Urban Meyer’s decision to retire from Ohio State shocked many people, but it was a long time coming.
He had conversations about the longevity of his coaching career at Ohio State as early as 2014. Here's the full timeline of what happened in the past few years that led to Urban Meyer's decision to retire on Tuesday and Ryan Day stepping in as head coach.
SPRING OF 2014
Urban Meyer has surgery
Urban Meyer had an operation to remove a “small fluid collection related to a congenital arachnoid cyst” during the offseason. At the time, the operation was deemed by Ohio State as a “short medical procedure.” During his press conference on Tuesday, Meyer said he has been dealing with constant headaches, which “came to a head” in 2014 and led to him getting surgery.
“First with the doctors,” Meyer said on Tuesday, describing his thoughts in 2014. “What is this? What are we dealing with? What's the long-range? What's this and what's that? And we came through it pretty good.”
Urban Meyer has first conversations about longevity
Meyer didn't specify at what point during the year or whether it was before or after his surgery, but Meyer said he had conversations in 2014 about his health and how it would affect his future.
“Also had conversations, to be honest with you, in '14 when we went through the whole scenario,” Meyer said on Tuesday.
Urban Meyer's headaches improve, then worsen
Following the surgery, Meyer's health improved. His headaches did not affect him nearly as much as they did before the operation. However, as time passed, Meyer could not maintain his prior level of health, which continued to decline.
“2015 it was relatively good,” Meyer said on Tuesday. “(2016), OK.”
FALL OF 2017
Urban Meyer's headaches become a problem again
Though the surgery in 2014 helped subdue Urban Meyer's headaches, they began to return to their prior form during the 2017 season. The headaches once again negatively affected him.
“It recurred last year,” Meyer said. “I started dealing with some issues last year.”
He called the 2017 season "the tough one" on Tuesday since his headaches had returned.
OCT. 28, 2017
Headaches "hit real hard"
Fans rushed the field, Urban Meyer referenced J.T. Barrett as a possible Heisman contender and the Buckeyes capped off a 39-38 comeback win against Penn State, but Meyer did not feel right. The headaches had returned in a big way. Meyer couldn't shake them off. He knew his health was at stake.
“It hit real hard,” Meyer said. “And we have a great medical team that was over the top trying to help me through it. I was on medicine and all that. But we had conversations back then about longevity and the seriousness of it. Because, as they said, it's not your elbow or your foot. We're talking about something else.”
DEC. 20, 2017
Urban Meyer says Ryan Day turned down head coach opportunity
Ryan Day had the opportunity to leave Ohio State to become a head coach after just one year. Last December, Urban Meyer said Day turned down a job offer, which was reportedly from Mississippi State.
“Coach Day had the opportunity to potentially be a head coach in the SEC and decided to stay at Ohio State,” Meyer said on Dec. 20, 2017.
DEC. 20, 2017
Jackson Carman says Dabo Swinney told him Urban Meyer was on the back end of his career
Jackson Carman, an in-state recruiting in the 2018 recruiting cycle, spurred Ohio State in favor of Clemson. Following his commitment on the first day of the early signing period, Carman told The Athletic's Ari Wasserman that Clemson coach Dabo Swinney told him Urban Meyer was on the back end of his career.
“It wasn’t a major factor, but it was an underlying one,” Carman told Wasserman.
JAN. 23, 2018
Ryan Day promoted to offensive coordinator
After working as Ohio State's co-offensive coordinator for one season, Ryan Day earned a promotion to offensive coordinator.
“Ryan is clearly a very talented coach who has been an outstanding addition to our program,” Urban Meyer said in January. "He has been approached by other schools numerous times this offseason for coordinator and head coach opportunities, and by the National Football League for a coordinator opportunity. I am pleased that he has elected to continue to work on this staff and to lead, mentor and coach the terrific young men we have in this program.”
FEB. 7, 2018
Urban Meyer says he expects to sign an extension
During his National Signing Day press conference, Urban Meyer said Gene Smith and the athletic department had extended a contract extension to him. Smith said the extension was offered to maximize Ohio State's recruiting efforts since prospects wanted a commitment from Meyer longer than the three years remaining on his contract.
FEB. 17, 2018
Ryan Day becomes a $1 million coach
Ryan Day, along with Greg Schiano, became the first Ohio State assistant coach with a salary above $1 million. He earned a $600,000 raise from $400,000 to $1 million, which made him the second-highest paid assistant coach on the staff.
APRIL 5, 2018
Board Of Trustees approves Urban Meyer's contract extension
During a Board of Trustees meeting, Urban Meyer's contract extension was approved. He was given a $1.2 million raise, which made him the highest-paid coach in the Big Ten. The two-year extension ran through the 2022 season.
SUMMER OF 2018
Gene Smith gets to know Ryan Day
Though Ryan Day had already been on Ohio State's coaching staff for a year, Gene Smith used this summer to get to know him. Smith said he met with Day in his office for "a great deal of time.”
“We recognized the talent that Ryan Day had early,” Smith said on Tuesday. "And I spent a great deal of time getting to know him. Did that this summer. We actually met in my office in the summertime. Spent some quality time getting to know one another. And then obviously throughout the year.”
AUG. 1, 2018
Urban Meyer placed on administrative leave, Ryan Day named interim head coach
Following the domestic violence allegations about Zach Smith, Urban Meyer was placed on paid administrative leave. Gene Smith was also placed on paid administrative leave.
“Gene (Smith, Ohio State athletic director) and I agree that being on leave during this inquiry will facilitate its completion,” Meyer said in a statement on Aug. 1. “This allows the team to conduct training camp with minimal distraction. I eagerly look forward to the resolution of this matter.”
Ryan Day was named interim head coach the same day Meyer was placed on administrative leave.
AUG. 22, 2018
Urban Meyer suspended three games
Ohio State opted to suspend Urban Meyer for three games, rather than terminate his contract, following an investigation into how he and the athletic department handled the Zach Smith allegations. Gene Smith was also suspended for a little more than two weeks.
“Although neither Urban Meyer nor Gene Smith condoned or covered up the alleged domestic abuse by Zach Smith, they failed to take sufficient management action relating to Zach Smith’s misconduct and retained an Assistant Coach who was not performing as an appropriate role model for OSU student-athletes,” Ohio State said in a statement on Aug. 22. “Permitting such misconduct to continue is not consistent with the values of the University and reflects poorly on Coach Meyer, Athletic Director Smith, and the University.”
Though Meyer said his health was the main factor that led to him announcing his retirement, he said the Zach Smith situation and the suspension had "an impact" on him opting to step aside.
“That was a very difficult time, very difficult time,” Meyer said on Tuesday. “But this has been – I've had to deal with the headaches for many years and it came to a head in 2014 and again last year and this year as well. As difficult a time as that was, that didn't have an impact as much on the headaches. But it did have an impact.”
OCT. 6, 2018
Urban Meyer falls to the ground due to a headache
During the fourth quarter of Ohio State's 49-26 win against Indiana, Urban Meyer fell to the ground. Bruce Feldman, the sideline reporter working the game, originally reported he collided with a staffer. But after the game, Meyer said he dropped to one knee due to a headache. After the game, though, he downplayed the event.
“I’ve dealt with headaches in the past, just dealing with a headache,” Meyer said on Oct. 6.
OCT. 30, 2018
Urban Meyer says he plans to coach as long as possible
After speculation remained constant about his health, Urban Meyer welcomed four reporters into his office to discuss how the headaches have impacted his job and his status moving forward.
“I am fully committed to Ohio State and the football program for as long I can,” Meyer told the Columbus Dispatch.
Gene Smith also told the Columbus Dispatch he did not see a change coming.
A COUPLE WEEKS AGO
Gene Smith feels comfortable with Ryan Day as head coach
Though he didn't say it publicly at the time, Gene Smith said on Tuesday that he began to feel comfortable with the idea of Ryan Day possibly succeeding Urban Meyer at some point as head coach a "couple weeks ago.”
“The story is for the last month Urban and I, every Sunday, just like I normally do after a football game – and every year I do this and all season long – we began to talk about potential transition,” Smith said. “And you can talk about why. But we had deep conversations about that. So while we were having those conversations, I was looking at candidates across the country and trying to decide if I was going to go national search. And as I thought about those potential candidates, and some of them very good and some of them I know, I felt more comfortable coming back to Ryan Day. Our program does not need disruption. It does not need to blow up and have people come in and try and adapt to our standards of operation and try and change the infrastructure that we've put in place for the student-athlete. So we had a talented and gifted guy that many others wanted to interview him and potentially hire. So a few weeks ago I kind of felt, OK, I needed to kind of lock in here as we had our conversations.”
WITHIN THE PAST TWO WEEKS
The idea of retiring crosses Urban Meyer's mind
Urban Meyer doesn't remember exactly when it happened, but at some point in the past couple weeks, he started to think about a potential retirement.
“Walking off the stadium against our rival in that last game, things started to cross my mind,” Meyer said. “Going into Indianapolis, started to cross my mind. I wanted to go longer. The thing that really started to make things, when recruits started asking me, will you be here for four or five years. Recruits I'm very close with. And this early signing date has put pressure all over this world – the college football world.”
Recruiting played a large role in his decision to step away when he did.
“If you sign a scholarship and the coach decides to leave after that they're free to go,” Meyer said. “So this was – and people will say, why would you let recruiting get in the way. That's a silly question. That's the blood – you want to have a good team you recruit. And you recruit very hard. So that put a little push on it. And to be honest, I didn't want to mislead recruits. Gene and I both felt – not felt, we knew – and that's what made it now, the decision now.”
DEC. 2, 2018
Gene Smith needs Urban Meyer to make a decision
One day after Ohio State beat Northwestern to win the Big Ten championship, Urban Meyer had a decision to make. Gene Smith needed to know about his status moving forward.
“I knew that ultimately Urban had to make a decision this past Sunday or yesterday, and I was going to have to move one way or the other,” Gene Smith said.
DEC. 3, 2018
Urban Meyer makes the decision to retire
Gene Smith hoped Urban Meyer would make his decision on Sunday, but he needed some extra time. The next day, though, Meyer came to Smith with his answer.
“I heard the news yesterday,” Smith said on Tuesday. “We chatted a little bit. So we knew that it was probably imminent. And I walked into his office this morning and he was sitting at his desk. And I stood before him and we looked at each other in the eye and I said it in a different way than I'm going to say it right now. I said, if you want to stop this thing, I'll pull the plug right now. I articulated it a little differently. But at that moment – actually, yesterday I knew. We've had conversations for a long time. But yesterday, when I really knew he was there. And so, he needed the extra time, but I knew he was there.”
Urban Meyer added: “I met with Gene and I knew that this isn't something I'm going to do for the next 15 years, 10 years. I knew after the experiences I had on the sideline again and in 2014, just dealing with the headaches, that I wanted to do Ohio State right and Gene Smith right.”
Meyer said he sat in his office last night with Terry McLaurin and Parris Campbell for about an hour both about the decision to retire and other topics. He said his interactions with the players are what he'll miss most about coaching.
Meyer also said he talked to a few recruits on Monday in order to let them know what might be happening.
“I talked to a couple recruits that I'm very close with and I said this might happen,” Meyer said. I wanted to gauge their reaction. And I can't tell names and all that, but it was over the top because of the respect they have for Ryan and the program and Ohio State.”
DEC. 4, 2018
Urban Meyer announces his decision, tells the team
Tuesday morning, Urban Meyer told Gene Smith for the final time he would retire. Then, he called a meeting with the entire team to tell him of the decision and the plan for Ryan Day to succeed him as head coach.
“We're not here without the student-athletes,” Meyer said. “I have an incredible – as you witnessed this fall – the leadership on this team. I'm willing to say it's as good as we've ever had.”
At 7:30 a.m., Ohio State officially announced Urban Meyer's retirement and the promotion of Ryan Day to head coach.
Ryan Day becomes head coach
According to his contract, Ryan Day doesn't become Ohio State's head coach until Jan. 2. However, that won't stop him from hitting the recruiting trail.
“After we get done here, it's going to be a sprint to get out and get in homes and get around some of the families,” Day said. “Obviously a lot of relationships that are already built there. Some other ones, especially on defense, that maybe aren't as strong yet. But the response has been great. The response has been strong. And excited to get on the road.”
Meyer will remain involved in recruiting during December, but he won't be leading the efforts.
“Ryan will be the head coach out recruiting. I'll visit with recruits on campus,” Meyer said. “And then I'll have conversations with them if they feel necessary because I'm still really close with that class.”
Just a few days ago, Day didn't believe he would be anything other than offensive coordinator. That changed quicker than he every could have imagined.
“The past few weeks we've been knee deep in trying to beat our rival and trying to win the Big Ten championship,” Day said. “There's been no hour of the day that I've been focused on anything other than that. So the last 48 hours happened really, really fast. And it was one of those things where Gene and I had a few really general conversations but nothing specific at all. So when it all happened, it all happened really, really fast.”