B1G money: Ryan Day's huge payday well-earned (and obvious) given the competition
When Michigan State coach Mel Tucker and Penn State coach James Franklin earned massive 10-year contract extensions near the end of last season, they obviously had a lot to be happy about.
But they wouldn’t have been the happiest campers in the Big Ten.
That distinction likely belonged to Ryan Day’s agent, Trace Armstrong. Because Armstrong surely knew he was about to come into enough money to open a bank account in the Caymans. Or buy a house in the Caymans. Or buy a yacht in the Caymans.
Possibly all of the above.
Payday arrived this week.
Ohio State announced that it will restructure Day’s contract, adding 2 years to the deal while bumping his salary up by a cool $1.9 million per year. He’ll now make $9.5 million per year through 2028.
A year ago, Nick Saban was the lone college football coach making north of $9 million. Now there are 5: Saban, Day, Tucker and a pair of expensive new hires — USC’s Lincoln Riley and LSU’s Brian Kelly.
Tucker hasn’t come close to earning that much bread, though he does have the Spartans on a potentially elite trajectory. He can thank Saban for the raise. Michigan State administrators obviously haven’t forgotten Saban’s departure to LSU in 1999, and overcompensated Tucker in an attempt to avoid repeating history.
And it’s probably a bit early to put Day among the crème de la crème. That would take another CFP championship game appearance, which would silence doubters still hung up on the “Well, he won with Urban Meyer’s players” argument.
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But within the context of the Big Ten, it was time for Day to get paid.
Rivals raised Day’s rate
Way back in 2021, things made sense.
Day earned $6.6 million, which was 2nd in the Big Ten behind Franklin’s $7 million. At that point, Day only had 2 seasons as a head coach, though both resulted in College Football Playoff appearances.
It was reasonable for Ohio State to wait and see how sustainable that success would become. And it’s not as if Day wasn’t getting rewarded. He was due $7.6 million in 2022, which would deservedly make him the Big Ten’s highest-paid coach after going 23-1 in league play his first 3 seasons.
Day’s contract ran through 2026, which also protected Ohio State in the unlikely case of a Gene Chizik/Ed Orgeron-style flameout.
But then Ohio State’s rivals went and reset the table.
On Nov. 23, Penn State decided Franklin had done enough to earn 10 more years in Happy Valley despite going 8-10 in the Big Ten the past 2 seasons. Though Franklin didn’t get a raise, it was pretty obvious that Day now deserved time tacked on to his contract. At his current pace, it will take him 30 years to lose 10 games in the B1G.
A week later, Michigan State pushed all of its chips to the center of the table. And then bought a few more chips to toss in.
The Spartans announced a 10-year deal with Tucker at a salary of $9.5 million per year — a whopping $4 million raise over what he made in 2021. Day, of course, had coached the Buckeyes to a 56-7 win over Tucker’s Spartans when the teams squared off in November. And the game wasn’t as close as the score indicates.
At that point, Day was due more money on top of some additional years. And if Ohio State waited another season to do it, the NFL conceivably could have come calling. That risk is now mitigated for several more years.
Buckeyes unlikely to get burned
Day’s buyout has not been revealed yet. But given that Tucker’s buyout is the full amount of his remaining contract, Day will probably get somewhere in the same neighborhood.
It will be stunning if the Buckeyes end up needing to use it. In short order, Day has proven himself capable of developing the most important weapons in modern offensive football — quarterbacks and receivers.
Day’s 1st protégé, the late Dwayne Haskins, was a 1st-round draft pick. So was his 2nd, Justin Fields. It appears CJ Stroud is well on his way to becoming the 3rd.
Ohio State’s 3 top receivers in 2020 — Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave and Jameson Williams — went 11-12-23 in the 2022 NFL Draft. Jaxon Smith-Njigba may crack the top 10 next year.
If you’re a top quarterback or wide receiver recruit, Day is among the top 5 coaches you want to play for until proven otherwise. And it’s pretty unlikely he’s No. 5.
Right now, Ryan Day is the best coach in the Big Ten. When you’re the best, it’s in your employer’s best interest to pay you accordingly.
Ohio State has answered that call.