COLUMBUS — Ryan Day’s serving as the acting head coach for the Ohio State football team now will run through the first three games of the season after Urban Meyer was suspended Wednesday night by university president Michael V. Drake and the OSU board of trustees.
Meyer, who had been on paid administrative leave since Aug. 1, was suspended without pay through Sept. 2, which includes the season opener Sept. 1 against Oregon State, and for game days on Sept. 8 against Rutgers and Sept. 15 for the key intersectional game vs. Texas Christian in Arlington, Texas. He will be allowed to coach during the weeks leading up to games two and three.
So that leaves Day in charge for a while. All of this comes in the aftermath of the school’s investigation into the way Meyer dealt with allegations of domestic abuse brought in 2015 by the wife of then-assistant coach Zach Smith, and the way Meyer kept Smith on staff, despite some obvious shortcomings, until he was fired on July 23.
Meyer will have missed the entire preseason camp, which started Aug. 3, and will be away from his team — ranked No. 5 in The Associated Press preseason poll — for almost another two weeks.
“It’s been very tough, the toughest things I’ve experienced,” Meyer said Wednesday night at a news conference.
But he indicated he expected the Buckeyes to carry on well without him.
“I have very good players and a very good staff,” Meyer said. “My message when I get to speak to the team is that I love them dearly, I appreciate all they have done for this incredible university.
“As I’ve shared with Dr. Drake, this is one of the best groups I’ve ever been around, on the field and off. But it is also one of the best coaching staffs I’ve had. So I look forward to watching them continue to grow and getting updates as we move forward.”
During his paid leave the past three weeks he was allowed no contact with players, coaches or support staff, and that is expected to be the case until Sept. 3, though that was not made clear on Wednesday night.
Day was named the acting head coach on Aug. 1, the same day Meyer was placed on leave. Day, 39, never before a head coach, has been in charge throughout the preseason.
According to insiders, there have been few bumps in the road during the camp. One credited it to the way the other members of the staff, including former head coaches Greg Schiano, the defensive coordinator, and Kevin Wilson, an offensive coordinator, helped the process along.
“It was almost seamless, at least in the way camp was conducted,” the insider said. “Everyone noticed coach Meyer wasn’t here, but people did the work.
“Coach Day was clearly in charge, though.”
Gerry DiNardo, a former head coach and now analyst for the Big Ten Network, noticed the same thing back the first full week of the month when BTN made its annual stop to watch and analyze an Ohio State practice. As he noted, the practice plans likely were drawn up months earlier.
“It’s the execution of those plans, the enthusiasm, the energy that stood out,” DiNardo said. “And I think there has been a concerted effort to get the players involved by saying, ‘Hey, we need good leadership. We need everyone to get through this situation we’re in.’”
The preseason was a critical time, too, because the Buckeyes are ushering in a new starting quarterback in third-year sophomore Dwayne Haskins Jr. and a new backup in redshirt freshman Tate Martell.
The media was allowed to watch limited segments of just two practices. Plus, Day, the rest of the coaches and the players have been off-limits to the media during the course of the investigation.