With Year One for Ryan Day in the books, what are his expectations going into year two?
Day got the chance at the helm in 2018 but cemented himself last season by taking the Buckeyes to the College Football Playoff. He became the first Ohio State coach to go undefeated in his regular-season since, well, the last head coach.
That brings up an interesting question, though. What are the standards for Ohio State coaches?
We’ll take a look at the last five full-time head coaches and see how they did in their second season.
Woody Hayes (1952)
Result: 6-3, AP No. 17
The legendary Woody Hayes is what made Ohio State football the power that it is today. However, his first few seasons were quite unmemorable. He went 16-9 in his first three seasons, and 1952 was the only season he finished in the Top-25.
Hayes did improve from a 4-3-2 first year in 1951. But a .667 win percentage, like what Hayes had in his 1952, would worry Ohio State fans.
Today’s fan base would be calling for Day to be fired if he had a .640 winning percentage in his first three seasons. It’s a good thing Hayes lasted because year four is when things took off.
Earle Bruce (1980)
Result: 9-3, AP No. 15, Fiesta Bowl appearance
Unlike Hayes, Earle Bruce had a great first year. Bruce’s Buckeyes started off 1979 unranked and made it all the way to No. 1. Their national title hopes were dashed in the Rose Bowl, but they had high expectations going into Bruce’s year two.
1980 was a disappointment, as preseason No. 1. Ohio State lost to the team up north to finish the regular season. They then lost to Penn State in the Fiesta Bowl.
John Cooper (1989)
Result: 8-4, AP No. 24, Hall of Fame Bowl appearance
John Cooper’s tenure at Ohio State was a disaster, and that was clear from year one. His Buckeyes went 4-6-1 in 1988, so expectations in year two were low.
Cooper did secure a bowl appearance in the Hall of Fame Bowl in 1989 but got trounced by Auburn.
The Hall of Fame Bowl was later renamed the Outback Bowl, which was the last game Cooper ever coached in a loss to South Carolina.
Jim Tressel (2002)
Result: 14-0, AP No. 1, Fiesta Bowl win, National Championship
In Jim Tressel’s first year, the Buckeyes were a fringe Top-25 team, dropping out of the rankings thanks to a bowl loss. Like his predecessor the year before, Tressel lost the Outback Bowl to South Carolina.
But in his second season, the Buckeyes went 14-0 and went on to defeat Miami in the Fiesta Bowl for a national championship.
Going 14-0 is extremely difficult, so Tressel was never able to replicate his year two magic. But his three national championship appearances recalibrated the standard for Ohio State coaches.
Winning your program’s first national championship in almost 50 years is the ceiling for a coach’s expectations in his second year.
Urban Meyer (2013)
Result: 12-2, AP No. 12, Leaders division Championship, Orange Bowl appearance
Thanks to punishment in response to infractions from Tressel’s tenure, Urban Meyer’s first Buckeye squad was ineligible for any postseason competition. That’s the only way an undefeated team can be ranked as low as No. 3 in the AP Poll.
In his next season, Meyer extended his win streak to 24 straight games, before losing to Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship game. The Buckeyes topped from No. 2 entering the conference championship game all the way to No. 12 following the Orange Bowl loss to Clemson.
Expectations for Ryan Day in Year Two
Unfortunately for Day, coaches don’t get five years today like they did years ago. Day has to have his foot on the gas pedal in year two just like he did in year one. If his second year resembles that of Hayes, Cooper, or Bruce, he will have immense pressure in year three.
The other hurdle Day has to overcome is his own success. He is now 15-0 in the regular season and led the Buckeyes to a conference championship. Heisman finalist Justin Fields is returning, and Day landed transfer running back Trey Sermon. The defense may be lacking some first-round draft picks, but the talent is still there to compete.
The expectations for Day in year two are simple: beat Michigan, then contend for a conference title and College Football Playoff berth.
While some coaches from the late twentieth century may not have had similar expectations in their second seasons, that’s what Day has to reach.