How Ryan Day compares to his Ohio State predecessors entering his fifth year as Buckeyes head coach
Most national media analysts agree that Day is one of the top 10 coaches in college football. In terms of wins and losses, he was clearly one of the best coaches in college football during his first four years at Ohio State as the Buckeyes went 42-6 – a better record than anyone but the Kirby Smart’s Georgia and Nick Saban’s Alabama – since 2019.
Still, the argument can still be made that Day underperformed as Ohio State’s head coach. While winning seven out of eight games is a big achievement at nearly every other school, expectations at Ohio State are higher. In Columbus, coaches are rated on winning national championships and Big Ten championships and beating Michigan, and the Buckeyes haven’t achieved either of those goals the past two seasons.
That’s why Day dropped from sixth to eighth place in a recent ranking of the best college football coaches by CBS Sports’ Tom Fornelli.
“While not winning the Big Ten two years in a row will always be considered a failure in Columbus, Ohio, Day has lost six games overall in his four seasons and is 31-2 in the Big Ten. The problem is who these two defeats came against,” Fornelli wrote.
Given that expectations for coaches at Ohio State are higher than they are just about anywhere else, Day’s performance can’t simply be measured by how the Buckeyes fared. compared to other college football teams, but how its Buckeye teams have performed compared to the past. Buckeye teams. With that in mind, we take a look at how Day’s performance as an Ohio State coach compares to former Ohio State coaches during their first four years coaching the Buckeyes.
Second Best Winning Percentage Ohio State Coaches Winning Percentage Over Four Years Coach’s Winning Record % Seasons Urban Meyer 50-4 .926 2012-15 Ryan Day 42-6 .875 2019-22 John Wilce 21-5-2 .815 1913- 16 Earle Bruce 38-10 0.792 1979-82 Jim Tressel 40-11 0.784 2001-04 Francis Schmidt 25-7 0.781 1934-37 AE Herrnstein 28-10-1 0.740 1906-09 Woody Hayes 26-9-2 0.730 1951-54 Sam Willaman 19-9-5 0.652 1929-32 Wes Fesler 21-13-3 0.608 1947-50 John Cooper 27-18-2 0.596 1988-91 Jack Ryder 19-17- 2 0.526 1892-95
(Note: The chart only includes coaches who coached Ohio State for at least four seasons. Day’s three wins as Ohio State’s interim head coach in 2018 are not included in his record. )
Urban Meyer set a high standard to follow with his immediate and consistent success at Ohio State, losing just four games overall in his first four seasons in charge of the Buckeyes. Other than Meyer, however, no other Ohio State coach has been as victorious for four years as Day.
Day’s critics might argue that he had an easier hand than his predecessors because he inherited Meyer’s program and was therefore ready to win right away. Still, winning with consistency is much easier said than done, as evidenced by the fact that Day and Meyer are the only coaches in Ohio State history to have won at least 80% of their games over the course of of their first four seasons in charge of the Buckeyes.
Most Big Ten Championships Big Ten Championships over four years Coaching titles Years Ryan Day 2 2019, 2020 Earle Bruce 2 1979, 1981* Urban Meyer 1 2014 Woody Hayes 1 1954 Paul Brown 1 1942 John Wilce 1 1916 Jim Tressel 1 2002* Francis Schmidt 1 1935* *Co-champion
Even though Ohio State hasn’t made it to the Big Ten championship game for the past two years, Day still holds the most Big Ten titles of any head coach in the state. of Ohio for four years at the helm.
The only other Ohio State head coach to win two Big Ten championships in his first four years coaching the Buckeyes is Earle Bruce, and Bruce’s second conference title was a co-championship. in 1981, when Ohio State tied top-scoring Iowa and there was no Big Ten championship game.
Day will have to return Ohio State to the conference championship this season if he is to maintain that accolade for five years, as Meyer won his first of three consecutive Big Ten championships in his fifth year in charge. Buckeyes while Hayes and Wilce also won. titles in the fifth year (and Tressel won a co-championship in the fifth year).
Below-standard results in Ohio State Coaches vs. Michigan game in first four years Coaching record Urban Meyer 4-0 2012-15 Francis Schmidt 4-0 1934-37 Jim Tressel 3-1 2001-04 Earle Bruce 3 -1 1979-82 Woody Hayes 2-2 1951-54 Sam Willaman 2-2 1929-32 Ryan Day 1-2 2019-22 Wes Fesler 0-3-1 1947-50 John Cooper 0-4 1988-91 AE Herrnstein 0 -4 1906-09
The biggest black mark on Day’s resume is his record against Michigan, which is arguably the single most important measure of performance by an Ohio State coach. In the past seven decades, the only Ohio State coach to start his career with a worse record against Michigan was John Cooper, and those struggles in The Game became the defining feature of Cooper’s tenure in Ohio State.
Day would likely be 2-2 in The Game if Michigan hadn’t pulled out of the 2020 game due to a COVID-19 outbreak, but nonetheless, Day is entering his fifth year as head coach with a losing record against the northern team. That makes this year’s game in Ann Arbor a vital game for Day’s reputation, as Day’s heat will no doubt increase in Columbus if he drops to 1-3 in the rivalry.
Day has had the challenge of playing Michigan’s top two college football playoff teams for the past two years, but the Wolverines are expected to be one of the top teams in college football again this season. It won’t be an acceptable excuse if Day can’t get to 0.500 in The Game in November.
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No National Championships yet National Championships at Ohio State First year four-year-old trainer Paul Brown 2nd (1942) Jim Tressel 2nd (2002) Urban Meyer 3rd (2014) Woody Hayes 4th (1954)
The four coaches who led Ohio State to national championships all did so in their first four years in charge of the Buckeyes, putting Day behind Ohio State’s greatest coaches in this regard as well.
Day’s Buckeyes aren’t far off, having made the college football playoffs in three of its first four seasons, but they’re yet to reach the top of the mountain, falling to the semifinals in 2019 and 2022 and at the national championship match in 2020.
While Hayes won four more national championships after his first, Day will be looking to become the first Ohio State coach to win his first national championship in his fifth year or later.
Recruitment as well as anyone recruiting Rankings in first three full rounds of recruitment Coach Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Ryan Day 5 (2020) 2 (2021) 4 (2022) 4 (2023) Urban Meyer 2 (2013) 3 ( 2014) 9 (2015) 3 (2016) Jim Tressel 5 (2002) 40 (2003) 9 (2004) 12 (2005) *Recruitment rankings by rivals
While it’s true that Day’s best years thus far have come with rosters that have largely been built by Meyer, Day has consistently brought elite talent to Columbus, as his first four full recruiting cycles as head coach Ohio State ranked in the top five nationally.
Recruiting rankings were not widely available until the 21st century, so it is difficult to compare Day’s recruiting to coaches before Meyer and Tressel. Compared to them, however, Day is the only one to start his tenure with four consecutive top-five recruiting classes (not including the 2019 class, as Day was promoted to head coach just two weeks before the first day of signing for this class).
Now entering its fifth season with a roster that features just three Meyer-era players (Xavier Johnson, Matt Jones and Josh Proctor), Day’s roster build will be fully tested in 2023 because it’s about the players he recruited — and the coaches developing them — to turn that talent into results by beating Michigan and winning championships.