The Ohio State football team is less than one week away from starting fall camp. All eyes will be on the practice field as the OSU coaching staff primes their players to be ready when the Buckeyes open their season September 2 at Indiana.
For head coach Ryan Day, the focus will shift to what is happening on the field, but it never totally strays from the goings-on off of it. The stakes are much too high off the field, and they have nothing to do with wins or losses.
Former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel once famously said nothing good happens past 10:00 pm, and every head coach who has done the job long enough has been awakened by a 2:00 am phone call that immediately ties their guts in knots before the phone is even answered.
With the health, safety, and futures of his players in mind, Day singled out guns, gambling, and speeding as his three biggest current areas of concern off the field, and he made it a point throughout the offseason to discuss the dangers of each of those things with his football team.
With gun violence reaching every corner of the nation, sports gambling being legalized in more states by the day, and players freely being given cars with more horsepower than can possibly be used on a college campus, the cause for concern is understandable.
“You try to identify the areas that are the hot spots, the hot tickets. The things that are causing the most problems for everybody across the country,” Day said this week at Big Ten Media Days.
Gun violence unfortunately hit home two weeks ago when Ashley Griggs, the mother of OSU freshman receiver Carnell Tate, was killed in a drive-by shooting in Chicago.
“There are shootings constantly across the country, and in Columbus,” Day said. “We just lost Carnell’s mom. So it’s just something that I talk to our guys about all the time.”
Gun violence is at the top of the off-field concerns for Day because of the finality of it. The immense cost is something nobody should have to pay.
Guns aren’t the only concern for Day and his staff, however. The state of Ohio legalized sports betting at the start of the year, so this will be the first season of Ohio State football where people will have easy access to bet on the Buckeyes.
It is an NCAA violation to bet on any sport that the NCAA sponsors, even at the professional level. Meaning, since the NCAA sponsors basketball, betting on any level of basketball is a violation. Punishments can range from permanent ban to suspensions that range from one game to one season, depending on how much was wagered.
Speeding is also high on Day’s list of concerns because the finality there can be just as tragic. The Georgia football program has been in the news almost monthly with reports of speeding violations, all occurring after a player and staffer were killed while street racing back in January.
“You look at [gambling] right now across the country, we just saw somebody else, I think in the NFL get suspended. That’s a big deal,” Day said. “And then speeding. Getting behind the wheel of a car and going too fast or getting themselves in accidents.”
When a player signs with a school, those coaches are taking on responsibilities that go well beyond simply being a coach. Parents are entrusting their sons and daughters to coaches who need to have the same concerns a parent would.
That is the duty that Day and his staff are trying to uphold.
“We can name a list of about 15 of them, but it seems like those three are the ones that come up on your phone the most right now,” Day said. “And so you try to do the best you can to talk to the guys about that to make sure that they’re avoiding some of those things.”