Ryan Day: Buckeyes could have been ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ team

Ohio State coach focused on whats next for players, program

Ryan Day spoke to his Ohio State Buckeyes on Tuesday following the cancellation of the Big Ten Conference’s fall football season.

Audio of his speech, which was shared by the program’s official Twitter account, played over a video shot above Ohio Stadium. Day wasn’t seen in the video. Nothing was seen except clouds and the stadium. It captured the mood of the entire team and fan base: disappointment, disbelief and uncertainty about what comes next.

“You work your entire life as a player,” Day told the team. “You work your entire life as a coach to be part of a team like this. The way you guys go out there every day, your energy and your effort is unbelievably rare. On behalf of the staff, I want to thank every guy in here for everything you’ve done since March. You’ve done everything we’ve asked. The sacrifices that have been made to get to right here are unbelievable! And you should be proud of that.

“I still believe in my heart that we can play games in the spring. You’ve got to go through a range of emotions right now. I want you to know we all fought for you very hard. We’re going to continue to fight for you and do everything we can because there’s a lot of people in here with a bright future. I know it’s a tough time. I love you guys with all my heart.”

Day then asked the players to chant “Fight” on the count of three. Their response — a very soft “Fight” for a group that can get loud on Saturday afternoons in the fall — revealed the depths of their despair.

That was still the mood Wednesday when Day talked to dozens of reporters via a Zoom video call. He said everyone was devastated.

“This team is special,” Day said. “It’s special because it’s talented. It’s special because it has leaders. It could have been a once-in-a-lifetime team. There’s something special about this team. It has It. They came back hungry. They were determined. This quarantine, this virus was not going to get in their way.”

Day spoke of the team in the past tense at times even while revealing Ohio State is still exploring its options of playing some sort of season this fall. At the same time, his focus has turned to getting the Buckeyes ready for a delayed season that he hopes would start the first week of January.

Moving the season to the winter or spring would create problems for the 2021 fall season, but Day believes it’s a realistic plan if it starts as early as possible and if the schedule is reduced. Day also wants to see the Big Ten put a plan in place in the next couple of weeks. He said the conference needs to move quickly so players with NFL aspirations, like quarterback Justin Fields, can plan their futures.

“Starting the first week of January would be the best way to go,” Day said. “An eight-week season. That way there is some separation between that season and the next season. Allow some of the mid-year guys (early freshman enrollees) to come in and possibly play two for one. They get two seasons in one calendar year, which I think the recruits would be really excited about. That’s the focus right now. Put this plan together, button it up and work toward getting it implemented.”

In the meantime, assuming there’s no football in the fall for the Buckeyes, Day said the coaches will work on getting the players ready not only for whatever season may be ahead but also for the next level. As always, there are numerous NFL prospects on the roster.

Day is not concerned about players leaving the program and transferring to conferences that are moving forward with their seasons, saying that probably wouldn’t be realistic as this late date.

“We have everything in place to help those guys,” Day said. “We have the best strength coach in America. We have all the resources here we need. We’re going to test (for COVID-19) continually. We’re going to give them meals. We’re going to meet on football, watch film and just get them better: physically, football IQ, all of the above.”

Day is not concerned about the Big Ten’s decision affecting recruiting unless it doesn’t play the season in the winter or spring.

“If we don’t play, then that would be a problem. That’s why we’ve got to put a plan together and get these guys going.”

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