As easy as it’s appeared on the football field, it’s been a stressful first year on the job for Ryan Day.
He’s tried to maintain the elite standards of success at Ohio State, set not only by his predecessor but by more than a century of expectations.
Win every game. Recruit top 5 classes. Be at the charity fundraisers and schmooze the boosters. Don’t cheat.
Day’s done it all at a record-setting level. But now he faces a new challenge, which most college football coaches face at some point.
Every team requires discipline, and in most cases it’s inner-team discipline. Keeping kids working on their sport and toward their degree, earning their scholarships and upholding their end of the deal. But when a player is arrested for a criminal act, that coach faces so many more levels of scrutiny.
When two Buckeye defenders, Amir Riep and Jahsen Wint, were arrested this week on kidnapping and rape charges, it marked the first time Day has faced this type of player scenario as a head coach. During the 2019 season, he managed the suspension of Chase Young by limiting what he said publicly but also standing firmly by his player. Clearly, that was an NCAA issue and not a legal case. When OSU discovered the potential violation (OSU says they first learned of it the day after the OSU-Wisconsin game) they quickly interviewed Young and announced the suspension.
In cases of discipline, just like on the field, speed matters. Responding quickly helps your program resolve those inevitable problems with clarity.
By Wednesday afternoon, Day had dismissed both players from the program.
In this case with both players arrested and facing felony charges, it was not a tough call for Day. It was the only call to make.
OSU’s endured so much scrutiny in recent years for off-field drama that the school does seem to have a plan for these things. They’ve had some practice and perhaps learned some painful lessons. Just because the players did not have their day in court yet does not mean they deserve special treatment from a program where it’s an earned right and privilege to wear the uniform.
Riep could have become a starter this season at cornerback. With three starting defensive backs departing for the NFL Draft, they could have used a player of Riep’s experience and talent. He replaced Shaun Wade for the Michigan game and grabbed a 2nd half interception, earning national praise for his performance there. That will serve as the highlight of his OSU career.
The Buckeyes have plenty of good players and they’ll be just fine. Day knows this because he’s in charge. But the reputation of THE Ohio State University, on and off the field, matters so much more. And Day was quick to act to protect the brand and the program he’s building.