Earle Bruce Interview
By Joe-S-U & Gregg

Buckeye 50’s recent interview with former head coach Earle Bruce just happened to take place the evening of Jack Tatum’s passing.  Our series devoted to the Coach Bruce interview led off with his reminiscences of Tatum’s legendary career at Ohio State.  Jack hailed from Passaic, New Jersey, and while that legendary 1967 freshman recruiting class was certainly top-heavy with native Ohioans, many have pointed to that class as Woody Hayes’ first real effort to expand the recruiting reach beyond Ohio’s borders.  In fact, Ohio State’s last All-American from outside the Buckeye State at that point had been fullback Bob White in 1958, and he was just a stone’s throw from Cincinnati in Covington, KY.  Coach Bruce commented on the out-of-state influx of talent- 


The 1966 freshman class contained three non-Ohioans who would make significant contributions to the late ‘60’s successes enjoyed by OSU- Ray Gillian (PA), Mike Radtke and Kevin Rusnak (both from Jersey).  As Coach Bruce accurately recalled, the “Super Sophs” class had six out-of-staters.   Incredibly, four would go on to be named All-American before their days in scarlet and gray were done- Tatum, Brockington, White and Tim Anderson (W.Va.), while a fifth, Jankowski, was a three-year starter.  

Bruce continued on Woody Hayes’ staff until 1972, when he took the reins as head coach of the University of Tampa.  The next year, he began a six-year run at Iowa State.  Even then, coaches such as Bruce knew how fertile the state of Florida was for recruiting.  Of the multitude of Buckeye football books I’ve perused over the years, I had never seen an account of what Earle was doing the fateful evening of December 29, 1978.  As it turns out, he was on the recruiting trail in the Sunshine State and had made plans to be in Jacksonville that night for the Gator Bowl-

Two weeks after that tumultuous night in Jacksonville, Bruce was named as the 20th head football coach at The Ohio State University.  And while he told us that he didn’t necessarily openly campaign for the job, he had a lot of support in his favor-


Woody Hayes’ 28-year run as head coach came on the heels of a 28-year period where seven different men had roamed the sideline in Columbus, including four just in the decade prior to Hayes’ hiring in 1951.  Woody had certainly put the “graveyard of coaches” moniker that Ohio State had gained emphatically to rest, but his longevity made Earle Bruce realize that if he was ever going to coach at Ohio State, it was time.  And Bruce insisted that the shadow of Hayes didn’t phase him-


In the aftermath of John Cooper’s firing in early 2001, many in Buckeye Nation clamored for a “Buckeye”, someone who understood Ohio State and all it was about, someone who “got it”.  Earle Bruce certainly fit the bill in that respect, and although it’s tough to fathom how Ohio State could’ve defended keeping Hayes on after the Gator Bowl, Earle implied that the Charlie Bauman incident gave OSU brass a convenient out from having to pull the plug based on the always underlying pressure to beat the Maize and Blue- 

Technically Wes Fesler resigned before he could be run out of Columbus in the wake of the infamous “Snow Bowl” loss to Michigan in 1950, so he stands for now as the last head football coach at Ohio State to leave of his own volition.  Coach Bruce discussed the perilous slope that goes with being head football coach at Ohio State- 


COMING UP- Coach Bruce’s point of view on some of our “Greatest Drives” games, the standout players, and the call from the Hall…

Joe and I recently had the privilege to interview former OSU Coach Earle Bruce.  We will be bringing you the responses of the Hall of Fame coach over the next few weeks but for now we would like to post for you his comments on Jack Tatum.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *   

Earle was an assistant coach from 1966-1971, which included the years that Jack Tatum played for the Scarlet & Gray.  With the recent passing of the Two-Time All American, Coach Bruce shared his insight of Jack, starting with his recruitment. 

 * * * * * * * * * * READER COMMENTS * * * * * * * * * *

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Coach Bruce with Gregg (6/25/10) 
What was Earle's Greatest victory as a Buckeye Coach?1979 UCLA
1981 Michigan
1984 Fiesta Bowl
1984 Illinois
1987 Cotton Bowl
1987 Michigan
EVERY victory over Michigan (5-4 overall record)
“Jack Tatum is one of the truly great Ohio State football players - a great defensive back, a great hitter, a great love for the game of football, when it came to game time, he was truly a great player, he gave everything he had and make it so there was an effort to win that football game."

"The thing that I remember most when he came he was a raw bone kid with talent, had discipline for the game of football, really on defense I think you lead by example and on defensive he was truly a great example of hitting and running to the football and doing his job."

"When he first came to Ohio State, he was not too communicative.  He was withdrawn a little bit and as he gained success at Ohio State he became very confident about his ability and confident about his playing and confident in what he was doing.  I remember one particular incident when he was at spring practice and coming off the field and a high school coach started talking to him and asking him questions about the defense and what he did.  He was behind me but I heard his voice so I drifted behind him so that I could hear the conversation.  What it was, was a great example of a young man as he went through college and it was after the national championship year, he was very confident and communicative and very good at answering the questions at hand as the young assistant coach in high school was asking the questions and he was answering them.  I marveled at his ability to communicate and do a great job of answering all the questions in great detail in the kind of answer that comes from a coach.  I think he was not only becoming a player on the field but becoming a coach and leader on the field.  That was a great example of the education and the conditions surrounding him being at Ohio State."

" He was always a great Buckeye."

"I would say it was a great loss in the sense that he was a very very fine person and to the end, he was truly a great Buckeye."
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Coach Bruce with Woody
Victory for Coach Bruce
Coach Earle Bruce
Coach Earle Bruce

Gregg With Coach Bruce
"I think if you really measure that class, yes, we had some great contacts (especially) in New Jersey by our QB coach Larry Catuzzi.  I would tell you that we got some outstanding players from out-of-state to add to the great quality and quantity that we got from inside Ohio.  Jack was from Passaic, NJ and we had not only (John) Brockington and (Bruce) Jankowski from NY and NJ respectively, but we had some other fine NJ players come in about that time that were recruited by Catuzzi.  It was just a fine array of talent that came from out of state. There weren’t great numbers when you think about it.  I think there were 5 to maybe 8 players that really were outstanding players the first year they walked on the campus.  After that, some of them developed into what would be sophomores and juniors adding to the starting list of out of state football players.  Yes, I think the out of state recruiting was excellent.  I recruited a kid by the name of Jan White who became an All-American later, but most certainly played a lot of football there."

“I was at Iowa State, (and) I was recruiting in Miami at that time.  I had made plans to go to the game with George Chaump and Rudy Hubbard and the other coaches there.  I thought Jacksonville was a 3-hour drive and I was ready to leave about 5:00 and make the 8:00 game.  But all of a sudden I realized it was almost a 6-hour drive, so there was no way I could go.  So I called George Chaump who was the QB coach and said ‘Hey, George, I’m not gonna make it.  I made a real bad mistake’.  But anyhow, I watched the game and I didn’t see the incident Woody had but I heard about it after on television and I thought ‘Oh, golly’.  Most certainly that was a terrible, terrible thing that happened.”

“I know that my athletic director Lou McCullough- who was the defensive coordinator at Ohio State before he went to Iowa State and hired me- always told me that (Ohio State) was where he wanted me to be as a football coach.  So when the job came open, I think his pushing really ended up in the thought that I might become the head football coach at Ohio State.  I did not apply, but I did have a lot of pushing by people to go to Ohio State because of my contacts before (while) coaching for Coach Hayes.”

“I want to be honest with you.  I thought if I didn’t go to Ohio State at that time, I probably would never go.  It would be the end.  Ohio State was my alma mater, I love Ohio State.  I just decided that if it were offered to me, I would take the job.  And as it worked out, it was offered to me.  I did take the job, and that was it.  I never once thought that following Coach Hayes would be difficult for me, other than the fact that he is a legend.  I (accepted) that, I (had) no problem with that.  I think he’s a great coach and 28 years at Ohio State proves that, no doubt.  And I had a lot of help from Coach Hayes- he was not a guy that was looking to destroy the Ohio State program or the person that followed him.  He was very good to me when I was an assistant and when I was the head football coach.  So I look at it as something that was a good experience.”
“If you were an assistant coach for six years to Woody Hayes, you realize what the job’s all about.  He made very clear that if you lose three times (in a row) to Michigan, you’re gone.  Many people have said forever and ever that the reason Woody left is that he punched a kid.  I don’t really believe that.  He never scored a touchdown for three years against Michigan, and that in itself would destroy Woody Hayes, you understand?  So when you think about that, there are a lot of ramifications.”
“I never thought that Coach Hayes, after 28 years of what he did for Ohio State, would ever be fired or ever be let go.  And when it happened I couldn’t believe it.  Even Coach Tressel is game by game.  I heard all the comments after the Purdue game (last season) on our show (on 610 WTVN Radio in Columbus).  And I stood up and said ‘What if we beat Penn State, Iowa, Michigan and the bowl game?  What if?  I mean, we’re gonna do that.  And if we do, are you talking about firing a guy that’s had the greatest record against Michigan that anyone could possibly have?’  But that’s always in the background at Ohio State.  It’s like, ‘We’re behind you win or tie.  And God bless ya, sometimes we’re not behind you if you tie.’ “