Tag Archives: history

Previous Ohio State surprise starters have performed pretty well

So, Ohio State is going to play the 2014 season with a new starting quarterback despite starting an underclassman the previous season. This might seem unusual, but it has happened for the Buckeyes what seems like a rather remarkable five times in the past 50 years. The reasons have varied but don’t include the previous season’s starter going pro (at least not for positive reasons). Miller meets media

Braxton Miller is the first one to be replaced because of injury. He ended up being the starter in 2011 after Terrelle Pryor left school in June amid questions about additional NCAA violations (he was already facing a five-game suspension for violations previously admitted). Like Miller, Pryor became a surprise true freshman starter in 2008 after senior Todd Boeckman struggled early in the season.

You might have already known about those circumstances, but what about the three that came before?  Continue reading

Toast to Dayton

Naturally, I couldn’t let the Flyers’ surprise run to the Sweet 16 pass without sharing something from Dayton native son Paul Laurence Dunbar, a contemporary of the Wright brothers who was one of the first nationally popular African-American writers.

Love of home, sublimest passion

That the human heart can know!

Changeless still, though fate and fashion

Rise and fall and ebb and flow,

To the glory of our nation,

To the welfare of our state,

Let us all with veneration

Every effort consecrate….

Continue reading

A random look at Ohio State’s 10 Big Ten-era coaches

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I spent part of a day last week compiling numbers on Ohio State’s 10 coaches since the school joined the Big Ten in 1913. What I’m going to do with those numbers I am not yet sure, but it didn’t take long to find a few things worth sharing.

Thanks in part to coaching nearly twice as long as anyone else, Woody Hayes predictably leads the way in most categories I studied. That includes wins (205), national championships (five), Big Ten championships (14), first-team All-Americans (59), first-team All-Big Ten selections (131), Silver Football winners (four) NFL draft picks (162) and College Football Hall of Famers (12).

Some of those numbers – I’m thinking particularly of the draft picks (although the draft had many more rounds back in Hayes’ day) and the All-Big Ten players – are simply staggering.

Hayes also amassed one other number that surprised me a bit: With eight Rose Bowls, an Orange and a Sugar, he still finished ahead of Jim Tressel in terms of total BCS or equivalent bowls. Of course, coaching for 28 seasons helped give him plenty of time to rack up major bowl appearances, but don’t forget Big Ten teams were not allowed to appear in the Rose Bowl in back-to-back bowls or go to any other bowl for the first two decades Hayes stalked the Columbus sidelines. The 1955 Buckeyes were undefeated in Big Ten play but had to stay home because of a Rose Bowl appearance the year before, and the ’69 team that was stunned by Michigan would surely have gone to another nice bowl regardless were it allowed (though they would not have gone to the Rose Bowl even if they hadn’t suffered the most devastating loss in school history to the Wolverines). Don’t forget the fate of the 1961 team, either. Hayes’ second undefeated team stayed home for the holidays because of a vote by the school’s faculty to decline a Rose Bowl invitation.

Tressel leads the way in average Big Ten finish (1.7) and is tops in winning percentage (82.8) if you remove Carroll Widdoes, who went 16-2 but only coached two years after taking over when Paul Brown left to join the military effort during World War II.

Hayes won twice as many Big Ten titles as Tressel (14 to 7), but Tressel has three more than mentor Earle Bruce, who comes in third. The other two coaches to win multiple Big Ten titles at Ohio State are John Wilce, whose tenure coincided with the Buckeyes’ joining the conference in 1913, and John Cooper. Both won three.

One of the surprising figures I found was Tressel’s 66 draft picks in 10 years besting Cooper’s 61 in 13 seasons. Although both are regarded as excellent recruiters, Cooper hung his hat on being able to acquire NFL-caliber talent a bit more overtly than did Tressel. While Cooper had a couple of teams that seemed to underachieve based on raw ability, Tressel was often regarded as getting a little more out of his players than was expected on national signing day.

Of course, their draft numbers are linked by the overlap of the careers of many of their players. To that end, I found it interesting that 26 of the players drafted after Tressel became coach were Cooper signees. On the other hand, only 11 of Cooper’s draftees began their Ohio State careers during Earle Bruce’s career. (That covers all of the draftees in ’89-91 plus Scottie Graham, who redshirted in 1987.)

There’s more than meets the eye, of course, as each coach faced different challenges in different eras, but I thought it would be fun to check out what the numbers look like anyway because you can bet the farm the discussions about which coach is the best in Ohio State history have just begun.

Other notes:

  • With 59 All-Big Ten selections, Tressel edged Bruce (55) and Cooper (53) for second most.
  • Brown only coached Ohio State for three years, but he and Hayes are tied for most Pro Football Hall of Famers to play under their tutelage. Brown coached Lou Groza, Dante Lavelli and Bill “Deke” Willis, while Hayes mentored Jim Parker, Paul Warfield and Dick LeBeau.

    Sign at Ohio Stadium recognizing Paul Brown's accomplishments
  • Luke Fickell is the fourth Ohio State graduate to become head coach at the school, and he will hope to be more like Earle Bruce (1979-87) than Sam Willaman (1929-33). Willaman is the only person to coach Ohio State for more than a year and fail to win at least one Big Ten title. Bruce was unceremoniously fired before the Michigan game in 1987, but he won 75 percent of his games and four Big Ten titles in eight years. His average Big Ten finish of 2.33 is better than that of Hayes (2.46).
  • Fickell is advised to exceed the output of the other former Buckeye to lead the scarlet and gray, too. That would be Wes Fesler, who led his alma mater to a Big Ten championship and its first Rose Bowl victory after the ’49 season but resigned under pressure less than 12 months later. During Ohio State’s time in the Big Ten, Fesler has the worst winning percentage (57) of any OSU coach to hold the job for more than one year, but his departure after a stinging loss to Michigan in the “Snow Bowl” in 1950 cleared the way for the beginning of the Hayes era.

Welcome To The Good Times: Eddie George’s Heisman Coincided With Ohio State’s Rebirth

Eddie George more represents the return of Ohio State to the elite circle of college football than any other player of the past 20 years.

He signed with Ohio State before anyone knew where John Cooper was going to take the program, and he waited out the careers of several fine running backs before getting his shot. Even when he finally became a starter, he was far from an instant star.

George was mostly a spectator the first time one of Cooper’s teams made national noise, the 1993 campaign that peaked with a No. 3 national ranking but ended with a dud at Michigan. A year later, he took over the No. 1 running back spot and turned in a quiet 1,400-yard season as the team had an uninspiring four-loss campaign that at least featured Cooper’s first win against the Wolverines.

At that point, anyone who wondered if the 1993 season was an aberration was certainly justified in so doing. That was the first share of a Big Ten championship or 10-win season since 1986, and in the meantime the Buckeyes averaged fewer than seven wins per season and never totaled more than eight.

Doubts began to fade Aug. 27, 1995, however.

George ran for 99 yards and two touchdowns that day as No. 12 Ohio State trounced No. 22 Boston College 38-6 in the Kickoff Classic in East Rutherford, N.J.

That was the last game the Philadelphia freight train failed to gain at least 100 yards in an Ohio State uniform, and as he piled up yards week after week, the Buckeyes this time hit No. 2 in the national polls. Although another stunning loss at No. 12 Michigan knocked the Buckeyes out of the national championship race, the dye was cast.

They were no one-year wonders. A new cast, including George and receiving sensation Terry Glenn, had come along to rekindle the glory of the Woody Hayes era that faded a bit during Earle Bruce’s career (they called him ol’ 9-and-3 Earle for a reason: He followed an 11-win first season with six consecutive 9-3 records) and into the beginning of the Cooper era.

George’s star rose all season, starting with 200-yard games at home against Wisconsin and Notre Dame in September then reaching a crescendo with his magnificent 314-yard day against visiting Illinois on Nov. 11. That thrust him clearly into the Heisman Trophy race with Nebraska quarterback Tommie Frazier and Northwestern’s Darnell Autry, and though Sports Illustrated dubbed Frazier the worthy winner, voters disagreed.

Sure, other Buckeyes such as Glenn and transcendent left tackle Orlando Pace took home national awards as well that season, but this was the Heisman Trophy.

Ohio State had five of those stiff-arm statues, but no one under the age of about 25 would have had much of a recollection of seeing a Buckeye win one. A decade had passed since Keith Byars finished second to Doug Flutie.

I remember thinking I wasn’t quite sure I should believe an Ohio State player really could reach that pinnacle until George’s name was announced. But there he was in New York City, dropping his head into his hands then looking up in wide-eyed disbelief before officially joining the pantheon of Les Horvath, Vic Janowicz, Howard “Hopalong” Cassady and Archie Griffin.

The 1995 season ended with some unfinished business, but momentum was built.

The following year, Ohio State garnered its first preseason top-10 ranking since 1987 and went on to win the another Big Ten crown and appear in its first Rose Bowl since January 1985. The ’96 Buckeyes won the Granddaddy of Them All for the first time in over two decades, and Cooper’s vaunted recruiting efforts were in full force by that time, laying the ground work for more success to come.

Proving the strength of the program’s brand in the eyes of the nation’s pollsters, Ohio State began four consecutive seasons – 1996-99 – in the top 10. They finished there three of those four years, although a disappointing 6-6 season in ’99 marked the beginning of the end for Cooper.

Still, it was Cooper who in the midst of that run of success recruited many of the keys to the national championship Jim Tressel led the Buckeyes to in his second year at the helm.

In the 15 seasons since George won the Heisman, Ohio State has won or shared nine Big Ten championships and appeared in 11 BCS (or equivalent) bowls. From 1980-94, the Buckeyes won or shared four conference crowns. While postseason bids were determined differently in the earlier period, Ohio State went to five “major” bowls – one Rose, two Fiestas and one Cotton.

George, the first of Cooper’s Ohio State players to be selected for the College Football Hall of Fame, went on to grace the cover of one of the early NCAA football video games before headlining the Madden series for a year as well and embarking on a long NFL career, but he says he still is identified as a Heisman Trophy winner first and foremost.

Neither he nor his alma mater have been quite the same since 1995.

(Headline song via the Black Crowes)

What do you think? Let me know in the comments, email me at mhartman@buckeyesports.com. Feel free to follow me on Twitter, if you’re into that sort of thing.  

Final Big Ten Icons Revealed?

Credit for this goes to Josh Winslow, a Columbus photographer who does fine work for our newspaper and website (check him out here).

He posted on our forum links (link 1link 2 and link 3) to what appears to be the final three Big Ten Icons, set to be released in the next couple of weeks .

(Here is a link to the most-recently revealed choice, No. 4 Archie Griffin, for comparison’s sake)

If those are accurate, you apparently have Jesse Owns at No. 3 followed by Magic Johnson and No. 1 Red Grange.

Perhaps these are fakes, or maybe they’re intentionally up there in the wrong order to throw people off the trail (but if you were going to do that, why put anything up at all?), but I have a really hard time figuring out how the panel of selectors came to this conclusion.

Grange as the No. 1 football player is understandable considering all he did to advance the sport (although I think his impact on pro football was more profound than college), but I tend to think Owens’ achievements are wide enough in scope to place him at the top overall.

Of course, that debate is nothing compared to the one between two and three.

The degree to which Magic is overrated is astounding because he’s not even the most accomplished basketball player in the conference’s history (See Jerry Lucas’ pair of National Player of the Year Awards to Magic’s zero, for starters…), but to place him ahead of a guy who won four Olympic Gold medals in the circumstances that Owens did in Nazi Germany is simply inexplicable, if that is how it turns out.

UPDATE (2/14):

Owens’ spot at No. 3 has been made official, and the lead to the write-up says all that needs to be said:

It is no exaggeration to say the four-gold-medal performance by Ohio State’s Jesse Owens in front of Adolf Hitler at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games was a landmark event in the history of Ohio State, the Big Ten Conference, the United States, the Olympic Games and of the 20th century…

But not as nice as winning a national championship against a mid-major basketball team or accounting for six touchdowns in one football game against Michigan, apparently…

OSU-Wisconsin No. 1 matchups not all bad for Buckeyes

With top-ranked Ohio State heading to Madison to take on Wisconsin in basketball Saturday, there’s been lots of talk about the Badgers’ upset win over the No. 1 Buckeyes during football season.

That was the second time Wisconsin pulled off such a feat, following a 17-7 decision in Madison in 1942*, but the memories of No. 1 upsets in the series are not all bad for the Buckeyes.

Did you know Ohio State beat Wisconsin the one and only time the Badgers have played as the nation’s No. 1-ranked football team?

Head coach Woody Hayes’ Ohio State defense did its part, repeatedly turning away the Badgers on trips inside the Buckeye 20-yard line and allowing OSU halfback Howard “Hopalong” Cassady to best Wisconsin All-American fullback Alan Ameche.

The Buckeyes were content to allow Ameche pound away in small bites while Cassady piled up his yards in bunches.

Ameche needed 25 carries to gain 105 yards, while Cassady caught a 45-yard touchdown and had runs of 45 and 46 yards. He finished with 113 yards rushing on just nine carries and 51 yards receiving on a pair of catches.

Cassady’s long touchdown catch gave the Buckeyes a 13-7 lead in the third quarter, and they went on to win 23-14.

Both stars would go on to win the Heisman Trophy, Ameche in 1954 and Cassady in ’55.

*Those Buckeyes, under head coach Paul Brown, went on to be named national champions anyway