Ohio State’s 54-year-old head coach said the cumulative effects of health problems, the current strength of the Buckeye program and the impact of a lengthy suspension to start the 2018 season convinced him to announce his retirement Tuesday morning. Meyer and athletic director Gene Smith both said they hoped the championship-winning coach will stick around Ohio State in some capacity, but Meyer said his three decades in coaching have to come to an end.
“I believe I will not coach again,” Meyer said.
The Ohio native won more than 90 percent of his games as the Buckeyes’ head coach, including all seven of his games against rival Michigan, three Big Ten championships and the 2014 national championship. Meyer won two other national championships while coaching at Florida and has won more games, 186 in all, in his 17 years leading FBS programs than any other coach in the same length of time.
Meyer’s final game as Ohio State’s head coach will be against Washington in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1. Ryan Day, who served as the team’s interim coach while Meyer served a three-game suspension to start the 2018 season, was introduced as Meyer’s replacement in a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
Smith said he looked at potential candidates across the country while Meyer weighed his future in the past several weeks, but decided hiring someone who knew the inner workings of the program would make for a better transition.
Meyer stepped away twice earlier in his career while dealing with health issues at Florida that are similar to the concerns that played a central role in his decision to retire this year. Meyer revealed in October that in 2014 he had surgery on a cyst in his brain that causes stress-related headaches. The symptoms of those headaches were visible this fall during some of Ohio State’s games when Meyer frequently wore pained expressions on his face and at one point collapsed on the sideline.
He said Tuesday that he and medical personnel at the university had conversations about his longevity in coaching after his pain flared during a dramatic win over Penn State last year. He said he continued to consider his future during the offseason, but did not think that the 2018 season might be his last until this fall.
Meyer did not draw a straight line between the suspension that started his season and the increased pain that played out upon his return, but he did say that the suspension contributed to his decision to retire. The university put Meyer on leave in early August while they investigated reports that he mishandled allegations of domestic violence and other inappropriate behavior made against former assistant coach Zach Smith in past years. The school suspended Meyer for the first three games of the season after finding he failed to live up to the standards of the university and did not tell the truth when asked about those allegations at a Big Ten media event in July.
Meyer said Tuesday that he believes that suspension will have some lasting impact on how his coaching career is remembered. He said he hopes he is remembered as a coach “who’s devoted 33 years of my life to the love of student-athletes, and not just on the football field.
“I can lie to you and say that’s not important to me,” Meyer said when asked about his legacy. “For any human being, that’s important to you. And people have their opinions … just do the best to do things the right way.”
“How many people can say they’ve walked in these shoes?” Day said. “The door is always going to be open there.”
Day, whom Meyer on Friday called “elite,” will take over the program on Jan. 2 and is receiving a five-year contract worth $4.5 million per season.
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, 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.
The Buckeyes went 3-0 under Day this season, including a win over TCU in Arlington, Texas, before Meyer returned to the sideline Sept. 22 against Tulane.