Ohio State coach Ryan Day discusses the hiring of Michigan's Greg Mattison and Al Washington. Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News
Columbus, Ohio – New Ohio State coach Ryan Day said that regardless of where he was coaching, he would have tried to hire former Michigan defensive line coach Greg Mattison.
Mattison is now Day’s co-defensive coordinator, making the most unique of moves between bitter rivals, along with former Michigan linebackers coach Al Washington, whose father, Al Sr., was a linebacker at Ohio State.
Still, Day, who takes over the Buckeyes from retired Urban Meyer, knows the depth of the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry and smiled when asked if the fact both coaches were at rival Michigan was of no consideration during the hiring process.
“It was in consideration, yeah,” Day said, smiling.
Day addressed media during a signing day news conference on Wednesday in the Buckeyes’ team meeting room at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
Day said he called Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh to discuss his interest in hiring away Mattison and Washington.
“Like any time when you're hiring somebody, you want to call their boss and talk to them, obviously get their permission before you address them,” Day said. “So went ahead, did that. Had a conversation. Didn't really know coach up until (I) had that conversation with him.”
Mattison’s departure from Michigan, where he coached 13 seasons during two stints – he left the Wolverines after the 1996 season to coach at rival Notre Dame – has raised the most eyebrows.
Day said he vetted candidates around the country before he determined the right fit for his staff. Mattison, 69, is co-defensive coordinator along with Jeff Hafley.
“The first thing I decided is I felt like we needed a couple of veteran guys there, guys who have been through the fire before,” Day said. “They know the conference, they know college football. Then I wanted to have three other guys who were younger, some younger guys to complement those guys.
“Then you go about looking to see who the candidates are. When I had an opportunity to get Jeff, that was a no-brainer to me. Really talented, six or seven NFL teams are after him to be a coordinator. He wanted to come back. Kind of same way I did, I wanted to come back in college, and for him and his family had the same reasons.
"Finding the right counterpart to Jeff was critical. We're looking for a veteran guy that knows the league, somebody I know. It's very hard to bring somebody in that you don't know. I worked with Greg. I've stayed in touch with Greg. Him and Jeff getting together, that was something they had to get together before we even made the decision to do it. They had to get along, understand this is going to be a partnership. It worked right from the beginning. I think it's a home run.”
Day said he did not set out to poach coaches from Michigan.
“I got a lot of respect for the rivalry,” Day said. “That had nothing to do with anything other than trying to find the best guys. Al Washington's dad played here, he's from here. I was a coach when he played. He coached with me. These are guys that I've known.
“It wasn't like I was going to try to cherry pick off of somebody's staff. But I felt like those were the best guys for us.”