COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Urban Meyer says he's hanging up his whistle for good.
Ohio State's 54-year-old head coach said the cumulative effects of health problems, the current strength of the Buckeye program and the impact of a lengthy suspension to start the 2018 season convinced him to announce his retirement Tuesday morning. Meyer and athletic director Gene Smith both said they hoped the championship-winning coach will stick around Ohio State in some capacity, but Meyer said his three decades in coaching have to come to an end.
"I believe I will not coach again," Meyer said.
The Ohio native won more than 90 percent of his games as the Buckeyes' head coach, including all seven of his games against rival Michigan, three Big Ten championships and the 2014 national championship. Meyer won two other national championships while coaching at Florida and has won more games, 186 in all, in his 17 years leading FBS programs than any other coach in the same length of time.
Meyer's final game as Ohio State's head coach will be against Washington in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1. Ryan Day, who served as the team's interim coach while Meyer served a three-game suspension to start the 2018 season, was introduced as Meyer's replacement in a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
Smith said he looked at potential candidates across the country while Meyer weighed his future in the past several weeks, but decided hiring someone who knew the inner workings of the program would make for a better transition.
"Our program does not need disruption," Smith said. "It does not need to blow up."
Meyer stepped away twice earlier in his career while dealing with health issues at Florida that are similar to the concerns that played a central role in his decision to retire this year. Meyer revealed in October that in 2014 he had surgery on a cyst in his brain that causes stress-related headaches. The symptoms of those headaches were visible this fall during some of Ohio State's games when Meyer frequently wore pained expressions on his face and at one point collapsed on the sideline.
He said Tuesday that he and medical personnel at the university had conversations about his longevity in coaching after his pain flared during a dramatic win over Penn State last year. He said he continued to consider his future during the offseason, but did not think that the 2018 season might be his last until this fall.
Meyer did not draw a straight line between the suspension that started his season and the increased pain that played out upon his return, but he did say that the suspension contributed to his decision to retire. The university put Meyer on leave in early August while they investigated reports that he mishandled allegations of domestic violence and other inappropriate behavior made against former assistant coach Zach Smith in past years. The school suspended Meyer for the first three games of the season after finding he failed to live up to the standards of the university and did not tell the truth when asked about those allegations at a Big Ten media event in July.
Meyer said Tuesday that he believes that suspension will have some lasting impact on how his coaching career is remembered. He said he hopes he is remembered as a coach "who's devoted 33 years of my life to the love of student-athletes, and not just on the football field.
"I can lie to you and say that's not important to me," Meyer said when asked about his legacy. "For any human being, that's important to you. And people have their opinions ... just do the best to do things the right way."
Details about what role Meyer will play for Ohio State in the future weren't yet decided Tuesday afternoon. Meyer said he considers Ohio to be "home" and he wants to stay involved if it is helpful. Day said he hopes Meyer will be a mentor and a sounding board moving forward.
"How many people can say they've walked in these shoes?" Day said. "The door is always going to be open there."
Day, whom Meyer on Friday called "elite," will take over the program on Jan. 2 and is receiving a five-year contract worth $4.5 million per season.
Ohio State wanted to announce Meyer's plans before the early signing period (Dec. 19-21) and with most of the coaching staff on the road recruiting. Naming Day as Meyer's successor shows a commitment to continuity with the staff for 2019 and beyond.
Day, 39, is in his second season on the Buckeyes' staff after previously working for Chip Kelly with the San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles. The New Hampshire native turned down college head-coaching opportunities and the Tennessee Titans' offensive coordinator job after the 2017 season. He was mentioned as a candidate for college head-coaching jobs this year but never strongly pursued any. Day served as Ohio State's co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2017 before being promoted to the primary coordinator and playcalling role this season.
Day, a former quarterback for Kelly at the University of New Hampshire, first worked for Meyer as a graduate assistant at Florida in 2005. He later served as offensive coordinator at both Temple and Boston College, working for former Meyer assistant Steve Addazio.
The Buckeyes went 3-0 under Day this season, including a win over TCU in Arlington, Texas, before Meyer returned to the sideline Sept. 22 against Tulane.
The university suspended Meyer two days before training camp in August when Smith's ex-wife, Courtney Smith, accused Meyer and others within the football program during an interview with Stadium of turning a blind eye to accusations of abuse she made against her ex-husband. Ohio State appointed a special group to investigate the situation, and after several weeks determined that Meyer had not acted properly in keeping Smith on staff despite a history of troubling behavior and did not represent the school well when he failed to tell the truth while answering questions about Smith's past during Big Ten media days in late July.
Meyer said his close relationship with Zach Smith's grandfather, Earle Bruce, clouded his judgment when making decisions about the troubled former assistant. Meyer considered Bruce, a former Buckeyes head coach who died in April, his mentor and a father figure in the coaching world.
Ohio State released some of the documents that its special committee used in its investigation, including text messages that raised doubt about how forthcoming Meyer was when news of Smith's past transgressions first came to light this summer. Three months after completing its investigation, Ohio State has not yet shared the bulk of the public records generated during its investigation. A university spokesman said last week that the school was still reviewing the material to make sure any private information was not shared.
The report also indicated that Meyer used medication that affected his memory. Meyer said that his health issues did not affect his coaching when asked about that medication in early September.
Meyer is 82-9 as Buckeyes coach and 54-4 in Big Ten play with seven division titles (shared or outright), three conference championships and a national championship after the 2014 season, the first year of the College Football Playoff. His teams finished in the top six of the final rankings in five of the previous six seasons. Meyer went 7-0 against archrival Michigan, including a 62-39 victory on Nov. 24. He won 90.1 percent of his games at Ohio State, the best percentage in school history, ahead of Jim Tressel (82.8), Bruce (75.5) and Woody Hayes (76.1).
Meyer is 186-32 as a college head coach at Ohio State, Florida, Utah and Bowling Green with three national championships and seven conference championships.
"When it's all said and done, he goes down as one of the all-time greats," former Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said. "I know Urban, though, I know what football means to him, so I wouldn't be surprised to see him one day surface again somewhere, but I haven't talked to him, so I don't know that for a fact. But the record speaks for itself."
Meyer said after beating Northwestern 45-24 on Saturday for the Big Ten championship that he would never forget the 2018 Ohio State team.
"We were up and down," he said. "And that's what happens when you have some injuries you're dealing with. You have a little bit of adversity to deal with. And not many teams are out there perfect. But we're 12-1 champions of arguably the best conference in America."
His final game with the Buckeyes will come at the Rose Bowl, a game he has never coached before.
"I dreamt of it," Meyer said Sunday. "We came close a few times. I know Florida one time I thought we were close to going. Then here in  I thought we were going. There was one other time that I thought we were going, and we didn't. And no disrespect to the other Bowl games, because they're awesome, but the Rose is the one we've always looked forward to."