Urban Meyer is still the head football coach at Ohio State — but not for long.
The 54-year-old announced Tuesday he will retire from coaching after leading the sixth-ranked Buckeyes against No. 9 Washington in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1.
Ryan Day, the 39-year-old offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach of the Buckeyes, will take over after that, though he intended to become the program’s lead recruiter as soon the press conference introducing him ended Tuesday afternoon .
Meyer will remain with the university in a to-be-determined capacity.
“Your legacy will live on here forever,” Day said to Meyer during a press conference at the Fawcett Center on campus. “You can now sit in the box and yell at us for either going for it or not going for it on fourth down.”
The announcement came after weeks of speculation about Meyer’s future.
He admitted he had been contemplating a succession plan since last year when he began again having severe headaches caused by an arachnoid cyst on his brain.
He did not make a final decision until Tuesday morning but sounded at peace with the deed being done, citing confidence in Day’s ability to take up the mantel as the 25th head coach of the Buckeyes.
“Most leaders strive to truly build a succession plan,” Meyer said. “We all strive to do that, to leave a place better than we found it and to leave it to someone who has the capacity to do it better than us.”
Day served as interim coach during the preseason while Meyer’s handling of a domestic abuse allegations against former assistant coach Zach Smith were investigated.
Day also coached the first three games after an investigation found Meyer had not covered up the allegations but mismanaged the employment of Smith, who was fired in late July. Ohio State went 3-0 under Day and won seven of eight games after Meyer returned.
A surprising blowout loss at Purdue in October ultimately kept the Buckeyes out of the College Football Playoff, but they finished the season by crushing Michigan 62-39 to earn a berth in the Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis, where they beat Northwestern 45-24.
Meyer had surgery to reduce the brain cyst in 2014 and went on to coach the Buckeyes to the national championship that season.
In October, he told reporters the cyst had enlarged again and was causing headaches at times of stress but said he was managing it. Tuesday he said the headaches had returned more than a year ago, citing a 39-38 come-from-behind win over Penn State on Oct. 28, 2017, as the first time the pain was severe.
“We had conversations back then about longevity and the seriousness of it,” Meyer said. “Because, as they said, it’s not your elbow or your foot. We’re talking about something else.”
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Ultimately he decided he could not continue his intense style of coaching and also tolerate the headaches.
“I’ve tried to delegate more and be CEO-ish more, and the product started to fail,” he said. “The challenge was can I continue to do that in that style?”
Meyer might have waited to make a final decision but felt it was necessary now when recruits started to ask him about how long he will be on the job.
Meyer will retire as one of the most successful coaches in college football history.
He is 82-9 at Ohio State and 186-32 overall as a head coach with stops including Bowling Green, Utah and Florida (where he won two national championships).
His career winning percentage is third all-time behind only legendary Notre Dame mentors Knute Rockne and Frank Leahy. Meyer’s Ohio State teams won three Big Ten championships and never lost to Michigan.
Meyer’s 7-0 record against the Wolverines is the best on either side of the rivalry. No one else coached The Game more than once without a loss.
He passed mentor Earle Bruce on the all-time coaching wins list at Ohio State on Saturday and trails only Woody Hayes (205), John Cooper (111) and Jim Tressel (106).
“The hallmark of great leadership is to leave a program better than you found it,” Ohio State director of athletics Gene Smith said. “There is little doubt Urban has done that.”