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.
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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.