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The Big Ten: 10 things you didn’t know about OSU head coach Ryan Day

614now Staff

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Each season of Buckeye football presents new faces, storylines, and expectations for fans to follow. While the quarterback position is typically at the top of all conversations, this season brings an added layer: who is this new coach?

Photos: David Heasley

His name is Ryan Day, and after a 3-0 start as interim head coach last year, he stands as the only undefeated coach in OSU’s history. Sure, it was a short stint, but the glimpses we witnessed were promising. His prodigy quarterback, Dwayne Haskins, went on to blaze the Big Ten and take down That Team Up North. But now, the pressure is on. There’s no Urban Meyer to step in week four—this is Day’s team. So before we flood the Shoe ready for another National Championship run, let’s get to know the new head coach.

1. In his college days, Ryan Day did more than just serve as the captain of his football team.

“The guys loved [Day]. In intramural basketball, he was the one that got the guys together. He put the team functions together; he was the guy doing it. He was setting up the Fourth of July get-together with his friends. I think it has to do a lot with his upbringing in Manchester. He was brought up by some great people that were able to show him important values of family and important values of friends,” said current University of New Hampshire head coach Sean McDonnell, who coached Day in 1999 to 2001.

2. Besides Day, Manchester, New Hampshire is home to two other college football coaches: Dan Mullen of UCLA and Chip Kelly of UCLA.

While at UNH, Day’s offensive coordinator was the offensive- minded Kelly. Following graduation, Day rejoined Kelly in the NFL with a short stint at the Philadelphia Eagles as the quarterbacks coach for the 2014-2015 campaign as well as serving as offensive coordinator under Kelly with the San Francisco 49ers from 2015-2016. “I played for him 10, 12 years ago and he’s one of my closest friends in college coaching. I can thank him for everything in football that I’ve had. He leaves an impact on people’s lives,” Day said, as reported by NJ.com in 2015 after joining the Eagles.

3. Day was in a quarterback competition in college. He won his spot in a very impressive fashion.

“One game that sticks out; we were down 31-3. Ryan was the quarterback against Delaware and we came back to win the game in overtime. He put the team on his back, made some great throws, made a few great scrambles, but everyone knew that he was running the show—and more importantly—we could win and he was telling us so,” said McDonnell.

4. Day’s age (40) puts him in an interesting class of other young Buckeye head coaches who went on to become legends at the university.

Paul Brown, who led the Buckeyes to its first National Championship, stands as the youngest at 33. Next in line is Woody Hayes, 38, and we’re guessing you’ve heard of him.

5. Day and his wife Christina first met as T-ball teammates when they were six and coached by Christina’s dad Stan Spirou.

Ryan and Christina both grew up in Manchester, New Hampshire, and graduated from Manchester Central High School. “I tell Ryan all the time that Nina was the better player, but he denies it,” Spirou said in the 2019 Spring OSU Alumni Association Magazine. Stan Spirou also coached the men’s basketball team at Southern New Hampshire University for 33 years. Ryan and Christina, who goes by the nickname Nina, have been married since June 2005.

6. This tight-knit family dynamic is something both Ryan and Nina hold close to their hearts.

“Since Ryan became OSU’s coach, we feel like our family has grown. We now have our Buckeye family that we need to nurture and support so they all have a chance to thrive on and off the football field. We feel truly blessed for our kids, our extended family and now our Buckeye family,” Nina told (614). Ryan, a father of three children, gives credit to Nina for always being there. “Nina is the rock who keeps our family strong and makes it possible for me to coach. You have no chance in this profession without a strong, supportive wife.”

7. Day was familiar with Urban Meyer prior to arriving in Columbus.

In 2005, Day served as a graduate assistant to the Florida Gators. When he got the call from Meyer to be the offensive coordinator of OSU in 2017, he didn’t think twice. “I would have walked here,” Day said, as reported by the Dayton Daily News in 2018.

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8. …And Meyer didn’t beat around the bush for expectations when Day took over the team.

“‘You beat the rival,’ Meyer told him. ‘Every other game you have to win as well. Every player has to get drafted in the first two rounds. No off-the-field issues, and never lose to that rival,’” reported Dan Murphy of ESPN in 2019.

9. While serving at Boston College initially as a wide receivers coach from 2007-2011, he eventually moved into the offensive coordinator position as well as the quarterback coach from 2013-2014.

While running the offense, the coach improved Boston College’s run game which was averaging 91-rushing-yards-per-game to 212.5-yards- per-game. This boost of 121.5 yards-per-game stands as one of the biggest turnarounds in ACC history, reports NJ.com in 2015.

10. The Days are passionate about mental health.

The mental health crisis across America’s campuses is real, and the Days are quite literally “changing the game” with their support of the “On Our Sleeves” movement at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Because of the loss of a family member to suicide and their concern for the mental and physical well-being of young people, the Days have started The Ryan and Christina Day Fund for Pediatric and Adolescent Mental Wellness to help increase awareness, programming, and treatment for mental issues that affect young people. Here, they share their reasons for championing this cause:

(614): What can you share about your own loss and adolescence that you think would be helpful for individuals and families facing mental health challenges?

Nina Day: When I was growing up, mental health wasn’t something people talked about. As an adolescent, I remember feeling different emotions and sometimes being very confused by them. But I didn’t know how to express what I was feeling, so I didn’t talk much about them. Today, thankfully, we’re more willing to talk openly about mental health issues like depression and anxiety. That’s so important because it gives people the confidence they need to seek help. I’ve learned, however, that even though someone may have a strong support network of friends and family, that may not be enough. Sometimes you need the help of a professional.

Ryan Day: I think it’s important for everyone to understand that mental illness is a sickness that needs treatment just like any other type of illness. I know it can be hard not to feel animosity toward someone suffering from mental illness. But the reality is that person is sick and needs help. Only by acknowledging this can we remove the stigma that’s so often associated with mental illness.

614: What made you choose this moment to tell your story and join the campaign?

ND: Our family has been directly impacted by mental illness, so it’s an issue that’s been very important to us for a long time. When Ryan became the head coach at OSU, it gave us the platform to really make a difference. So we’ve decided to take advantage of this opportunity to help people, especially adolescents and young adults, who are struggling with mental health issues.

RD: When I was recruiting in Massillon last year, the high school coach told me there had been five suicides in that community in less than one year. Those deaths inspired me to do research about suicide among teenagers and adolescents. I’ve learned that our country is in a crisis right now. We have a whole generation of kids who are struggling with mental health issues and need help, but they’re often afraid to seek it. When Nina and I heard about the “On Our Sleeves” campaign, we knew immediately that this was a great opportunity for us to help not just the city of Columbus, but the entire state of Ohio, as well. That’s why we committed $100,000 to create the Ryan and Christina Day Fund for Pediatric and Adolescent Mental Wellness at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

614: College athletics are obviously high pressure. What can teachers and coaches do to support student-athletes’ well-being?

ND: I think the most important thing a teacher or coach can do is be accessible to the student-athlete. Coaches and teachers should make themselves available and encourage their student-athletes to come to them to talk or ask for help. Ryan and I tell our kids that it’s OK not to feel OK. When they are sick with the flu or an ear infection, their body doesn’t feel good. But there may be times when their mind doesn’t feel good, and it’s OK to talk about it. Ryan will always be there for his players when they’re struggling, either physically or emotionally, just like we’re here for our own children.

RD: I think coaches and teachers should provide an environment that supports the mental health and well-being of student-athletes. This should be a place where student-athletes feel safe discussing their feelings and asking for help and support. I want my team to know I’ll be there for them if they’re hurting or need help.

To donate to the Ryan and Christina Day Fund, visit nationwidechildrens.org/giving/on-our-sleeves/about/day- family-fund.

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Mike Thomas

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614now Staff

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