Ohio State Buckeyes: Day concerned about changes to college football

COLUMBUS -- Ohio State football coach Ryan Day had a lot to talk about besides the newest crop of Buckeyes on the latest National Signing Day.

“To say that I’m not at the very least concerned about what’s going on right now across the country, that wouldn’t be accurate,” the head coach of the Buckeyes said Wednesday.

College football has had many evolutions since growing out of soccer and rugby to become a uniquely American game in the Northeast in the late 19th century.

Carrying the ball was legalized in 1876, and teams were limited to 11 a side in 1880, the same year the scrimmage line was introduced.

The ball became a “prolate sphere” in 1896, and the forward pass was legalized 10 years later.

Touchdowns became worth six points in 1912, and numerous other changes have occurred along the way.

While the volatility of the rules on the field in the first few decades likely will never be duplicated, the rate of change off the field has been as great lately as any other time in the previous 100 or more years.

Coaches have never had less time to establish their programs before worrying about getting fired, and they seem to be more quick to trade in one job for another with a higher-profile and bigger salary.

The loosening of transfer rules and the lifting of prohibitions on endorsements and related activities have given players far more to consider than simply where they want to play football for the next four years, and they have given coaches far fewer reasons to sleep.

“There’s just a lot with it, but I will say that I think now more than ever, the focus has to be on relationships in the recruiting process,” Day said.

He has emphasized that since taking over for Urban Meyer in January 2019.

Transfers were already on the rise then with the introduction of the transfer portal — which allows players to much more easily assess their options if they decide they want to find somewhere else to play — but they have gone up even more with players no longer having to sit out a year before being eligible at their new school.

Ohio State lost a handful of players to transfer last year, and so far four have announced their intentions to leave since the end of the regular season.

Most notable of that group is Quinn Ewers, a quarterback who enrolled in August but lasted less than four months in Columbus.

He skipped his senior season of high school football in Texas to take advantage of some endorsement opportunities, but now he is headed back to his home state to play for the Texas Longhorns, the team he initially committed to earlier in his high school career.

Ironically, he is scheduled to start at UT the same time he would have if he had never de-committed or reclassified.

Does that mean the more things change, the more they stay the same? Not quite.

Coaches now not only have to worry about losing recruits before they sign a binding letter-of-intent but also any day after they actually join the team.

“Somebody on our team could say that they’re coming and leave tomorrow,” Day said. “This is just a start, and it’s just a starting point because we’ve already had somebody (Ewers) that we thought was gonna be in this class come and leave. So it’s something that we have to be able to adapt to and adjust to and try to do the best we can along the way to communicate and build those relationships, but it’s certainly very, very new, and it’s moving very fast.”

Name, image and likeness profit opportunities were rumored to be part of some high-profile decommitments of recruits leading up to National Signing Day last week, and many different endorsements deals have been announced involving current players at programs across the country — including Ohio State — since those became allowed in July.

While many view allowing players to make some money — as Olympic athletes and their peers in other fields can — as a positive thing, it does involve multiple layers.

“I don’t think there’s anything against the rules,” said Day, who is generally regarded as a players’ coach. “The rule is guys can make money outside of the university (which provides compensation for tuition, room and board), but the deals that are being made really have nothing to do with the university itself. The coaches and the administrators are not allowed to set those deals up, so it’s kind of out of our hands, which is concerning.”

Schools are able to vet potential deals for players after they join the team, but they cannot set them up or bar players from signing them — for better or for worse.

“I think we’re doing everything we can to make sure we provide the structure, the resources that these guys need in order to have what they need to help with the deals, but we’re not allowed to set them up, so there’s only so much we can do,” Day said.

This becomes particularly complicated when it comes to recruiting because a player could be presented with offers his potential coaches are unaware of.

While pay-for-play and inducements tied to attending a particular school are still prohibited, actually enforcing such rules could be challenging.

“People are influencing these kids who are outside the university,” Day said. “Again, I think that’s concerning. Sometimes you can look at it and you can say to yourself, ‘What really are the rules here, other than the fact that the coaches and school can’t set up the deals?’”

Keeping a roster intact starts before signing day according to the coach of the Buckeyes.

“You don’t just talk somebody into coming to your school anymore,” Day said. “You tell them all the reasons why, but they have to want to be there, and then when those bad days come, those tough days come, and someone back home is telling them, ‘Oh, you need to go transfer to this school,’ they say, ‘No, I got this. I chose this school for a reason. I chose this school, no one talked me into coming here.’”


Jan. 1, 2022

Ohio State vs. Utah, 5 p.m., ESPN, 1410

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