Ryan Day is not the primary focus of the story at Ohio State.
But that’s where all the attention will go. That’s where the key response that will help determine how his program is perceived will be made. And the Buckeyes made a big bet when it tabbed him to take over for Urban Meyer that he would know the right way to handle any tough situations — on or off the field.
Make no mistake: The allegations, charges and arrests of defensive backs Amir Riep and Jahsen Wint are horrifying. As initially reported by Eleven Warriors, the details recounted by the victim in this case are troubling and merit the instant suspension from all team activities that Ohio State issued as soon as it was aware of the matter on Tuesday. Both Riep and Wint will get their day in court, and everybody in this country is innocent until proven guilty, so it’s not fair to automatically assume that their careers as reserves for the Buckeyes are over.
So, for now, Day is taking the correct steps in letting the legal matter play out before taking any other action. But he also has the reputation of Ohio State to think about, along with the credibility of his disciplinary program for the roster and the message it could send to both current and future players about what the Buckeyes stand for in the meantime. Day might have seen or heard enough already from the initial police reports to go beyond suspensions and part ways with Riep and Wint, and that would reinforce the idea that the Buckeyes truly aren’t a win-at-all-costs program.
That idea might be hard to stomach for many of its rivals. But it’s becoming more true every year with the caliber of people that have signed with Ohio State, the rise in the academic success and how infrequently these types of incidents have occurred. The fact that Day’s most notable bit of off-the-field adversity happened with Chase Young last November drives that point home, since he had no control over the length of the suspension and wound up with plenty of national sympathy for rules that are deemed unfair to the players when it comes to getting paid.
Obviously that issue is completely different than what Ohio State is dealing with now, and this is exponentially more serious. That means it will also reveal even more about the character of the second-year coach.
“[Day] is a stud,” Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said during the Young saga. “All of the things that we thought he was capable of doing have come to fruition. The things that I just wasn’t sure of relative to managing the staff in this building, he’s been of the chance.
“But his response to his first big issue like this? Phenomenal. Kept his focus, never lost his cool, curious and asked a lot of questions … he never lost his focus, which was on the other guys. I thought he was perfect.”
This next test will be bigger for Day. This time he’s going to have to be the one to make the final decision, though it’s still probably too early to know with absolute certainty what the ideal response should be.
It’s going to obviously have a direct impact on Amir Riep and Jahsen Wint. The victim in this case and those feelings must be considered as well. And from there, whatever resolution is reached is going to impact everybody affiliated with the Buckeyes — and not just when it comes to football games or thinning out the depth chart in the secondary.
This situation didn’t start with Ryan Day. But everybody now will be watching how he handles it.