Gene Smith Says “I Haven’t Even Started” Talking to Ryan Day About New Contract Extension

By Griffin Strom on February 16, 2022 at 3:45 pm
Gene Smith & Ryan Day

Gene Smith says a new contract extension for Ryan Day is not imminent.

Despite the proliferation of high-profile head coaching mobility since the conclusion of this past college football regular season, coupled with recent raises for other Big Ten coaches and whispers of potential NFL opportunities for Day, the Buckeye athletic director said Wednesday he’s in no rush to restructure the Ohio State football coach’s contract.

“I don’t feel an urgency, no. I feel like we need to do it the right way with he and his family and with the university president and board of trustees, and we'll get to that,” Smith said. “But historically, you guys have watched, I have always tried to make sure that we compensate consistent with expectations and performance. But I don’t feel a sense of urgency.”

“There’ll be a time that he and I will sit down and talk about his contract, but we haven’t done that at this point in time.”– Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith

Day received a contract extension in February 2020 that is set to run through 2026, with Day receiving $6.5 million in total compensation for the 2021 season and $7.6 million in 2022. Day’s initial contract upon being promoted to head coach at the conclusion of the 2018 season was a five-year deal worth $4.5 million per year, but he inked a new deal following a 13-1 campaign in 2019.

Day was the second-highest paid head coach in the Big Ten in 2021, trailing only Penn State’s James Franklin, who raked in $7 million. Despite going a combined 11-11 in the past two seasons, Franklin received a 10-year, $85 million extension this past November.

Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker, who went 11-2 with the Spartans in 2021, also received a recent long-term extension, signing a 10-year deal for $95 million that will make him the highest-paid coach in the conference. The Buckeyes beat Michigan State 56-7 this past season and defeated Penn State 33-24. Day is now 5-0 against Tucker and Franklin as Ohio State’s head coach, which only fuels speculation that he could be in line for an upgraded contract given the landscape around the Big Ten.

“Whenever we get to that, we’ll look at it from that perspective, and then we benchmark and look at other people in the league, we look at national,” Smith said. “I haven’t even started, and so we’ll go down that process.”

Day’s name also popped up in reports linking him to the Chicago Bears head coaching vacancy in December. Day spent two years coaching quarterbacks for the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers before joining the Buckeye staff in 2017, and the Bears drafted former Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields with the 11th overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft. However, Day denied those rumors at a press conference on Dec. 15.

“There's nothing to that," Day said. "There’s no truth to it. I love Ohio State, and I love being the coach at Ohio State.”

Day expounded upon his desire to stay with the program in an interview with the Big Ten Network on Feb. 2, reiterating “this is the best place in the country to be the head football coach.”

“There's always going to be talk like that. I love Ohio State. I love this place,” Day said in the interview. “My family loves it here. I tell recruits all the time, if I was to go take another job, I'd be going by myself because my family's not leaving Columbus. And that's the truth. They love it here.”

Smith said Wednesday that if Day had been offered a new job at any point, he would’ve known about it.

“It kind of helped me that you guys had to ask that question and he said, ‘I’m happy here and I’m not going anywhere.’ Those rumors were rumors,” Smith said. “He and I are very transparent. If somebody had offered him a job, he’d call me right away. That didn’t happen, so I’m good.”

Smith said the topic of Day’s contract hasn’t come up because of all the work that has gone into the slew of other staff hires Ohio State has made since the end of the season. New defensive coordinator Jim Knowles signed a deal to make $1.9 million for the Buckeyes in each of the next three seasons, making him the highest-paid assistant on the Buckeye staff and one of the highest-paid in the country. Ohio State has also brought in Justin Frye, Tim Walton and Perry Eliano while Greg Studrawa, Kerry Coombs, Al Washington and Matt Barnes have all departed from the program.

“We’ve been 100 percent focused on his current staffing, and we just finished that with the football hires,” Smith said. “And what most people don’t realize is we have quite a few changes in our support staff structure. So we just literally last week finished Mark Pantoni’s operation because we had some transitions there. So we’ve been focused on the team.”

But now that Day has made it clear he has no intentions of leaving Ohio State any time soon, Smith knows the two parties will have plenty of time to work something out sooner or later.

“At the end of the day, he and Nina are very happy here, his family’s here,” Smith said. “I think that’s exactly what he shared when he was talking to you (on Dec. 15), and I know that. He’s very comfortable here, and I think you’re probably alluding to is there going to be a contract issue down the road? Possibly. He and I haven’t talked about that.

“There’ll be a time that he and I will sit down and talk about his contract, but we haven’t done that at this point in time.”

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