Ohio State resumes practice today 101 days after beating Michigan to close out a perfect season, and the school’s official release notes this is the earliest start on record for Buckeye spring football.
It might not be the first time the men of the Scarlet and Gray hit the practice field with snow on the ground in Columbus, though.
Head coach Francis Schmidt decided to hold winter practice in February 1935 and informed the players via letter.
“We have several new ideas including plays, formations, shifts, etc. that we want to try out, and this looks like a fine time,” wrote Schmidt (via Brett Perkins’ 2009 book, “Frantic Francis“). “Two months is long enough to lay off from football anyway. I want to get all the preliminary stuff out of the way so that when spring practice rolls around, and we can get out we will be ready to start mapping out our attack. We will spend most of the time on lateral passing and forward passes, and we’ll spend a whole month on it.”
According to Perkins, this was an unusual move, but then Schmidt was far from a usual man (even for a football coach).
There was hardly a time he wasn’t thinking about football, and he had a manaical devotion to developing his “razzle-dazzle” offense.
Schmidt was in his second year at Ohio State in 1935, and he had good reason to want to get a jump start on season preparation. The Buckeyes would play host to Notre Dame in November in what was then and remains one of the most heavily anticipated college football games in memory.
He was probably more concerned with the vaunted Fighting Irish than he was Michigan. After all, the Buckeyes had shut out the Wolverines 34-0 the previous year after Schmidt declared, “They put their pants on one leg at a time, same as we do.”
Ohio State would blank the Wolverines again the following season – the 38-0 score remains the largest margin of victory ever for the Buckeyes in the series – but things did not go so well against the Fighting Irish, who scored two late touchdowns to stun the Buckeyes 18-13 in Ohio Stadium.