As Urban Meyer begins his career as an administrator following his retirement as Ohio State’s head football coach and Ryan Day prepares for his first season as Ohio State’s head coach, Jim Tressel knows what it’s like to be in both of their shoes.
Tressel, of course, was Ohio State’s head coach from 2001 to 2010, and he’s since begun a career in university administration. Tressel has been the president at Youngstown State University since 2014, and previously spent two years at Akron University as the vice president of strategic engagement.
Meyer just began his career as an administrator earlier this month, taking on the role of assistant athletic director of athletics initiatives and relations at Ohio State, following his seven-year tenure coaching the Buckeyes. Meyer’s new role at Ohio State includes supporting fundraising and community initiatives, making appearances on the university’s behalf and developing leadership initiatives and training for both coaches and student-athletes.
What has Tressel learned in his transition from football coach to administrator that Meyer could now learn, too?
As the head coach of a major college football program, one typically has to spend the majority of his time focused on the year-round grind of recruiting, developing players and preparing to win football games. Since becoming an administrator, however, Tressel has been able to expand his horizons beyond his previously football-centric world and recognize other ways that he can contribute to his university and broader society.
“I think when you’re involved in such a myopic operation like coaching, your focus needs to be so total on what you’re doing and so forth, sometimes you don’t have the advantage of realizing that it’s a big world and that there’s a lot of interests people have and that there’s a lot of neat things that you can learn about and contribute to,” Tressel told Eleven Warriors in an interview this week. “And so just learning that there’s a broad scope out there, it’s a lot of fun becoming familiar with that.”
Tressel said he last spoke with Meyer the day after Meyer announced his retirement in December, at which point Meyer wasn’t exactly sure what his next role would be yet, but said his advice to Meyer was to seek a role that would fulfill him the same way coaching did.
“My only suggestion to him was to make sure that he believes that the next chapter is just as important as the last chapter, and he’s got to create this next chapter as being something that will excite him and make him be fired up about what it is he’s contributing to the good of the whole,” Tressel said. “And sometimes it’s not an automatic light switch. Sometimes you have to think through it and experience some things before you really know for sure. But clearly, it will happen for him. And I tease him, he’s a young man, he’s got a lot of good things to do.”
Meyer, who is 54 – five years younger than Tressel was when he began his career as an administrator in 2012 – is also currently co-teaching a class in Ohio State’s Fisher College of Business. Sporting News’ Michael McCarthy reported earlier this month that Meyer was also in negotiations to become a TV analyst for Fox Sports’ college football coverage, though neither Meyer nor Fox Sports has confirmed that as of yet.
“My only suggestion to him was to make sure that he believes that the next chapter is just as important as the last chapter, and he’s got to create this next chapter as being something that will excite him and make him be fired up about what it is he’s contributing to the good of the whole.”– Jim Tressel on his advice to Urban Meyer
Day, meanwhile, is just 39 years old – nine years younger than Tressel was when he became the Buckeyes’ coach. Unlike Tressel, who was previously the head coach at Youngstown State for 15 seasons, Day has never been a head coach before.
There are some similarities between the two, though, in that Tressel had never been a coach at the Football Bowl Subdivision level before. Therefore, like Day, some people questioned whether he was ready to be the head coach at a program of Ohio State’s stature.
Nonetheless, Tressel believed in his ability to get the job done, famously proclaiming at a basketball game just after he was hired that his Buckeyes would make their fans proud, especially in their rivalry game against Michigan. And that’s exactly what they did, going 106-22 in Tressel’s 10 seasons as head coach (though his 12 wins in 2010 were later vacated by the NCAA), with a 9-1 record against the team up north and a national championship in just his second year on the job.
18 years ago, Jim Tressel made a promise. 310 days later, we were indeed proud. pic.twitter.com/LxAkMboaZW— Eleven Warriors (@11W) January 18, 2019
Tressel’s advice to Day is to make sure he has the same belief in himself.
“The thing that he needs to believe is that he can do it,” Tressel said. “And there’s a great place and a lot of support and the resources available in a lot of different ways. Whether it be a lot of good players around, a lot of good coaches, outstanding university ... he’s just got to know that he can do it and that every day, he’ll want to learn a little bit more about what it will take.”
Like Tressel, Day had experience as an assistant coach at Ohio State before becoming the head coach. Tressel previously coached quarterbacks, wide receivers and running backs at Ohio State from 1983-85 before returning in 2001, while Day spent the past two years on Meyer’s staff as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Tressel believes that experience will give Day the foundation he needs to be successful.
“I’ve never sat down with him or anything, but I would anticipate the fact that he’s been in good programs, he’s got the benefit of being in the program ... he knows the expectations, he knows the challenges and he’s at a good place,” Tressel said. “And he’ll surround himself with good people, and he’ll do just fine.”