The landscape of college football changed nearly overnight once Urban Meyer stepped down as Ohio State’s head football coach after the 2019 Rose Bowl.
In the four years since the end of his tenure, the NCAA’s approval of the one-time transfer rule and adoption of NIL policy radically modified multiple major responsibilities for college football coaches and programs as a whole. Between both of those factors and the increased impact of social media on college athletics, Meyer said Thursday at Ohio State’s coaches clinic that Ryan Day has a tougher job than he ever did in Columbus.
“I think his seat is more difficult than any seat we ever sat in because everything is (online). … What you see in here stays in here when you leave, and there was a big sign we had in there,” Meyer said during a roundtable discussion with Day and fellow former Ohio State head coaches Jim Tressel and John Cooper. “And as long as that happens, you keep your team within. Which, Ryan's doing a heck of a job. You're gonna deal with some of the individuality. That doesn't mean you have to like it. You have to coach them through it.”
Meyer may not be as hands-on with Day’s program as he was during the latter’s transition back in 2019, but said he’s still there for his former co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach whenever he needs any guidance. Independent of Meyer’s influence, though, he said he’s been impressed with the job Day and company have done on the recruiting trail – especially on offense.
“(I’m involved) as a friend, as a guy Ryan Day can lean on. Obviously, I got a family member on the staff, so I pull for them,” Meyer said in an interview at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center last Thursday. “I’m so proud of the way they recruit, I mean this is next-level stuff. Especially offensively.”
Of course, Meyer helped expand Ohio State’s recruiting horizons in the 2010s to enable the program to become a major player in hotbeds for talent around the country, and Day’s staff has largely maintained that standard in the past four years. But in the NIL era, recruiting has become more complicated than ever before.
Asked how he would’ve handled NIL as the head coach of a college program, Meyer said a coach must change with the times. And while Meyer approves of NIL in general, he also said there are certain aspects he can’t get on board with.
“You’d have to adapt. I think the purest of NIL is outstanding,” Meyer said. “Like when I saw who I think is the best player last year and this year, Marvin (Harrison Jr.) – he was the best player in football last year. When I see him sign a big money deal, I think that’s fantastic. He’s earned that. When I see the word collective, I kind of (shudder). And they’re giving it to recruits? That’s cheating, that’s not what you’re supposed to do. Let the player come here and earn what you got to earn, but when I started seeing about all that other stuff, (I get uneasy). I think it’s fantastic, players should get name and likeness. That’s what it is, name and likeness. Not inducement.”
Meyer has served as a board member for THE Foundation, a non-profit booster collective for Ohio State football and basketball, since March of 2022. However, Meyer said he’s not all that involved in any day-to-day operations.
We proudly welcome @CoachUrbanMeyer to our board. Urban has 3 Nat'l Championships on his resume, including the '14 title w/OSU. He's recognized as one of the best recruiters in college football history. Urban looks forward to seeing future success for OSU and local charities. pic.twitter.com/UEvRf7eKxf— THE Foundation (@TheFoundation1_) March 16, 2022
“I’m on the board and I’m friends and I’ll talk to the guys every once in a while but I’m not real active,” Meyer said.
As for the transfer portal, Meyer said that’s another area in which he would’ve had to shift his approach. During the roundtable discussion, Meyer was glowing in his praise of the 2012 Buckeye roster, a group that saw no seniors transfer out after he took over the program. In the modern era of college football, though, such a feat would figure to be highly unlikely.
“That was kind of one of the things I tried to do is make it so hard that you found out who wanted to be here,” Meyer said. “You can’t do that anymore. I don’t know, I think there’s some programs that still – you’d have to adapt.”
But Meyer said his mindset on transfers had already begun to change before the end of his Ohio State tenure, and that a conversation with Buckeye athletic director Gene Smith helped in that regard. Instead of viewing the departure of a Buckeye as a problem with the player, Meyer said Smith helped him see it as an opportunity to reflect on the program.
“Gene Smith said it one time, when a player transfers, I used to get so angry when they were talking,” Meyer said. “And he said, ‘You know what, maybe we’re looking at this the wrong way. Instead of getting angry at the player, find out why he left. Fix that.’ I thought that was really, really strong by Gene. That came from Gene Smith. I think that’s the approach here, is if something’s happening, a player decides to leave – which they’re allowed to do – yeah, you can be pissed off at the player. But go find out why. Maybe there’s something between that assistant coach, maybe there’s something in the training room, maybe there’s something just not right.”
While Meyer didn’t shy away from stating his opinions on the current state of the sport, his thoughts on how he’d handle various scenarios remain purely theoretical. Meyer said he has no plans on making a return to the sideline.
“That book’s closed,” Meyer said. “It’s gonna be TV and grandfathering.”