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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.
The decision comes at the end of a tumultuous year for Meyer, as he’s battled health issues and a suspension at the start of the season after an investigation into allegations of illegal and illicit behavior by a former assistant.
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 Sooners 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.
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 has 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.
Meyer was also 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 former assistant coach Zach Smith.
Meyer’s career has been frequently interspersed with drama, which included him stepping down at Florida in December 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 compiled an 82-9 record and won the first 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.
More from Yahoo Sports:
• Forde: Urban Meyer has one complicated, drama-filled legacy
• Wetzel: Urban Meyer’s Big Ten rivals finally have their chance
• Where Urban Meyer’s accomplishments rank in college football history
• 10 things to know about Urban Meyer’s Ohio State successor