Ohio State coach Urban Meyer plans to step down and will coach his final game in the Rose Bowl, sources told Yahoo Sports.
A myriad of factors contributed to Meyer’s decision, but sources say foremost among them was his happiness with the state of the Ohio State program he inherited seven years ago. Meyer, 54, will be replaced by Ryan Day, the 39-year-old offensive coordinator who served as Ohio State’s interim coach earlier this season. The university will announce Day as the permanent replacement on Tuesday, and the team was scheduled to be informed in a meeting early Tuesday morning.
With the Buckeyes coming off back-to-back Big Ten titles, Meyer views this as a similar transition to Oklahoma in 2017 when Bob Stoops handed over the Sooner program to Lincoln Riley.
The Rose Bowl against Washington on Jan. 1 will mark Meyer’s last game, a fitting ending for an Ohio native who grew up watching Woody Hayes coach in Rose Bowls. Meyer has never coached in the Rose Bowl, and he’ll enter it with a record of 186-32.
Meyer’s career helped define a generation of college football, as he helped usher the spread offense into the mainstream by leading Utah to an undefeated season and Fiesta Bowl victory in 2004. Meyer went on to win two BCS titles at Florida, where he coached Tim Tebow to the Heisman Trophy and dueled with Nick Saban and Les Miles to help fuel the rise of the SEC.
Meyer closed his career in Columbus, where he led the Buckeyes to the 2014 national title and finished his seven seasons 82-9 with a winning percentage just over 90 percent, a 7-0 record against rival Michigan and a 54-4 record in regular season Big Ten play.
Urban Meyer through his career
Urban Meyer through his career
CHICAGO, IL - JULY 24: Ohio State Football head coach Urban Meyer speaks to the media during the Big Ten Football Media Days event on July 24, 2018 at the Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
LEXINGTON, KY - SEPTEMBER 24: Urban Meyer the Head Coach of the Florida Gators is pictured during the game against the Kentucky Wildcats on September 24, 2005 at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, Kentucky. Florida won 49-28. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
GAINESVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 30: Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer talks with his defense during a game against ther Alabama Crimson Tide at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida Field September 30, 2006 in Gainsville, Florida. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
08 JAN 2007: University of Florida Head Coach Urban Meyer and wide receiver Dallas Baker (81) receive a Gatorade bath after defeating the Ohio State Buckeyes during the BCS National Championship game held at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ. Florida defeated OSU 41-14 for the national title. Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images.
GAINESVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 24: Head coach Urban Meyer of the Florida Gators walks the sidelines while taking on the Florida State Seminoles at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium November 24, 2007 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
Florida head coach Urban Meyer flashes a big smile after he sat down with Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops, not shown, at a media conference at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, Florida, Wednesday, December 10, 2008. Florida and Oklahoma will play in the 2009 FedEx BCS National Championship Bowl. (Photo by John VanBeekum/Miami Herald/MCT via Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 01: Head coach Urban Meyer of the Florida Gators stands on the field before the Allstate Sugar Bowl against the Cincinnati Bearcats at the Louisana Superdome on January 1, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Florida head coach Urban Meyer celebrates with his wife, Shelley, after the Gators' 31-17 victory over the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee, on Saturday, September 18, 2010. (Gary W. Green/Orlando Sentinel/MCT via Getty Images)
Florida head coach Urban Meyer signals for a touchdown during the Gators' 34-31 overtime victory over Georgia at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida, Saturday, October 30, 2010. (Photo by Gary W. Green/Orlando Sentinel/MCT via Getty Images)
Urban Meyer, former head coach of the Florida Gators, is seen before the start of the game between the Broncos and Dolphins. The Denver Broncos defeated the Miami Dolphins, 18-15, in overtime at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, on Sunday, October 23, 2011. (Jim Rassol/Sun Sentinel/MCT via Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, OHIO - SEPTEMBER 1, 2012: Head coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes takes questions from the media after a game with the Miami Redhawks at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. The Buckeyes won 56-10.(Photo by David Dermer/ Diamond Images/ Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 8: Head Coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes watches as his team warms up prior to the start of the game against the Central Florida Knights on September 8, 2012 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio defeated Central Florida 31-16. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 7: Head Coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes and his daughter Nicole Meyer, left, and wife Shelley Meyer sing Carmen Ohio with the Buckeye football team after the Buckeyes' 42-7 victory over the San Diego State Aztecs at Ohio Stadium on September 7, 2013 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 19: Head Coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes on the sidelines during game against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Ohio Stadium on October 19, 2013 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN - NOVEMBER 30, 2013: Head coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes answers questions front he media during the post game press conference after a game against the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Buckeyes won 42-41. (Photo by David Dermer/Diamond Images/Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 18: Head Coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes watches his team warm up before a game against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Ohio Stadium on October 18, 2014 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
STATE COLLEGE, PA - OCTOBER 25: Urban Meyer head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes coaches during the game against the Penn State Nittany Lions on October 25, 2014 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
06 December 2014: Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer celebrates with the Big Ten Championship trophy named the Stagg Championship Trophy in action during the NCAA Big 10 Championship football game between the Wisconsin Badgers and Ohio State Buckeyes at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)
January 1, 2015: Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer receives the winning trophy during the Ohio State Buckeyes game versus the Alabama Crimson Tide in their College Football Playoff Semifinal played in the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, LA. (Photo by Scott Donaldson/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)
January 1, 2015: Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer watches during the Ohio State Buckeyes game versus the Alabama Crimson Tide in their College Football Playoff Semifinal played in the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, LA. (Photo by Tyler Kaufman/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)
12 January 2015: Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Devin Smith (9) hugs the trophy with Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer and wife Shelley as following the Ohio State Buckeyes game versus the Oregon Ducks in the College Football Playoff National Championship at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. Ohio State won 42-20. (Photo by Ray Carlin/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)
SCOTTSDALE, AZ - JANUARY 28: Urban Meyer, head football coach at Ohio State University, hits his tee shot on the 16th hole during the pro-am prior to the start of the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale on January 28, 2015 in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
19 September 2015: Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer and his family sing Carmen Ohio to the fans following the game between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Northern Illinois Huskies at the Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Khris Hale/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 01: Head coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes holds the Fiesta Bowl trophy after the BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 1, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Ohio State Buckeyes beat the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 44-28. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 3: Head Coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes calls out instructions to his players during the second quarter of the game against the Bowling Green Falcons on September 3, 2016 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 8: Head Coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes watches his team play against the Indiana Hoosiers at Ohio Stadium on October 8, 2016 in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State defeated Indiana 38-17. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 26: Head coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes reacts on the sideline during overtime of the game against the Michigan Wolverines at Ohio Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 31: Head coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes looks on against the Clemson Tigers during the 2016 PlayStation Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium on December 31, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, OH - AUGUST 07: Ohio State Buckeyes Head Coach Urban Meyer addresses members of the media during a press conference at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus, Ohio on August 7th, 2017. (Photo by Jason Mowry/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 07: Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer walks to the sideline after checking on Ohio State Buckeyes offensive lineman Branden Bowen (not pictured) who was injured during first quarter game action between the Maryland Terrapins and the Ohio State Buckeyes (10) on October 7, 2017 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State leads Maryland 20-7 at the end of the first quarter. (Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 02: Urban Meyer the head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes holds the winner's trophy after 27-21 win over the Wisconsin Badgers in the Big Ten Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 2, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 02: Head coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes reacts during the Big Ten Championship against the Wisconsin Badgers at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 2, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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The news puts to a close one of the great careers in the history of the sport, as from Alex Smith to Tebow to the Bosa brothers, Joey and Nick, his career interspersed with some of the sport’s biggest stars and moments the past two decades.
Meyer finishes with three national championships – two BCS titles at Florida and a College Football Playoff title at Ohio State. He also led two other undefeated seasons separate from the title winners – Utah in 2004 and Ohio State in 2012. He can still add to his 11-3 bowl record in Pasadena.
The timing of the announcement so soon after the regular season came because Ohio State officials wanted to be open and transparent with recruits, sources said, as coaches are out on the road this week putting together the 2019 class. Ohio State has 15 verbal commitments, but the class has been generally static compared to past years as recruits and their families waited on Meyer to address his future.
Part of the reasoning for Meyer stepping down stemmed from his health. He’s endured painful and aggressive headaches as a result of a congenital arachnoid cyst in his brain. He had brain surgery in 2014 to help relieve the pain, but it had returned in spurts the past two seasons and, at times, limited him from performing the job with the required intensity.
The image of Meyer dropped to a knee and hunched over in pain has resonated as one of the dominant images in college football this season. Doctors had begun to caution Meyer about long-term risks.
The decision comes at the end of a tumultuous season for Meyer, as he was suspended for all of summer training camp and the season’s first three weeks in the wake of an investigation into allegations of illegal and illicit behavior by a former assistant coach. A subsequent suspension forced Meyer to miss the season’s first three games.
Meyer’s career has been frequently interspersed with drama, which included him stepping down at Florida in December of 2009, returning days later before stepping down again in 2010. He returned to coaching after a year spent working on his health, doing television work for ESPN and spending time with his family. That kicked off a seven-year run at Ohio State where he’s compiled an 82-9 record and won the first-ever College Football Playoff championship following the 2014 season. His 90.1 win percentage is the best in school history, higher than Jim Tressel (82.8), Earle Bruce (75.5) and Woody Hayes (76.1).
Meyer’s suspension earlier this season gave Ohio State officials an audition for Day, 39, who aced all facets on and off the field. Along with going 3-0, Day emerged a natural as a face of the program at a time when one public misstatement could have brought a public relations nightmare.
Day is one of the bright young offensive minds in America, as he played quarterback at New Hampshire from 1998 to 2001 for Chip Kelly when he was the offensive coordinator there. Day’s work developing redshirt sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins, a first-year starter, has helped result in one of the most prolific seasons in Big Ten history. Haskins was named a Heisman Trophy finalist after completing 70 percent of his passes and setting league records for both touchdowns (47) and yards (4,580).
The decision involving choosing Day to replace Meyer presented athletic director Gene Smith and university officials with a clear choice – keeping the current infrastructure of the program or bringing in an outsider and risking an overhaul of everything that Meyer had built.
Part of Meyer’s legacy at Ohio State will be the prolific machine he’s grown the program into, as Ohio State has emerged as a force nationally in recruiting with top-three rankings in each of the past three seasons.
All indications point to Day planning to keep veteran strength coach Mickey Marotti, director of operations Brian Voltolini, respected personnel director Mark Pantoni and player development director Ryan Stamper.
Day would certainly have say over staff decisions, but the general notion of keeping the off-field machine Meyer put into place has to be an attractive one.
Marotti is considered one of the top-five strength coaches in the country, Voltolini has helped Meyer build programs since his early days at Bowling Green and Pantoni is the most respected personnel director in college football. Stamper is a key figure behind the scenes in Columbus.
Meyer is expected to spend more time with his family, which includes one grandchild and another on the way. He may consider television work and could potentially do work with the Ohio State athletic department in some capacity. That role could include mentoring coaches and leaders, as Meyer has maintained a strong relationship with Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith.
But Meyer won’t be the head coach at Ohio State anymore, creating an indelible change to the college football landscape as one of this generation’s most impactful coaches steps away.