Ohio State superfan “Buckeyeman,” known for his scarlet and gray wig, face paint, strings of buckeye necklaces and jersey, is almost as famous as mascot Brutus.
Little concerning the Buckeyes football team gets by Larry Lokai, 76, of Urbana, an OSU grad, former Urbana councilman and retired educator.
But after dismissing months of rumors he’s heard about Head Coach Urban Meyer’s departure, he said he was shocked by Tuesday’s retirement announcement.
“My jaw dropped three inches this morning,” he said. “After the Big Ten championship game and going to the Rose Bowl, I thought Urban was a lock for the next five or six years.”
Meyer, 54, struggled this season with painful headaches caused by an arachnoid cyst on his brain. His health was cited as a reason for his retirement.
Lokai, who said he first met Meyer in August of 2012, said he supports Meyer’s decision and Ohio State’s choice in a replacement.
Ryan Day, offensive coordinator, steps into the role after the Rose Bowl. Day served as coach for the first three games of the season, when Meyer was suspended after the university determined he mishandled abuse allegations against a former assistant coach.
“Things really looked good the first three games,” Lokai said. “Urban is turning the realm over to what I think is a very quality coach, a guy whose come up through the system, a guy that has actually had experience at all levels. It’s kind of a relief that we now know who the coach is going to be that’s following Urban, but it’s very sad that Urban is leaving.”
Lokai said it’s been 76 years since a coach retired — “all the rest of them got the boot.”
Lokai praised Ohio State for naming a successor right away, and said it will go a long way in recruiting.
“The recruits know right now Ryan Day has had a successful record. He’s 3 and 0 at Ohio State as a coach. They’ve watched how he runs his offense. The most important thing Ohio State did today was they kept all the key people … a person can come in and know they have the same format, they just have a different person running the ship.”