Mark Znidar
Mark Znidar

Mark Znidar comes to Press Pros Magazine after 33 ½ years at The Columbus Dispatch. From 1996 until September 2018, he staffed high school sports, Ohio colleges that included the Mid-American Conference, Ohio State’s upcoming opponents in football and Ohio State baseball. In the previous three seasons he covered the Columbus Clippers triple-A baseball team. His other beats were Ohio State basketball (1985-88), Clippers (1985-86 and 1989-93), Cincinnati Bengals (1993-95) and NASCAR (1994-2008). He subbed on the Columbus Blue Jackets and Ohio State women’s basketball beats. In March 2017, Znidar was inducted into the Ohio Prep Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame.  Znidar was born in Cleveland and raised in Richmond Heights. He graduated from Cleveland St. Joseph High School and the University of Dayton. He also worked for The Atlantic City Press, Lake County News-Herald and Baltimore News-American. He has a daughter, Amanda, son-in-law Josh and four grandchildren.

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He won’t give up.  The Buckeyes’ second-year head coach says Big Ten must come to a decision within a matter of weeks if conference teams are to be ready to play first week of January.

Columbus – Ohio State football coach Ryan Day allowed himself to throw what he called a “pity party’’ within the four walls of his home Tuesday evening after Big Ten presidents voted to postpone the football season and every other fall sport.

He said during a news conference on Zoom that began at high noon on Wednesday that the mourning period will go on for some time.

Veteran columnist Mark Znidar writes the Buckeyes for Press Pros Magazine.com.

“You just don’t wake up the next morning and everything is fine,’’ Day said. “Not when you invest this time and effort into it. It’s not fine. It’s devastating. So it’s going to take some time to heel and as we keep putting one foot in front of the other we’ll get going.’’

Day, though, is not about to give up and say the season will go down in history for the Buckeyes having a record of 0-0 during the seemingly never-ending COVID-19 pandemic.

Big Ten coaches, led by Day and Nebraska’s Scott Frost, are aggressively pitching an eight-game conference season that would kick off the first Saturday of January or later depending on where the virus infection rate stands.

President-elect Kristina Johnson, athletic director Gene Smith and Day agree that it can be done.

“It has got to be fast. What is fast?’’ Day said of the decision to play early in 2021. “It has got to be weeks. It can’t be months.’’

The second-year coach also didn’t rule out the possibility the Buckeyes could play a non-conference schedule against teams from the SEC, ACC and Big 12 beginning in September.

That isn’t going to happen because his boss said so.

“That’s not realistic,” Smith said. “We’ve been a member of the Big Ten for a long time. We share the same values as our member institutions. We’re in the Big Ten. We’re not looking to play someone else outside our conference. We have a contract that we’re obligated to with our television partners.”

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Smith said the idea of playing in 2021 was not an option until the decision to postpone was made.

“Ryan and I just spent some time talking about the possibilities and I’m embracing it,’’ he said Tuesday.

Part of what’s driving Day’s crusade to play a shortened season during the dead of winter is that he thinks Ohio State has what it takes to go undefeated.

Last season, the Buckeyes finished 13-1. They won the Big Ten championship and lost a gut-wrenching College Football Playoff semifinal to Clemson that included several controversial decisions by the officials.

Day spoke in the past tense talking about the potential of this team.

Second-year head coach Ryan Day

“What I said to the team the other day is as a player you work your whole life and as a coach you work your whole life for an opportunity to (play on a team or) coach a team like this,’’ he said. “This team is special – it’s special – because it is talented and it’s special because of the character. It could have been a once in a lifetime team. There is something about this team that had it – it had it. They came back hungry after their last game on the field. They were determined. This quarantine, this virus, was not going to get in the way.

Day said other schools might have talks with his players, but doesn’t think they would apply for transfer to the three Power 5 conferences still set to play. He cited the lack of time to appeal to the NCAA to make the switch and that it would be a safety issue with regard to them not being ready to play.

But he said it’s imperative to try to play beginning in January to keep recruits for the Class of 2021 committed to Ohio State.

“It allows for the mid-year guys to come in and possibly play two for one,’’ Day said. “That way they can get two seasons in one calendar

Former Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer has said that winter or spring football “won’t happen’’ simply because it’s asking too much of a college player to play seasons so close together.

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What does that mean for quarterback Justin Fields, a Heisman Trophy candidate, and cornerback Shaun Wade? They are said to be first-round picks in waiting.

Wade’s parents have said their son would not return to the university if the fall season were nixed.

The NFL draft eligible Buckeyes, Day said, need to have a schedule in place about the prospects of playing during the winter.

It has been reported that the NFL is thinking about moving back the draft so seniors and draft eligible juniors could play during the winter or spring. The seven-round draft normally is in April.

“You will have to ask Justin that, but in our conversations I think Justin wants to see what the schedule is,’’ Day said of Fields playing for the Buckeyes. I think it’s our job – we owe it to these guys – to make sure we put the schedule and the plan together so someone like Justin can plan on his next year, the next few months. I think we need to get on this right now and get these guys some answers.’’

In the big picture,’’ he said he’s “terrified’’ about not being able to develop players without a practice-game routine.

“I think we need to get on this right now and get these guys (Justin Fields, above) some answers.’’  –  Ryan Day

“We have everything in place in Columbus to help those (potential NFL) guys,’’ Day said. “We have the best strength coach in America (Mickey Marotti). We have all the resources they would need. We’re going to test (for the virus) continually. We’re going to give them meals. We’re going to meet on football and watch film and get them mentally and physically ready (for the NFL).’’

What makes him angry is the Buckeyes worked hard to create a safe workplace inside and outside the Woody Hayes Athletic Facility and in their private lives.

It wasn’t a bubble in the truest sense, Day said, but that it was close to it.

He lauds the maturity of his players, but is concerned that they might become lax or careless with regard to social distancing because of the frustration not playing in the fall.

Now, they will be tested once weekly instead of twice. They will remain on scholarship and may use the team’s facilities, have use of tutors, the training table and help from trainers.

“I’m very proud of what we did here,’’ Day said. “There was a lot of hard work that went into that, the amount of time and energy people – our training staff, our coaches and most importantly our players put into this – and that’s the most devastating thing.’’

One thing he never wants to do again is address the Buckeyes about the real prospects of no football and keeping their heads up with the slim hope of playing in January or later.

“One of the hardest conversations I’ve ever had to have,’’ Day said. “There are guys like Jonathon Cooper you look in the eyes and Justin Hilliard and Justin Fields and Josh Myers and Tuf Borland – you can just keep going on and on – there are so many guys who have put so much time into this program. That was an awful meeting, but the message was things get taken from you and this has been taken from us. You just don’t wake up the next morning and everything is fine. Not when you invest this time and effort into it. It’s not fine. It’s devastating. So it’s going to take some time to heel and as we keep putting one foot in front of the other we’ll get going.’’

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