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Column: A homer’s annual defense of Ryan Day, winner of nearly 90% of his games

I guess we’re doing this again? Since Ohio State only squeaked out a 20-point conference road win to open their season? Ok, I’ll bite.

Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

After getting bullied by Jim Harbaugh and TTUN, dropping a heartbreaker in last season’s College Football Playoff, and then ‘barely squeaking by’ Indiana to open the 2023 season, certain Ohio State fans are once again calling for Ryan Day’s head. What else is new? In other, equally shocking news, water is wet, and the sky is blue.

**This is where I could easily insert a tweet or something of that nature, in which somebody is saying that OSU should hire Mike Vrabel or perhaps even Bill Belichick or Andy Reid... but I choose to live in the real world.

Pockets of Buckeye Nation have essentially made this an annual exercise, where the rest of us are encouraged to grab our pitchforks and storm the castle known as The Woody. Because Day, who owns a pedestrian .885 winning percentage, is apparently not good enough. Or aggressive enough. He lacks the discipline of Jim Tressel. And/or the fire or Urban Meyer, both of whom won several national titles.

Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

Oh, what’s that? Tressel and Meyer each won just a single natty in Columbus? That can’t be right, because I’ve been told they coached circles around their peers.

Sarcasm aside, maybe Tressel and Meyer were better coaches than Day is or could ever aspire to be. After all, and taking into account their respective seasons spent in/at Division 1-AA and Florida, both did win multiple championships. But because we go through this exercise seemingly every year, I have now found myself making an annual argument... For, or in defense of, Ryan Day.

Why am I even remotely passionate about this? Why am I in the Day Hive? I’m not entirely sure, maybe I’m just a homer. Maybe I’m a big New Hampshire guy. I don’t know why I defend Day the way that I do. But what I do know is that I love when Ohio State wins football games. And last time I checked, only one other coach in the history of all freaking history has been able to lead the Buckeyes to victory roughly 90% of the time.

While Day certainly has things to work on and/or improve, I cannot for the life of me understand why some people are trying to run him out of town after each and every week that does not result in a 63-0 victory for the good guys. Is winning 88% of the time not good enough? Is making it to the final four or a national title game not good enough? Have some of us become so spoiled that we’re giving Day shit for achieving suboptimal results in Week 1? With a new quarterback and a new offensive line?

Give it some time. Day has earned the benefit of the doubt.
Photo by Jason Mowry/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

I get it. The head coach should be held accountable. He is responsible for the health, wellbeing, and overall performance of his program, of which he is the CEO. And a large handful of Day’s guys did not bring it or perform in Bloomington. And the coach appeared to be lacking confidence or trust... In something or somebody. But this most recent crummy week – of which there are few to hold against Day – does not negate or cancel out four plus seasons of exemplary performance.

If you do want to take umbrage with the results of the Day era, there is an argument to be made that Ohio State has underachieved when it matters most... Maybe. But what is underachieving? Not winning a title every season? Not winning one? Again, I get it. I hold my team and my alma mater to a high standard, even though I am not competing against anyone or anything on Saturday(s), other than the couch cushion that swallowed up my remote.

Perhaps Day and his teams have underachieved to a certain extent, but let’s be real. OSU has been in it to win it each and every year since he took over. And to say he fumbled the bag that was handed to him by Meyer is just flat-out false. I would argue all day that he (Day) has met, maintained, and/or upheld the standard, with the exception of his teams’ performances against TTUN. Those losses to the Wolverines are a tough look, but you know what? Harbaugh’s bunch is a hell of a lot better than they were prior to 2018.

And if Meyer is the gold standard – which I have no problem with, because I am also a Meyer guy – is it at least fair to say that Day has taken care of ‘day-to-day’ business in a much better fashion? Sure, I am referring to some of the off-the-field stuff, but how about just beating teams Ohio State is supposed to beat? When is the last time Day got his doors blown off by an unranked Iowa or Purdue team? Or lost to a conference opponent other than TTUN? Has he been shutout in a bowl game recently?

Let’s not live in some revisionist history world, where Meyer was end-all, be-all. He was flawed on and off the field. And there is an argument to be made that if Ezekiel Elliott didn’t play out of his damn mind for a few games, then the Swamp King himself might only be remembered as a guy who, metaphorically speaking, sold his soul to win at Florida but could never finish at Ohio State.

If not Meyer, then who else is the standard against which Ryan Day should be measured? Nick Saban? Sure, we would all love to have the GOAT coach our beloved team. But those individuals come along once in a generation or lifetime. Who else? Kirby Smart? Ok, I’ll listen. Although, it did take him six years to establish some sort of dominance in Athens. His program is also a bit of a mess off the field. But if winning is the only thing that matters, then yeah, maybe OSU should give ol’ Kirbs a shot.

Kyle Robertson/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Then how much longer does the list get? How many other coaches would Buckeye fans rather pledge their undying allegiance to, if not Ryan Day? Well, Lincoln Riley wins a lot of games and helps others win Heisman trophies; how about him? I would only entertain the idea long enough to point out that Riley has lost at least two games in each of his seasons and still has a blind spot for Alex Grinch. Plus, who’s to say that he would not eventually bolt for another job in the middle of the night, if offered a big mansion and 24/7 access to a private jet?

How about Dabo Swinney? Is he still ‘the guy’? Seems like his stubbornness and recent results are trying to tell us otherwise. But hey, if you’re looking to recapture the magic of five years ago, perhaps Dabs is your ideal candidate. Let’s see, who else we got? Brian Kelly? Ha! James Franklin? Seems odd to go after a guy who has been repeatedly pantsed by Day ever since the latter took over in Columbus. I got it, I got it... How about Coach Prime!? Well, to that I would say: How about you give me a big, fat break?

I just don’t see where or who the obvious upgrade is. Who is this mythical coaching legend that is going to ride into The Shoe on a scarlet and gray unicorn and absolutely, unequivocally, without question elevate Ohio State to the next level? Who is it?

And that is my biggest reason for defending Day, as if he needs to be defended by some schmuck like me. I understand and admit that guy has some flaws, just like the rest of us —and every other football coach in the history of the sport. But if his floor is winning 88% of the time, shouldn’t you/we/whomever want the theoretical ceiling that comes along with it? Which is having a real title shot year after year after year.

Some would say that Day has done less with more, but I vehemently disagree. I mean, what is ‘less’ even referring to? Not winning a national championship or two? Ok, ya got me. But how about winning 46 out of 52? Is that ‘less’? Give me a break. Losses and defeats happen. Hopefully not to your rival, but did we really expect OSU to beat TTUN 29 straight times, the way they just did Indiana? Are they entitled to multiple... uh, titles? C’mon, grow up Peter Pan. Count Chocula.

Winning it all in college sports, pro sports, or even Monopoly is a difficult, difficult task. In college football there are 300+ losers every year. Which means that Alabama has been a loser four out of the last five years. It means TTUN has been a loser each and every year since 1997. Only one team wins!

At what point does Day deserve at least some credit and/or leeway and/or adequate respect, specifically from those calling for his job on a consistent basis? Only when he hoists the CFP trophy? I am not advocating for complacency, but c’mon. Let’s be realistic.

I say all that to say this: I know that not every Ohio State fan is protesting the mere existence of Ryan Day. But the vocal minority (or majority, who knows?) seems to get so, so, so much louder after a lackluster performance. And potentially against my better judgement, that is when I feel the need to jump in and write 1,500 or so words in defense of Day.

Before I go, I would also just remind the Day haters that he and the Buckeyes are a Clemson screwjob and a missed field goal away from playing in three out of the last four national championship games. They are right there. So have some faith, people. And look at some of the teams and programs that have ousted coaches for ‘only’ winning 9, 10, 11 games each year...

Their pursuit of absolute perfection has often ended poorly, to the point where sustained greatness or even ‘goodness’ has eluded them ever since. Ohio State, on the other hand, is actively enjoying a sustained run of greatness! So let’s not storm the gates of The Woody just yet.