Beloved former Ohio State football coach Earle Bruce passed away this morning. He was one of the most passionate Buckeyes there ever was, and an unbelievable person to be around. He will be dearly missed. Below is the story I wrote on Coach Bruce on his birthday, just over a month ago. Rest in peace, Coach.
Earle Bruce was born on March 8th, 1931. He was actually recruited to play football at Ohio State by Wes Fesler, but Bruce tore his meniscus before he could join the varsity team, and it ended his playing career. Coach Woody Hayes asked Bruce to join the coaching staff since he was unable to play, and he did so until graduating in 1953.
Bruce would take some coaching positions around the state of Ohio at the high school level, but really made a name for himself at Massillon High School. Bruce was the head man at Massillon in 1964 and 1965, leading them to undefeated records in both seasons. Bruce was hired as the offensive line coach at Ohio State in 1966, and remains the only undefeated coach in Massillon football history.
After five years as an assistant at Ohio State, Bruce took the head coaching job at the University of Tampa, leading them to a 10-2 record in his lone season in 1972. He then was hired by Iowa State in 1973 and coached the Cyclones to a winning record over his six seasons into 1978.
Then Woody Hayes was fired from Ohio State.
Bruce returned to his alma mater in 1979 and promptly led the Buckeyes to an undefeated regular season and a Big Ten Championship. The Buckeyes were defeated 17-16 in the Rose Bowl by USC and Ohio State lost out on being named National Champions.
The Buckeyes would win three more Big Ten Championships under Bruce and won 9+ games each year until his final year coaching at Ohio State in 1987. That’s when things got interesting.
Star Wide Receiver Cris Carter was kicked off the team for signing with an agent while still in college. The Buckeyes did not play well without their star player and OSU’s President Jennings decided this would be Bruce’s final year after a last second loss at Iowa.
Everybody knew it was Coach Bruce’s final game at Ohio State, and it was being played in Ann Arbor against That Team Up North. The players all loved coach Bruce and showed their support for their leader by wearing the now-iconic headbands labeled “EARLE”.
The Buckeyes would go on to defeat their rivals by a score of 23-20. It was the last time Ohio State would beat That Team Up North in Ann Arbor until Jim Tressel’s Buckeyes did it 14 years later. The team was so excited that they upset the Wolverines for their coach, they carried him off the field.
Bruce finished his head coaching career at Ohio State with an overall record of 81-26-1 including 5-3 in bowl games and four conference championships. He went on to coach at Northern Iowa and Colorado State until retiring after the 1992 season.
Bruce has long since retired from coaching and front office work, he has a big beautiful family with four children and many grandchildren. It was revealed in August of 2017 that Coach Bruce was battling the early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease.
We here at EBSN would be nowhere without Coach Bruce, he was an original founder many years ago. What do you think the “EB” stands for?
Rest in peace, Coach, and thank you for everything.