals. We’re indebted to them for their contributions to Ohio State and our community and thank them for all that they have done. I look forward to working with Urban in his new capacity. You’ll soon get your new goals and objectives in your new capacity as together we seek to maximize the potential of our 30 head coaches and 68 assistant coaches and over 1,000 student-athletes that we’re all blessed to serve.
And fortunately, Shelley, I hope, continues to plan to serve as an adjunct professor, a faculty member in the college of nursing where students every day are thrilled to learn from her expertise. I haven’t talked to her about that. I hope that’s true.
I want to thank them both personally and professionally. I can’t begin to share with you the bond that has grown particularly between me and Urban. So this is professional, as an athletic director, but personal as a friend. We’ve had great conversations. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart and my family’s heart, but also on behalf of Buckeye Nation.
You rocked it, brother. We did what we talked about. So thank you so much, Urban Meyer.
COACH MEYER: I’ll be relatively brief. I want to start off by wishing my grandson, Troy, a happy second birthday today. That’s why we’re all here. So make sure Troy is aware of that.
I’m honored to have represented my home state and this great university the past seven seasons. I want to thank Buckeye Nation, our students and faculty, our state high school coaches, Gene Smith for giving me this opportunity, my awesome family and most importantly our staff and student-athletes for all they’ve done during this time.
My goal has always been to make this one of the premier and most comprehensive programs in America. It’s always been a goal to see a healthy, strong program handed to an elite coach and person to make it even better.
And I want to congratulate Ryan Day and his family. We’ve worked extremely hard to make the great state of Ohio, the university community, including our alumni and former players and Buckeye Nation very proud.
I look forward to working with our staff and players in preparing to play Washington in the Rose Bowl. It’s always been a dream of mine and many of our coaches and players to compete in the Rose Bowl. And it’s going to be an honor to represent the Big Ten Conference in that game. Thank you very much.
GENE SMITH: Washington wasn’t too far off when he made the speculation that Ryan Day would be our next coach. Where are you, Ari? Nice job. Got that crystal ball going on. You weren’t too far off.
But we’re fortunate to welcome Ryan Day into our head coaching family. He and his wife, Nina, will be unbelievable assets to our leadership team and your three beautiful children. I’m sure Ryan is going to introduce them.
We all know the tremendous job he did and the challenging time. He led our program through unbelievable adversity earlier in the year. He offers us a terrific, terrific skill and talent. We’re just so fortunate that he was here.
Most leaders strive to have that opportunity to truly build a secession plan. We all strive to do that, to leave a place better than we found it, and hopefully leaving it in the hands of someone who has the capacity to do it better than us.
We’re fortunate to have had Ryan in our presence to be able to develop that. He has proven that he’s ready for this challenge during this last two years.
He understands our higher purpose, which is the total student-athlete development strategy. He understands the profiles of the student-athletes we need to recruit. And the reality is we have a strong infrastructure in place that I know that he has embraced and will continue to embrace.
He has confidence, passion. He has the perfect demeanor for our environment. He shares the values that we hold so dear: Integrity; education; excellence; people-first; respect; and tradition.
His diversity and his background and his experience have uniquely prepared him for this opportunity. He’s a good human being, good family man and we’re blessed to have him as our next head football coach, Ryan Day.
COACH DAY: I want to thank President Drake, the Board of Trustees and Gene Smith for this opportunity and for naming me the 25th head coach at The Ohio State University. Gene and Sheila, there’s a reason this is the best athletic department in America, and it’s because of your leadership.
I want to thank Urban Meyer and Shelley. I can’t put words into what you’ve done for me and my family. I’ve learned so much from you on a daily basis and will forever be in debt to you.
Your legacy will live on here forever. You can now sit in the box and yell at us for either going for it or not going for it on fourth down and two. I want to thank my family back home in Manchester, New Hampshire. I’ve got a lot of them. And that’s where Nina and I both grew up. And without them none of this would be possible. Thank you and I love you.
To my wife, Nina, and my three kids — R.J., Grace and Nia. The only way you succeed in this profession is to have a family that sacrifices. We’ve moved across the country, and your support has been unwavering. And, Nina, your strength is what makes our family special. I love you all very much.
To the current team: This opportunity would not be possible without the current players and leaders of our team. They’ll always have a special place in my heart for what they’ve done and where they’ve come from August to now.
We all are part of something special here at Ohio State. And the culture that Urban Meyer has created here is strong. And my pledge to the players is that our staff is going to give you every opportunity to maximize yourself as a football player, as a student in establishing your career after football.
To Buckeye Nation: You have my word that I’m going to give everything I have to continue the tradition of excellence and winning that this program has enjoyed during its storied career.
My family and I have fallen in love with the passion that every fan has for the Buckeyes and what football means to this great state. You can feel it on game day during the skull session, during the walk to the stadium, and playing in the Horseshoe on Saturdays.
To the high school coaches in Ohio: We have the best coaches and some of the best high school programs in all of America here at Ohio. And it will continue to be our first priority to recruit Ohio football players. Every young football player in the state of Ohio should dream about one day becoming a Buckeye. And it’s our staff’s responsibility to make sure we recruit them at the highest level.
On-field expectations: It didn’t take long for me to figure out what the expectations were of Ohio State football. Number one, win the rivalry game. And number two, win every game after that. (Laughter).
I take this responsibility very seriously. And I want to thank the former players who have set the standard so high here. You’re always welcome and continue to be welcome and this is your home.
On the field you can expect a team that’s going to be tough, that’s going to have great energy, and will be creative. On offense, we continue to force defenses to cover the entire field this year as we went from J.T. Barrett to Dwayne Haskins at quarterback this season, which took on a very different attack. But I feel strongly about our offense’s ability to modify and adapt to our personnel year in, year out.
On defense, we’ll be aggressive, with multiple fronts, sound and simple for the players so that they will have the ability to play fast.
On special teams, we’ll continue to incorporate all of our best players on the team and it will be the tip of the spear of the program.
To the faculty and staff: The profile of the student-athlete that we recruit here is a direct reflection of the academic reputation that you’ve created. And we realize how important that relationship is. I look forward to working with you and supporting each other in the future.
And lastly, every coach whoever put a whistle around their neck strives to be the head coach at The Ohio State University. I fully understand the challenges that await for me. And being on the same list as Paul Brown, Woody Hayes, Earle Bruce, John Cooper, Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer, it’s extremely humbling, but I’m prepared and ready for the task. Thank you again for this opportunity, and go Bucks.
Q. Gene, some fans have asked why not conduct a national search. But I imagine if you feel like you’ve found your guy, you’ve found your guy. Can you speak to that? Why not conduct a national search?
GENE SMITH: You answered it. I’m blessed. As I said earlier, it’s rare that you have the opportunity to create a secession plan where you have the right person in place. Any CEO in the public or private environment, you hope that you have that opportunity.
And so we were fortunate — circumstances, in some cases. But we recognized the talent that Ryan Day had early. And I spent a great deal of time getting to know him. Did that this summer.
We actually met in my office in the summertime. Spent some quality time getting to know one another. And then obviously throughout the year. He had an opportunity to audition in a different way. Not relative to winning on the field, but how he mastered leading, not just the football staff, but everyone else around it.
This is a complex place. And so having someone to be able to continue the stability and consistency that we have was important to me. So I did not feel I needed to conduct a public national search.
Q. When did you know that Ryan Day was your guy? Like when did you know if something happened with Urban, if Urban wanted to step down, that you knew at that point Ryan Day is my guy?
GENE SMITH: Couple weeks ago. The story is for the last month Urban and I, every Sunday, just like I normally do after a football game — and every year I do this and all season long — we began to talk about potential transition.
And you can talk about why. But we had deep conversations about that. So while we were having those conversations, I was looking at candidates across the country and trying to decide if I was going to go national search.
And as I thought about those potential candidates, and some of them very good and some of them I know, I felt more comfortable coming back to Ryan Day.
Our program does not need disruption. It does not need to blow up and have people come in and try and adapt to our standards of operation and try and change the infrastructure that we’ve put in place for the student-athlete.
So we had a talented and gifted guy that many others wanted to interview him and potentially hire. So a few weeks ago I kind of felt, okay, I needed to kind of lock in here as we had our conversations. But I knew that ultimately Urban had to make a decision this past Sunday or yesterday, and I was going to have to move one way or the other.
Q. Urban, congratulations on your tenure here. When did it become clear to you that it was time to step down? And are you at peace with it? Unlike some other exits, is this it, truly it, for your football career?
COACH MEYER: It’s a complicated question. And I’ll try to answer it the best I can is that I tried to say that in the statement, and this is home. This is where I grew up. It’s not healthy, but I came to work every day with fear of letting people like Archie Griffin and my great state of, our great state of Ohio and this university down, because this is home.
I’m a graduate of Ohio State. And we have the best fans in the land. And I didn’t want to let them down. So I dealt with — in 2014 I had that surgery. And it recurred last year, I started dealing with some issues last year. And I hired Ryan Day because I thought he was a very good coach. I knew he was. He was with me before. What I found out was that he’s far past those thoughts. He’s elite.
And I think in trying to build the most comprehensive premier program in America, you also want to hand it off to someone at some point so it can get even stronger. And my witnessing of the work Ryan has done and made this decision, not as difficult as I thought, because I know the infrastructure, like Gene talked about, is going to be secure with Coach Marotti and the rest of the staff. I think it’s very healthy. We recruited very well.
This is a very different place. This is a unique place. This is a place that the academic expectations of recent, not back in ’86, ’87, when I was here before, but as of recent is very challenging.
Q. Sounds like you’re not vanishing from the scene though?
COACH MEYER: I hope not. God has a plan. I’m not quite sure what it is. Gene and I are extremely close, and we discussed that. And I hope to stay involved.
Q. Urban, you had the headaches, your health issues, how much of that was added to by the stress that happened early in the season, the suspension? Did that contribute to specifically the pain of the cyst or just in general your outlook on coaching?
COACH MEYER: That was a very difficult time, very difficult time. But this has been — I’ve had to deal with the headaches for many years and it came to a head in 2014 and again last year and this year as well. As difficult a time as that was, that didn’t have an impact as much on the headaches. But it did have an impact.
Q. What did you see in Ryan that you just knew he had the “it” factor? What is it about him?
COACH MEYER: There’s many things. A head coach position, as I’ve learned over the last 17 years, is very complicated. It’s management of people. The one advice I give coaches all the time — and Ryan, I see it with him, and Gene and I have discussed this — this is why I think Gene Smith is as good as there is — you have to have genuine love and care for that student-athlete. And I underline genuine. It can’t be No. 78. It can’t be that guy. It’s got to be his first name, his last name, where he’s from, his sister, his brother, and what he does after his football career is over.
Once those players know that you have that genuine love and care for them they’ll move mountains for you. And I saw that with Ryan Day.
Q. Urban, are you saying that when this recurred last year, you started thinking about stepping down last year, or was that not something that came up until this year when it got worse? Or what’s the more specific timeline on that?
COACH MEYER: More specific was Penn State a year ago. It hit real hard. And we have a great medical team that was over the top trying to help me through it. I was on medicine and all that.
But we had conversations back then about longevity and the seriousness of it. Because, as they said, it’s not your elbow or your foot. We’re talking about something else. And that was the — but also had conversations, to be honest with you, in ’14 when we went through the whole scenario.
Q. You had conversations with Gene or with your family, or what do you mean by conversations?
COACH MEYER: First with the doctors. What is this? What are we dealing with? What’s the long-range? What’s this and what’s that? And we came through it pretty good. 2015 it was relatively good. ’16, okay. ’17 was a tough one. And then this year. And I talk to Gene all the time. Gene is fully aware. And obviously my family is fully aware.
Q. When you took this job in 2012, this was a very good program. And it looks like that you built it into one of the top three elite programs. Built a very strong foundation for the future. Can you reflect on how you took it to the next level? And is it easier to step away knowing that maybe your best accomplishment is what the program can achieve based on your blueprint moving forward?
COACH MEYER: Thank you for that. And that’s — Jim Tressel is a dear friend. And that’s always been a goal; any job you take is to take a program — I know Ohio State. I know it very well. And I know Jim Tressel. I know Luke Fickell. And I knew that there would be good players here and I knew there would be even better people. And that’s exactly what I walked into.
It was a little bit discombobulated for a bit and that team came together and had a magical season.
To answer the second part of that question is that as I’m reflecting now, this has been a fast 48 hours since that last game, this would be a really tough day if we were a mess. This would be a really, really tough day. And personally this would be awful, because this is where we’re all from, where Gene and I are both from, and to be able to know that this: We did right or at least we feel like we did right. That makes it that much easier.
Q. Gene, based on that foundation, to hire a coach who has never been a head coach so far, does it make it easier to give the reins over to a guy like Ryan who has shown a lot of great things, but knowing he has an infrastructure and a blueprint to follow moving forward and kind of understands what Urban did here, does that make that transition seamless to you?
GENE SMITH: No question. The counter to that is you bring in someone new, obviously they have a learning curve. They have to go through a total education program, not just about the football team, but about the institution. And I don’t want to down play that how we operate as an institution. John Davidson, our faculty rep, is an absolute stud in supporting us with our faculty and our student-athletes, and Gates Garrity-Rokous in compliance, I can just keep going through all the things that surround the football program that you have to understand here, to how you communicate with faculty or not, how you communicate with admissions or not, how you communicate with financial aid or not. The fact that you coach and you do not do anything medical, that’s not the same everywhere.
So Urban took, help me Urban, maybe less than two years to kind of adjust to a new culture on how we operate. And he helped us improve some things.
Ryan has lived it. He’s seen it. And so one of the greatest responsibilities of a coach is personnel management. And there’s over 70 people in the Woody Hayes Athletic Facility. So for us to have a person with his high IQ and EQ, with the understanding of what we’re all about to step into this leadership role, significant, significant.
Now, if he wasn’t talented I wouldn’t have him here if he couldn’t X and O, let’s be clear. He’s gotta win ball games. He knows that. Gotta win ball games.
But it takes a lot of understanding about our environment in order to position our young people to win those ball games. And all of our coaches get that. Steve Rohlik is here, our men’s ice hockey coach, and he’s built a phenomenal program because he’s embraced what we’re all about.
And so that’s a long answer to your question, but that’s how I got comfortable with where I am.
Q. Ryan, along those lines, you’re replacing someone with Urban Meyer’s success. Ohio State has not hired a first-time head coach other than Luke Fickell since 1946. How daunting is the challenge that you feel, how confident are you that you are up to the challenge?
COACH DAY: First, very humble to be taking over for Coach Meyer and what he’s done here. But the footprint that he’s left here and the infrastructure is strong. And knowing that and being here for two years and seeing exactly how it’s been done gives me great confidence.
Also, walking in those shoes during the beginning of the year, during that time, took a step away from just working with the offense and the Xs and Os and then took a wider step back and looked at the leadership role of what it means to be the head coach at Ohio State and understand, like Gene spoke of, everybody that comes under your wings there.
And so have walked in those shoes and had a chance to experience that. And so I’m excited and confident about it.
Q. What can you say about retention of the staff, support staff, which I understand are coming back to key people? What about the assistant coaches?
COACH DAY: We’re so busy right now and everything has happened in the last 48 hours very fast. Guys are on the road recruiting. This is a big time for us recruiting with the early signing day. We’re getting ready for the bowl game. That’s the focus right now. Like every year at the end of the bowl game, we’ll go through and evaluate everything.
Q. Urban, when did you finally come to that final decision? Were you in and out in and out the last couple of weeks or just —
GENE SMITH: What was it like for you when you tried to retire?
Q. I was like, hallelujah, I’m playing golf. But for you personally, what were the last 48 or 48 days like, 48 hours like?
COACH MEYER: Gene just stole my thunder. I was going to hammer you about retiring. I was going to say I made my decision when you made yours. No. (Laughter).
It’s very difficult. It’s something, this is really all I know. And it was very difficult. There’s things that made it less difficult. Ryan and I have talked, and this profession we’ve chosen is so fragile.
You drop a pass, you drop this, someone’s two-point conversion gets caught, this is a tough deal now. And we’ve lived it our entire lives, Shelley and I and our kids and our family.
And so I can’t tell you the exact time, walking off the stadium against our rival in that last game, things started to cross my mind. Going into Indianapolis, started to cross my mind. I wanted to go longer.
The thing that really started to make things, when recruits started asking me, will you be here for four or five years. Recruits I’m very close with. And this early signing date has put pressure all over this world — the college football world.
Our guys, Ryan’s going to be in four states tomorrow, I imagine. He better be. Because we lost a week of recruiting. And the signing date’s coming up and that’s over 92 percent of the kids sign on that date.
Also, if you sign a scholarship and the coach decides to leave after that they’re free to go. So this was — and people will say, why would you let recruiting get in the way. That’s a silly question. That’s the blood — you want to have a good team you recruit. And you recruit very hard.
So that put a little push on it. And to be honest, I didn’t want to mislead recruits. Gene and I both felt — not felt, we knew — and that’s what made it now, the decision now.
Q. That’s what you told some of us in your office that day. You wanted to be totally transparent. I understand you talked to some recruits last night about it. Just kind of hit that? What was that reaction?
COACH MEYER: I said I wasn’t quite sure. Gene gave me until this morning, gave me until like 7:50 or 9:30 or something like that. I talked to a couple recruits that I’m very close with and I said this might happen. I wanted to gauge their reaction. And I can’t tell names and all that, but it was over the top because of the respect they have for Ryan and the program and Ohio State.
Q. What are you going to miss most about being a head coach?
COACH MEYER: Not even close: The players. I called Terry and Parris in last night and we just sat and talked for an hour in my office about maybe this and other things. The good thing is I’m hopefully in a position I don’t lose that. I’m going to miss that. I’m going to miss building teams. But the players, without question is what I’m going to miss.
Q. As you sit here now, do you believe you will not coach again?
COACH MEYER: I believe I will not coach again.
Q. Are you fairly certain?
COACH MEYER: I’m certain, yes.
Q. Do you anticipate staying in Columbus and being around?
COACH MEYER: I do. I love Columbus. I love Muirfield, where I live. I’ve always been a Buckeye as long as I can remember. Gene Smith, like I said, our relationship has always been good. It’s over the top now. And I trust him with my life. And our families are very close.
So when he says jump, I still say — I’m going to still call him boss. However I can help this — I believe in Ohio State. I believe in the spirit when you walk around this campus. I believe in Buckeye Nation, because I lived it my entire life. I believe that this is a different place. And I want to help in any way I can. And I believe in our new head coach.
Q. And how would you hope that Ohio State fans remember your tenure here?
COACH MEYER: It’s not my tenure, it’s our tenure. And we did it the right way. I learned this from Woody Hayes to Earle Bruce, to Coop and Jim Tressel. And that is you have to be a tough guy to play at Ohio State. You have to be a tough guy.
You have to place a premium on education. And it’s not a wink-wink. You have to place a premium on education. And you have to win every game you play, including that game up north. And that’s something that you have to embrace, because not every place is like that.
I used to tell our staff every day, or every couple of days, you do not — no one’s forced you to come here. And average is not acceptable. Below — being excellent in everything is the only acceptable. And that’s hard. That’s a tough challenge. And I look forward to watching Ryan continue that challenge.
Q. I believe you were 37 the first fall you were hired at Bowling Green?
COACH MEYER: 36.
Q. Could you imagine being that age and taking over Ohio State as a first-time head coach and what that might be like?
COACH MEYER: No chance. (Laughter) but I also didn’t — I wasn’t knee-deep in it like he was. He earned a lot of responsibilities that I gave him over the years. And then obviously he’s 3-0 as the coach already before we start. And he’s very unique to be able to handle that.
Q. Urban and Ryan, how does recruiting work for the next three or four weeks? Do you recruit together? Ryan do you recruit now moving forward as the head coach of Ohio State? How do you manage that dynamic now?
COACH MEYER: Ryan will be the head coach out recruiting. I’ll visit with recruits on campus. And then I’ll have conversations with them if they feel necessary because I’m still really close with that class.
Q. Ryan, can you address that dynamic, the transition?
COACH DAY: After we get done here, it’s going to be a sprint to get out and get in homes and get around some of the families. Obviously a lot of relationships that are already built there. Some other ones, especially on defense, that maybe aren’t as strong yet. But the response has been great. The response has been strong. And excited to get on the road.
Q. Urban, when you talked four or five weeks ago about your health, it seemed as if you were torn between the competitor that you’ve always been that would want to coach forever and the grandfather, buddy that needed to be with his family. Is that ultimately what won out? Is the health situation unmanageable going forward? Is that what this came from? Or could you continue coaching as you are right now?
COACH MEYER: The style of coaching that I’ve done for 33 years is a very intense, very demanding, very — I see Ben there; he knows exactly what we’re talking about — that you can ask our former players the expectation, the way I’ve been. And I’ve tried to delegate more and CEO-ish more, and the product started to fail.
And I had to go right back to — first, I didn’t feel like I was doing right by our players and by Gene. And the challenge was can I continue to do that in that style.
Q. Ryan, as you take over here, what is the top, most important lesson that you’ve learned from Urban that you’ll take into the first full-time day on the job?
COACH DAY: I don’t think there’s one I could put my finger on. There’s so much on a daily basis and there’s so much that goes into this job, from the recruiting end to it to the infrastructure that’s built in the most comprehensive program in all of America.
Coach talks about from A to Z. If you’re a recruit who comes to look at Ohio State, there’s no other place in America that takes care of students, student-athletes, better than Ohio State. And understanding how to manage that, understanding how to manage the staff on a daily basis and what it means to be the head coach here.
Q. How do you feel you were treated during the summer and the investigation and suspension and the whole Zach Smith affair? And did that affect this decision today?
COACH MEYER: I have addressed — with all due respect — I’ve addressed that several different times. The decision was a result of cumulative events. And health number one. The fact that we have an elite coach on our staff. The fact that our program is very healthy. We’ve recruited very well all played a significant role in this. And I can’t say this is the reason, this is the reason. But there’s cumulative reasons that we’re at this point.
Q. Would you say the summer is one of — in that accumulation?
COACH MEYER: Sure.
Q. How do you think this would have an impact on the players? Their focus is the Rose Bowl game, and so they’ve already had a loss with players on the team. And they may feel like they’re having a loss now. How are you going to talk to them to really focus on the game?
COACH MEYER: We had a great meeting this morning. And that was a concern. Obviously, that’s all of our priorities. We’re not here without the student-athlete. I have an incredible — as you witnessed this fall — the leadership on this team. I’m willing to say it’s as good as we’ve ever had.
I met with a couple of the captains last night. Chatted with them a little bit. I know their love and respect for Ryan Day is very clear. Defensive players don’t know him quite as well. The offensive players are over the top because I gauge that quite a bit, certainly last night but even before that, and witnessed it.
So I am concerned, because I’m concerned about everything, because we have to go out there and compete and win that game, because that’s our responsibility. But I have so much confidence in the trust. If you just watched our players, the way they performed the last half of the season, we’ll do our very best.
Q. And Mr. Gene Smith, when you first heard the news this morning, what were the first few thoughts that came to your mind?
GENE SMITH: I was standing — actually I heard the news yesterday. We chatted a little bit. So we knew that it was probably imminent. And I walked into his office this morning and he was sitting at his desk. And I stood before him and we looked at each other in the eye and I said it in a different way than I’m going to say it right now. I said, if you want to stop this thing, I’ll pull the plug right now. I articulated it a little differently.
But at that moment — actually, yesterday I knew. We’ve had conversations for a long time. But yesterday, when I really knew he was there. And so, he needed the extra time, but I knew he was there.
Q. Ryan, when you’re taking over a program for someone who has accomplished as much as Urban Meyer has, what are the things that you do to put your own stamp on this program and make it your own?
COACH DAY: Well, I think Coach Meyer and I’s values and morals and what our beliefs are, we share a lot of the same things in common. And I think anytime there’s a change in leadership, there’s a different personality, there’s a different style involved with it, different demeanor. But we share so much in common that there’s going to be a lot that’s carried over.
But over the next few weeks and as we get through the bowl game and after the bowl game, we’re going to work through some of those things. But most of what Coach has built here is going to stay. And as we go along, there’s going to be some changes in terms of the way we do certain things. But our beliefs are strong.
Q. Urban, what are the things that you tell Ryan? What is your advice to him in terms of how he can take this program forward and continue to make it his own?
COACH MEYER: First, he’s got to be him. And that was great advice to me as a young coach from Lou Holtz and Coach Bruce, you can’t try to be someone else. The players are, they’re smart then; they’re far too smart now. You have to be real, as our strength coach, Coach Mick, always says.
The good thing about Ohio State under Gene’s leadership is that the infrastructure is solid top to bottom. It’s arguably the best I’ve ever been around. And that’s talking about the academic, Coach Mick and his charges in the sports performance team, player welfare, our training staff, et cetera, et cetera.
When you usually go into a new program you usually have to implode the whole thing. And you only have so much — I actually talked to Ryan about this — you have a pie of energy. And your family and faith don’t touch that. I’ve touched that before and it starts to implode — it creates issues for you. Don’t touch that.
The other part of your time, you’ve got to divide it up somehow. And if you’re interviewing academic people, if you’re interviewing trainers and trying to find a strength coach, et cetera, you’re cutting into the lifeblood. And his focus is to go recruit. Go recruit. Make sure the staff’s exactly how you want it. And other than that down the road you can adjust things.
But this recruiting gig, that’s all laser lights have to be on that, 100 percent. And I know he’s, first of all, he’s a great recruiter. And I think the way that things are set up here, that can be full-time energy on that and not some other stuff.
Q. After the Michigan game, you fell into Shelley’s arms and hugged her for a very long time. After the Big Ten title game you were walking out the tunnel. You came back on the field to shake hands with the fans and high-5 them. You’ve always been hyper-focused one game to the next. You seem more emotional this year. I’m curious, have you looked at coaching and life through a different lens, different philosophy, because you seem to be soaking it in these last few weeks more than you have in years past?
COACH MEYER: First of all, that was one of the greatest moments in our, maybe, life to beat our rival — seven years in a row. And the first people I always try to share with, everybody knows that — I’m always asking, where they at, where they at — all due respect to everybody here, I want to share it with the people I love the most. I’m always looking for them. So that moment is not unique to that last win. We’ve had a lot of moments like that.
But one thing I’ve done for seven years is every time between the third and fourth quarter, when I hear “Hang On Sloopy,” I take my headsets off. If we’re playing really well I take it off for a little while, really enjoy it. And if we’re not playing well I give it a quick (snapping fingers) and then back on.
I try to — and Bob Davie, the former head coach of Notre Dame, sent me a note when I first went to Bowling Green and he says: Beyond all the stuff that you have to deal with, enjoy it; pick a time during the course of a game and just realize what you’re doing and enjoy it.
And I’ll never forget that. I haven’t forgot that for 17 years.
Q. Ryan, when and how did you, sort of the past 48 hours, play out for you when were you offered the job? And over the past few weeks have you had a chance to sink in the size of the stage that you’re on right now?
COACH DAY: The past few weeks we’ve been knee deep in trying to beat our rival and trying to win the Big Ten Championship. There’s been no hour of the day that I’ve been focused on anything other than that.
So the last 48 hours happened really, really fast. And it was one of those things where Gene and I had a few really general conversations but nothing specific at all. So when it all happened, it all happened really, really fast.
Q. Urban, as you’re walking away, what do you think the suspension and the events leading to it will have an impact on your significant coaching legacy? Your suspension that started this year, do you think that will have any impact on your coaching legacy as you walk away?
COACH MEYER: I’m sure it will. I haven’t really thought that through. That was a disappointing time, obviously. But I think today, and this is about celebrating a new football coach. This is about a very strong program and a group of players that just won back-to-back championships.
So the legacy is — you can only control so much. And I can lie to you and say that’s not important to me. Any human being, that’s important to you. And people will have their opinions. And just do the best to do things the right way.
Q. You’ve been a blessed man. You’ve coached at some remarkable schools across the country. Now through seven years at this place, what is different? Why is this place unique? In your seven years of experience, what would you pass on as what separates this job as those other great jobs?
COACH MEYER: This is very similar to Florida. Florida is a high-end academic school with its challenges. And I think any time you try — and I’ll give you a recruiting speech — how many times can you do this — have elite national championship football with elite academics?
That narrows out — I’m talking to you as a recruit — that there’s a lot of this: High-end football; low-end academics. And Ohio State is one of those schools where you have it all. So the challenge is there to try to find those kind of student-athletes and this is a very unique place. Florida, like I said, very similar.
The thing that makes Ohio State different is the size of this place. Gene Smith, I remember one of our early conversations, said this is an extremely complex place. And, okay, Gene, I’ve done this before; we’ll be okay.
No, this is very complex. You’ve got 55,000 students, average ACT 31. You’ve got 36 sports. Over half our student-athletes have over a 3.0. And the expectation, like I told Ryan Day, here at Ohio State is win every game — you forgot a couple things; win every game, graduate. With Gene Smith, have them over a 3.0. Every player stay out of trouble and every player be a high draft pick. And as I usually follow up with it, “Go get it, tiger.”
Q. Ryan, you said every coach who wears a whistle wants to be the Ohio State head coach. When did you know you wanted this job?
COACH DAY: Again, probably when I was growing up and watching the Buckeyes play on TV and watching them play The Team Up North. I remember being on my grandfather’s couch and watching the game. And just the respect I had for this place, and it was always a dream of mine.
Q. When it’s offered, what’s the conversation like at home? Is there much of a decision there?
COACH DAY: No. No. No. No. I would say Nina couldn’t quite — she wasn’t sleeping last night, that’s for sure. It was a surreal experience. I had some long conversations, and I don’t think it’s quite really sunk in yet for all of us. We sat together as a family and talked about it last night what it meant for our family.
But we understand what Buckeye Nation is. We understand what this means for our family. And we’re going to take it very seriously and jump in with two feet.
Q. If we go back to April, before all the details of this season unfolded, and I said to you, hey, man, this is going to be your last ride, how do you think you would have reacted?
COACH MEYER: Great question. There was conversation before this year. Ryan, like I told you, last January had a chance to go become a head football coach at a pretty impressive place. I met with Gene and I knew that this isn’t something I’m going to do for the next 15 years, 10 years. I knew after the experiences I had on the sideline again and in 2014, just dealing with the headaches, that I wanted to do Ohio State right and Gene Smith right. So I would have probably thought not this year, but it was within the next few.
Q. Dan brought up the legacy word. We love to talk about it in our job and you guys hate it. You always say, it’s still being written, wait until I’m done. Well, you’re done. What do you hope, what do you hope people think about you? What do you hope that legacy looks like?
COACH MEYER: I hope it’s the truth. The truth is that you have a football coach who has devoted 33 years of my life to the love of student-athletes and not just on the football field. I’ve never treated a player as No. 36 or a number. I’ve got to know their families. I want to make sure — and we, “we,” have even taken that to the nth degree now that we want 100 percent job placement when they’re done playing. They deserve that.
I learned that lesson when my daughter was being recruited. No one talked about — they never talked about jersey numbers and locker rooms. And I don’t do that anymore.
I talk about the incredible experience that you have at a place like Ohio State, and if you act right, do right, you’ll you have a job. I — we guarantee that.
I hope that’s our legacy. And we won a lot of games and represented this great university and great state the right way.
Q. Coach, you say you want to hang around here, Urban. What do you envision doing? Do you continue to work for the university? And, Ryan, are you counting on him hanging around so you can pick his brain?
COACH MEYER: Gene and I have talked about this. This is, like I told you, this is home. My son’s just an hour and a half away in Cincinnati. My two daughters are here. So it’s home. My relationship with Gene Smith is as real, as real as it can get. And I hope to somehow have an impact on our student-athletes and be involved in this athletic department and this great university.
COACH DAY: Coach Meyer is always going to be a resource for me personally because how many people can say they’ve walked in these shoes? He’s always going to be a resource that way. Depending on how much he wants to be involved, the door’s always going to be open there.
I’m sure he’ll have a remote and be looking at punt and protection and everything else on a weekly basis. And he’ll have his comments and he’ll have things written down. So he’ll always be a resource.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.