The Right Amount of Crazy

By Ramzy Nasrallah on January 9, 2019 at 1:05 pm
Nov 24, 2018; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes assistant coach Ryan Day (right) celebrates following a Buckeyes win against the Michigan Wolverines at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports
© Joe Maiorana | USAT Sports

It takes a heightened level of passion to run Ohio State football.

But not too passionate; surplus passion will end a tenure as Woody Hayes demonstrated during a live broadcast. Urban Meyer accumulated too much of it at Florida and had to exit the profession.

A year off temporarily showed him how to effectively manage his passion, which he did for most of his Columbus tenure before it began consuming him again. He seems happier than ever in 2019. But now he's a three-time retiree, and the human embodiment of surplus passion.

Woody and Urban were just about unbeatable when they kept their passion levels effectively managed. Despite being a Hall of Fame coach, John Cooper wasn't crazy enough for their throne, most notably in that he lied to himself and everyone else for over a decade about the rivalry game he was forced to attend each November. Here the people love you, win or tie

He was absolutely right about Buckeye fans. But those are the words of an outsider. A properly conditioned, heightened-level-of-passion Ohio State football steward doesn't say that with disdain. He lives it, proudly.

Every Ohio State coach that preceded Ryan Day since WWII is in the College Football Hall of Fame - except for his most recent boss, who will enter it shortly.

Equilibrium master Jim Tressel would have continued to channel his dark magic in Columbus for an indefinite period of time in just about any other era or campus. No coach has ever been better suited for the highest profile job in the state than the man who was a librarian only on the outside. The only indication that the weight of the job was affecting him was the one he grew out of his scalp.

And that brings us to Ryan Day, our in-house, dark-haired polymath and the only two-time head coach in the history of the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Our introduction to Day was his ability to blend power running with modern passing concepts, designed to keep defenses struggling. He arrived to clean up the catastrophe created by macro-managing Tim Beck and Ed Warinner, who were unable to recreate their one hit wonder from their Lawrence days. Day worked with Kevin Wilson to erase as much as possible from an era punctuated by impotent losses to Michigan State and Clemson.

If a camera happened to catch him by the bench or in the box, he looked like he was on the clock, checking all of his boxes. Chess, geometry, numbers, conditions, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats. His face always looked the same. Tresselish, albeit in a supporting role.

When Day assumed center stage against Oregon State, Rutgers and TCU in a predetermined temporary stint at the center of the sideline, the intensity remained the same. He does not conspicuously wear his passion or anxiety on his face, and while those opponents don't exactly strike fear into the foreheads of the tribe - it was his first head coaching experience. Strategize, execute, repeat. Tresselish, albeit in a cameo role.

That was 2018, before the return, the cysts, the latest installment of Purdue Harbor, the rumors, the retirement and the first team ranked outside of the top two. The in-house, dark-haired polymath hasn't been running the Ohio State football program without a temporary tag on his head for two weeks yet, and he's landed the Buckeyes' top-rated recruit in history along with two members of Jim Harbaugh's coaching staff.

He's also brought in new blood and exited, with dignity, the final holdover from Meyer's Friends & Family position coaches quota. The QB he developed is en route to an eight-figure income, and we haven't mentioned the words Zach or Harrison yet.

It's Day Eight of the Day Era.

He's got that right in front of him as he makes the program - his first - in his vision, keeping in place what he's seen works, reimagining what needs work and disposing of what he does not want or need. It takes the right amount of crazy to sit behind the biggest desk you've ever had and shake things up the way Day has in about a week's time.

Tresselish, but...sinister? We don't know yet. We don't even know what we don't know.

What we know is what stands tall behind the Meyer era that Day is assuming. If you go back to post-war college football - when every program returned to playing with a full deck - every single one of Day's predecessors is enshrined, including the guy that the people loved, win or tie ran out of town after the Snow Bowl.

FESLER 21-13-3 .608 0-3-1 1 1-0 0 1954
HAYES 205-61-10 .761 16-11-1 13 5-6 5 1983
BRUCE 81-26-1 .755 5-4 4 5-3 0 2002
COOPER 111-43-4 .715 2-10-1 3 3-8 0 2008
TRESSEL 106-22 .828 9-1 7 6-4 1 2015
MEYER 83-9 .902 7-0 3 5-2 1 TBD
DAY 3-0 1.000 -- -- -- -- --

It's absolutely daunting and unparalleled at any program, at any level. Ask former interim coach Luke Fickell.

It takes a heightened level of passion to run Ohio State football. Eight days in, it already seems as though the not-so-new guy has it - which is fortunate for all of us, because as far job requirements go, that one is not optional.

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