Football Hayes & Cannon The Rivalry

Seventh-Year Ohio State Coaching Seasons Ranked

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Despite what your neighborhood Michigan fan friend said would happen, Urban Meyer is still coaching at The Ohio State University.

This season marks his longest coaching stretch at any school, topping his 6-year stint at Florida. The 2018 season will be his seventh go-round as the head coach of the scarlet and gray. It’s been a nice little run so far, most would agree.

Being a bit of a history nut, I did some digging and found that only six other Buckeye head coaches had tenures that kept them in Columbus for seven or more years. Most of the names you’ll recognize, but a couple you may not.

What does history tell us may be in store for a coach in his seventh season at OSU?

Here are the previous six, ranked in order from worst to best.

6. Francis Schmidt (1940)

No Buckeye coach, including Urban Meyer, has had a better four-year start against That Team Up North than Francis Schmidt. He was the school’s first already-established coach when hired to Columbus in 1934. Upon his arrival, his teams beat Michigan in their first four attempts (1934-1937) by a combined score of 114-0.

He won a pair of conference titles in his tenure at Ohio State, but trailed off in his seventh and final season in control of the program. The Bucks only managed to win half of their games in that 1940 season. OSU was on the receiving end of a 40-0 whooping by Michigan, and the writing was on the wall for Schmidt.

5. Earle Bruce (1985)

The late great coach of the Buckeyes had an odd head coaching tenure in Columbus. His first season was a remarkable 11-1 run that ended with a one-point loss to USC in the Rose Bowl. That year also marked the last time that an Ohio State head football coach won the Big Ten Coach of the Year honor. Seriously.

Beyond that year, Bruce won, or tied for, conference titles in three other seasons. And yet he always seemed to fall just shy of the sport’s pinnacle, finishing between 6th and 15th in the nation in every subsequent year but his last (1987).

Bruce’s seventh season leading the Bucks, in 1985, was sandwiched between conference titles, and was somewhat forgettable. That’s saying a lot for a year in which the team still finished 14th in the nation in the AP Poll. The Bucks went 9-3, winning their Florida Citrus Bowl game against BYU, but losing to Michigan and finishing tied for fourth in the Big Ten.

4. John Cooper (1994)

Cooper coached at Ohio State for a total of thirteen seasons, winning the conference three times. His teams were some of the most talented that have passed through Columbus. Despite that, they managed to struggle in both bowl games and The Game. The 1994 roster, Coop’s seventh at the school, contained some all-time greats like Orlando Pace, Eddie George, Joey Galloway, Terry Glenn, Korey Stringer, Mike Vrabel, and Shawn Springs, among others.

How does a team with that roster not show up further down this list? Well, they took an absolute drumming by the best Penn State team I’ve ever seen and managed three other losses, including their bowl game against Alabama. On the plus side, they handily beat a ranked Michigan squad 22-6.

Cooper bounced back in ’95 and ’96, going 22-3 in those seasons and winning one of the best Rose Bowls in Buckeye history. However, his seventh season, despite finishing 14th in the country, was so-so.

3. John Wilce (1919)

The name may be unfamiliar to you, but just ask a Michigan fan. No doubt they’re very familiar with this period, as it is the basis for most of their arguments for being great or having a winning record against their rival to the south.

Jokes aside, Wilce was perhaps the first Buckeye coach to bring success and popularity to the program. Much of that came when a Columbus East High School graduate (originally from Chicago, hence the nickname) enrolled in 1916.

Chic Harley took a mediocre Buckeye program and put it on his shoulders. Wilce and Harley went 15-0-1 in 1916 and 1917, combined, giving the Buckeyes their first ever conference titles. Harley fought in the First World War in 1918, resulting in a dismal 3-3 year. He returned to campus for Wilce’s seventh season as coach and his own final year of college, in 1919. What that season brought was the University’s first ever victory over Michigan, a 13-3 win in Ann Arbor.

The team and Harley were so impressive on that date, that Michigan’s legendary coach, Fielding Yost addressed the club. He commended their fight and told Chic that he was “one of the finest little machines I’ve ever seen.”

2. Jim Tressel (2007)

Let’s face it, beating Michigan weighs heavily into my ranking system, and Jim Tressel set that bar pretty darn high. His seventh year on campus, the 2007 season, was no different. As it played out, it would mark his fourth consecutive victory over the maize and blue. Unfortunately, it came a week after Isaiah “Juice” Williams’ Illini outplayed and beat the Bucks in their own backyard.

The loss to Illinois appeared to have knocked the men of scarlet and gray out of national championship contention. As luck would have it, the dominos fell as Ohio State needed them to, and they faced LSU in the BCS National Championship Game. After a strong start (10-0), the Bayou Bengals scored the next 31 points and gave the Buckeyes back-to-back title game losses.

A rivalry win, Big Ten title, and 5th place finish in the AP Poll is a heckuva year and tough to top as far as individual seasons go.

1. Woody Hayes (1957)

That is, unless you check Woody Hayes’ resume. His seventh year leading the OSU footballers was a magical one. He had already won two conference titles and one national title leading up to his seventh year. And yet, that was just the start to his storied coaching career in Columbus.

Iowa and Michigan shut the Bucks out in their final two games of the 1956 season. The start to the ’57 season appeared to confirm the belief that it would be a rebuilding year for Hayes. An unranked TCU squad came into Columbus and managed to leave with an 18-14 victory.

Woody and players celebrating after clinching a Big Ten title and Rose Bowl bid

From there, however, Hayes’ team grew and improved each and every week.

They cruised to four straight victories and a national ranking by November. Like many other promising years, the stars aligned as other Big Ten teams knocked each other out of contention and cleared a path for Woody to run through.

His battle-tested players pulled out a close victory against #5 Iowa, coming from behind to win 17-13. They then went to Ann Arbor to cap off an 8-game win streak to finish the regular season.

Their Rose Bowl win over the Oregon Webfoots/Ducks clinched an impressive 9-1 season and gave Woody claims to the second of his five eventual national championships.

To surpass Woody Hayes’ 1957 team, Urban Meyer’s seventh season would have to be one for the ages.

But isn’t that almost what we’ve come to expect now?

2 Responses

  1. “To surpass Woody Hayes’ 1957 team, Urban Meyer’s seventh season would have to be one for the ages.”

    15-0 works for me.

    1. Would love to see it, but with a rookie QB that’s a tall order.

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