Cooper... Man, he'd probably still be coaching if only he could have figured out how to win against UM and his bowl games. That 1996 team was as good and talented a team as I have ever seen, but just couldn't move the ball against UM. Still think they should have won at least a share of the NC that year.
"When you're part of a team, you stand up for your teammates. Your loyalty is to them. You protect them through good and bad, because they'd do the same for you." Yogi Berra
They moved the ball in that game, they were inside the 5 three times in the first half and settled for 3 field goals. That paired with Shawn springs slipping one time lost the game. I still loose sleep over that game.
"Life is not about how hard you can hit, it's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. THATS HOW WINNING IS DONE!!" - Rocky Ballboa
Shawn jinxed himself at halftime saying he had strees "covered" (basically not to worry about it), then the slip right out of the gate in the second half.
If ever there was one that hurt more, I don't know it. Michigan already had 3 losses including to a shitty Purdue team. I remember thinking this is the year they wipe the mats with them.
I will forever remember that game... And I never actually watched it. I was a senior in high school and I was headed to New York City to perform in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. I boarded the plane in my Buckeye gear and we were winning.... When I landed in New York I asked anyone I thought might know who won the game. (Such was life before smart phones... Especially for 17 year olds. I had a car phone.... That was attached to my car....) Typical NYC- no one knew or cared. Finally I found out... As I watched it scroll below the giant screens of Times Square "Ohio State upset by Michigan 13-9". I was dumbfounded. That game and the 1998 Michigan State game will be forever in my nightmares.
I've heard from alum how he let players do and act whatever/ how ever he wanted. That sometimes it was unbearable to be a football alum around the way he let the kids act
The Vest won the title with a lot of Cooper's guys, that can not be forgotten. I'm glad that we have great recruiting that pairs nicely with our #brand.
Recruiting must be getting everyone excited. Ramzy wrote a non-Situational article!
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The Cooper years were building a foundation. That heals the pain a bit. Thanks.
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Great read. The Cooper years were tough, the teams were stacked but couldn't put it all together. This makes me feel like it was for something.
In the end, you do win with people, and that's also what makes 11w great. You've been able to keep a nucleus of top notch folks together for a long time.
Coop loved being a Buckeye. He deserved better. F u ttun.
10-0 and a chance to go 11-0...
The only program that was recruiting nationally during that time was Michigan, which owned the better part of the decade - but still wasn't good enough to be consistently great. Bo Schembechler owned his conference and very little else.
Speaking of sc UM, I heard Hairball's Grandma was on hand with Tom Brady and Ric Flair, for their signing day, and they celebrated her birthday, as part of the festivities.
Bo Schembechler: Student of Woody;
Gary Moeller: Player for Woody;
Lloyd Carr & Rich Rodriguez: Owned by Tressel;
Brady Hoke: Owned by donuts;
Jim Harbaugh: Owned by Urban to the tune of 42-13.
I find this...endearing.
Fitzbuck | Toledo - Ohio's right armpit | "A troll by any other name is still a troll".
Funny and kind of cute
In many ways, Cooper saved the Buckeye program. Sure, he lost to UM and the SEC (among others) in bowl games on a consistent basis. However, it was Cooper who turned the Buckeyes into a national brand. That 1993-1998 run returned the Bucks to the forefront of the national discussion and built the foundation for what we now see in Columbus. Thanks for bringing attention to the most under appreciated coach that most of us have ever known.
The other thing that this article reminds me of is how blessed/lucky we are as Buckeye fans. 5 coaches over the last 60+ years. That's pretty damn good. That's what happens with consistent success.
"Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed, is more important than any other one thing." - Abraham Lincoln
You hit the nail on the head here. John Cooper is the most underrated coach in Ohio State history. His teams were some of the most talented teams ever, but nobody remembers them because they lost to TTUN and never won a national title. In fact, having been born in 1988, I explain my hatred for TTUN to people by simply saying that "I grew up in Michigan during the Cooper years." I am as guilty as anyone, but Coop deserves better from us. We have been on a historically good run since 2002, and it was all made possible because of the foundation John Cooper put together. Additionally he is a really good guy. I met him on Bourbon Street in 2011 before the Arkansas game that the NCAA says never happened. He was just a regular guy walking up and down the street with his wife, and could not have been a nicer guy.
Sorry but I will agree to disagree here.
As was noted in the article being the HC of OSU has many built in advantages such as the traditions, the strong home state recruiting base, the facilities, TV exposure etc, which frankly sets the bar for success here very high and rightly so.
Hence why Earle had earned his dismissal
That said, all those same advantages that Earle had failed to capitalize on in his 9 year run remained in place or actually got worse under Cooper over his first 5 years here.
It was not until 1993 ie his 6th year that we finally started to see the teams improve and stop under performing and in part this started to happen because Cooper started recruiting more and more academically and ethically challenged recruits (Think about Tressel's proud in the classroom and community parts of his speech), And even this was a 1 year fluke as the next year we lost 4 games again.
So not until 1995, ie 8 years into his tenure that he finally built a somewhat sustained run of top level performance we expect as OSU fans, and that last only 4 years before it began slipping again 1999.
Cooper started recruiting tons of players who were either prop 48 casualties, never graduated or flunked out as he found it too difficult to compete using the older Hayes, Bruce and later Tressel, Meyer model of good student athletes.He decimated the programs finer off field qualities to build a team he needed on the field.
From 0.0 GPA's, to Robert Smith's walking off the team. to Katzenmoyer's summer classes, to Spellman's mental issues, to Rambo's shoplifting, top players suing each other,
Is has been well documented that under Cooper graduation rates plummeted from being near the top of the B1G and Nationally to the bottom of the conference. He also had several players arrested for various issues over his last 10 years.
His winning percent in his first 5 years (1988-1992) was .619, (35-21-3), which is easily the worst winning percentage over a 5 years period since prior to WWII and his first 7 years (1988-1994) he won only 66.6% of his games. Bruce for all his failures in his last 7 years won over 73% of his games. In those first 7 years under Cooper we not only lost 1 out of every 3 games, we also had won only 1 share of a conference title, had gone 1-5 in bowls and failed to go to a bowl, had 1 of only 3 losing seasons in the last 5 decades, and his well known failures against UM all while seeing grad rates decline and off field issues escalate.
Bruce for his 9-3 records at least graduated guys, won Conference titles, beat Michigan and won bowls
Yes by his 8th year he finally got the ship going the right direction but was unable to sustain it and the other issues got progressively worse
To me he was the worst OSU coach of the last 60+ years
tl;dr -1. After your first paragraph, I had heard enough. Sorry, but not many people are gonna agree with you, as far as recruiting goes especically, and his 93 team went 10-1-1 (tho lost big to a bad 8-4 Meatchicken team, but it was @Meatchicken), and Co-Big Ten Championship (Wisconsin also went 6-1-1 and went to the Rose Bowl) and finished #10 in the final rankings.
“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” – Theodore Roosevelt
This seems like cherry picking to me. I respect your opinion somewhat but it seems you want to lay blame on Coop for some character defect by showing problems that some student-athletes under him had while assuming Tress and Urbs had none. But that's not the case. Under Tress we had a player dismissed for assult and robbery, a QB suspended for accepting money, a kicker dismissed for selling drugs, a star running back suspended for NCAA violations and later went to prison, and spades of DUIs and other problems. This doesn't include Tat-gate. Urban has his own list including his stint at Florida. Should we blame them for all their players do? No. Coaches work with 100s of kids in a career. You can cherry pick events under any coach and say thing.
Really go back and look at '91 and '92 and it was clear that the program was on the uptick. '93 was no fluke, and the '94 team was a pretty solid squad that was a year away and lost to some very, very good teams. Let's give Coop some due for what the '96 team (which lost a TON of talent at the skill positions from the prior year) was able to accomplish. You're entitled to your opinion, but Coop is a better coach than Bruce. At the very least, he is a vastly superior recruiter. If nothing else, give the man his due for bring OSU into a more modern age of college football and appealing to an entirely new generation. As I said, for all his failings, Cooper had a huge hand in building the Buckeye football brand into what it is today.
He gave the eulogy at my uncle's funeral in 2012, prior to that the only thing I knew about him was a horrible record against TTUN, losing in the Outback Bowl, and Robert Smith's accusations on a lack of academic integrity. After that eulogy, hearing him speak from the heart, I could tell he truly cared about the kids he brought to The Ohio State University. He is without a doubt the most underrated coach in the precious history of Ohio State football.
Love you more, JW. 1/16/71-9/23/12
Was it Cooper that said there were "too many slow white guys" on the roster? IIRC.
Yes, he said it, and he caught a ton of flack for saying it.
He said that he had teams at Tulsa with more talent than the OSU team he inherited. Might have been a tad hyperbolic, but there was a lot to it. Bruce's last team, 1987, went 6-4-1, and OSU had 4 guys drafted in the first 3 rounds of the 1988 draft.
I recall reading, at the time, that Bruce and some of his staff had alienated a lot of high school coaches around Ohio, and the result was an exodus of Ohio talent to Notre Dame, TTUN, Pitt, and elsewhere. In addition to expanding recruiting of the south, Cooper also had to patch relationships within Ohio.
Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.
yes it was and he was right. people didn't want to hear that tho.
I always felt Cooper was a great recruiter, but usually fell short on big game days, and almost always vs. TTUN. But you're right, he was the first step toward the greatness that is now the Buckeyes.
Really only lost to UM. Beat some very good PSU and ND teams. I think those end of season losses to UM were so devastating that the team just didn't care about the bowl game that much (the "Alabama excuse").
I think you are exactly right. After they lost a few of those games the pressure on the team and coaches was crazy. They put so much into winning that game that after a loss it just sucked the life out of them.
I always felt Cooper was a great recruiter, but usually fell short on big game days,
He always seemed to have a befuddled expression on his face, when things where going badly.
Not that it was a "big game," but Cooper did give us this, which has provided lasting joy and comic relief:
"Why didn't we run Zeke?"
If we had unlimited up votes, I'd be up all night clicking for this! Awesome…just awesome!
"You don't win when you're too damned happy, and I like to win"--Woody Hayes
I said before and I'll say it again.. Imo Cooper was one of the greatest evaluators and developer's of talent I've ever seen.... He just couldn't win when it counted.. Had he left and became a gm in the NFL he would've been big time..
Cooper has been scout for the Bengals for several years now. I believe his evaluation of talent has been a player in turn around of the Bengals franchise.
Great post Ramzy; I love being part of the Buckeye family.
You win with people still rings true, but sometime talent just can't be overlooked.
Feed the trolls
More brilliance Ramzy. I was at both Seminole games. Sheesh.
Me too. Those sucked.
I made it to one. Those FSU teams were good. That was bad but getting beat by , a poor, Wisc team and blown out by Indiana was worse
Growing up in the 80's it was incredibly frustrating to watch OSU as Earle would always blow 2 games. People now act like he owned UM, but he was only 1 game above 500. I remember when Coop was hired he famously said that OSU had on its roster "too many slow white guys". Coop modernized OSU football and would be considered a legendary coach if he only could've beaten you know who. It was a shame the playoffs weren't around then because I think he would have won it all in '96 and '98.
I think Cooper also famously responded to Rice Football coach Ken Hatfield's complaint about "running up the score", when OSU beat Rice in 1996 70-7....."maybe you ought to get a better defense."
Florida State had been a girls' school just four years prior to Woody taking over at Ohio State. Earle's third and fourth seasons at the helm included big losses courtesy of the Seminoles, both in Ohio Stadium.
Throwing The Florida State College for Women in the faces of Seminoles fans never gets old.
And, on the day of one of these contests, I almost died. As it turned out, I picked that day to break my collar bone. What's life threatening about a broken clavicle, you ask? A father missing the Florida State - Ohio State game to take you to the ER and sit there for hours.
Trust me, my mother is the only reason I survived.
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Cooper survivor...still in awe at the talent the man brought into Columbus.
If he managed to win just a few more against the rival, along with a few more bowls, and this could be a totally different discussion right now.
I've made peace with the 90's, but still shake my head from time to time.
I've made peace with the 90's, but still shake my head from time to time.
Hove, my friend, sign me up for whatever therapy group got you over the 90"s.
"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read." - Groucho Marx
"The recipient of Oyster's ONLY down vote".
Cutting edge confrontational/usurpation therapy...the Tressel-Meyer technique.
(It works, trust me)
Excellent article, Ramzy - thanks for that.
Hove, I agree 100% with your post here. Probably the buggest reason we shake our heads is because of the talent that Coop accumulated, thereby raising expectations, to his credit. But man...(there I go shaking my head again, for real) it just ended in heartbreak too many times. Tress had to change the culture and instill confidence that was nowhere to be found when it came to UM, in particular. We all know how that turned out.
I liked Cooper.
The man left Arizona State with a fresh Rose Bowl win over M...igan to resurrect a sleeping giant in the Buckeyes.
He did that...Ohio State returned to national prominence.
But he never embraced the rivalry, and it showed.
But he never embraced the rivalry, and it showed.
Especially since he was hired to do the two things he did that year at Arizona St.: Beat Michigan, and win the Rose Bowl. He did poorly at both at Ohio State, despite his otherwise impressive accomplishments here.
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I've made peace with all but 1998. That year and I merely signed a cease-fire. I don't talk about it, and the nightmares don't come back. We've built a large minefield that neither will cross.
"You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, & in the manner in which you live.
So, live. Live. Fight like hell. And when you get too tired to fight then lay down and rest and let somebody else fight for you. "
- Stuart Scott
Bo Schembechler owned his conference and very little else.
Ah that brings back memories. Why does Bo eat his cornflakes on a plate?
Because he'd lose them in a bowl.
Class of 81
I have always thought that John Cooper did a good job at Ohio State. The Buckeyes were always in contention...right up until it mattered anyway. Those end of year games against those bastards from the north and the bowl games were nightmares to live through. Those two games yearly certainly tarnished an otherwise good body of work by Cooper and his staff. Go Bucks!
I think Urban is doing a little better than just maintaining, he is bringing in talent that Tressel couldn't. I love Tress and Cooper, but the Urbs is going to go down as one of the best ever. My opinion not yours.
Good read Ramzy ! I've been saying the same thing for years. The program was going down hill big time. Cooper brought the talent level back up. We all know what cost him his job but several of those games could have went either way. If he would have had even a 500 record against scUM who knows what would have happened.
The Buckeyes lost three games each season seven years in a row. That run resides on an unsafe plane between not bad and not good enough
Yep, IMO Earle was very mediocre. He won big his first year with Woody's team (and Art, having gone threw the pain of his freshman season, was ready). Thereafter, it was at least three losses every single year. When he had the talent, he squandered it (see the 1984 team - C. Carter, Byars in his prime, tomzcack, Lachey (the whole OL was great), Spielman, Kumerow, Pepper johnson). Then he left the cupboard bare for Cooper.
Thanks Ramzy. You made me appreciate Cooper more. I know he feels the sting about losing to Blue. But, he's never wavered about how he feels about being a Buckeye. I hope he knows how much he is appreciated.
"Age wrinkles the body, quitting wrinkles the soul" Woody Hayes
Excellent article. Coop did the dirty work to update OSU football. Tress and Urban have done fabulously to build on that foundation, but someone had to get down in the mud and rebuild a outdated foundation.
Thank you coach Cooper!
Its good to be the king
This is why I come to this website. Articles like this.
I don't want to be a product of my environment. I want my environment to be a product of me.
Cooper works as a scouting consultant for The Bengals these days.
It seems like there was a book called "The 9-3 rut". I wonder if Purdue wishes it had that problem. The other thing I remember is "The Earl Bruce Show" which I watched on antenna. I don't remember the Toledo station it aired on but it was Sunday.
Purdue wishes it had that problem.
More than ever CFB programs are relying on brand advertising - so much of the fundamentals from focus, message, awareness, reach, relevance, relationships, and engagement apply today in recruiting and essentially in the way these programs are lived experientially by fans and prospects (and alumni, advertisers, and donors).
Playing local will always be a huge challenge to recruit out of the heart of talent - clearly the south - but building an aspirational brand that delivers (now more consistently than ever and on the biggest stages) helps to break through.
More than anything Cooper benefited from the organic convergence of CFB and business culture and the advent of thinking around promoting the program to distant kids and capitalizing on communicated success.
I've enjoyed watching Urban cement these elements in the program and am curious how we continue to push the envelope moving forward.
Wahoo! Wahoo! Rip, Zip, Bazoo! I Yell. I Yell. For O.S.U.
Amen Ramzy!!! To your point, I think we have the Insider who understands that we have to go outside to be dominant. Urban will continue to get the top Ohio talent, but isn't afraid to forego an Ohio kid for better talent elsewhere. More importantly, he understands, and grew up understanding, The Game. It's a great time to be a Buckeye!!!
"We gotta go win this next game and make the State of Ohio proud!"-UFM
Everyone growing up in Columbus during the Coop era knows "2-10-1." It's amazing how tightly wound he (and then the team) would seem to get one year, only to be too loose and causal the next. Great recruits, but Coop's TTUN record sank him, and it was deserved.
I want to thank Cooper for making the NFL so interesting. No matter what game was on there were always 2 or 3 former Buckeyes per team to watch and root for.....and it hasn't stopped
Looking back I think that Earl was too much like Woody in a time that was changing, so they went with Coop who wasn't like Woody enough. Both coaches were great, just were a mismatch with either the program or the times.
Tressel and Urban have just the right amount of Woody for the times. Of course, they show different aspects of Hayes: Tressel the solid social and moral leader, and Urban the intense disciplinarian. I think this is why those two could put it all together for NCs, the connect with a tradition but also bring in something new.
I would agree that Coop was a better recruiter than Bruce, but if I had to choose between the 2, I would pick Bruce. He was 5-4 vs. Michigan, 5-3 in bowl games, and had a winning % of 76%. In contrast, Coop was 2-10-1 against Michigan, 3-8 in bowl games, and had a winning percentage of 72%.
I also think it is wrong to ding Bruce on not having a national recruiting focus because it was just a much different era--everything was more local/regionalized. Most people just had the local channels on TV and only the "rich kids" had cable. It would have been hard for a coach in that era to have a national recruiting focus because you simply didn't have the resources or technology to make that possible. I think Bruce's big problem at the time in recruiting, as others have stated, is that he couldn't hang on to the best talent in the state of Ohio, losing out to Notre Dame and Michigan.
The last thing I would says is that, while I am happy with OSU's latest recruiting haul, I would like to see a greater focus on Ohio kids. There is enough talent in Ohio that we should be able to do better than just 10 kids from Ohio in this year's class. This also gets back to the big problem I had with Cooper. He had no ties to Ohio and didn't understand or appreciate the rivalry with Michigan--which is why I believe he consistently lost to UM. This changed with Tress and Urban because they are Ohio guys and grew up rooting for the Buckeyes. I think this can also translate to players, to a certain degree, where an Ohio kid who grew up rooting for the Buckeyes is going to maybe play a little harder than a kid who has no ties to the state. I think we were on the receiving end of this with the MSU game this past year where you had a lot of Ohio kids on that roster who felt spurned by OSU and wanted nothing more than to beat the Buckeyes.
"In America, anyone can become president. That's the problem." George Carlin
I think we were on the receiving end of this with the MSU game this past year where you had a lot of Ohio kids on that roster who felt spurned by OSU and wanted nothing more than to beat the Buckeyes.
I trust in Urban. Recruiting mainly Ohio kids isn't going to get it done against the likes of Alabama and the rest of the SEC. MSU found out the hard way this year. Tressel did too, twice.
OSU and UM are always going to be MSU's "bowl games". They play like a team possessed in those two games.
Thank you Ramzy. You nailed it perfectly. Thank you for giving Coop his due.
One of my prized possessions is a signed copy of "You With With People" by Woody himself. He signed it for my dad, who was in OSU's ROTC program at the time. He signed it Lt. Cmdr Hayes. That one's getting passed down.
Poor John. In reality, not so poor!
I never really thought about how Cooper's recruiting laid a sort of foundation for the success that this program has had with Jim Tressel and now Urban Meyer. We all knew he was definitely good at it, seeing some of the talent he had throughout the mid to late 90s. It certainly changed the game of how things are done around here. Cooper had his flaws, though, and Tressel and Meyer brought the same good recruiting without the flaws that Cooper had (such as not emphasizing The Game, character of some guys he recruited, etc).
Cooper laid the foundation for that 2002 championship with the guys he recruited, and Tressel built on that in a big way...and Meyer continues to build even more on it.
Class of 2010.
Good analysis Ramzy, as usual. I think that UFM is building on the "Ohio first/quality people" mentality that Tress made as his foundation in recruiting, and adding the national recruiting reach that only a few schools have. He has turned OSU into a national brand and not just "the best of the Big Ten who wins a fair number of bowl games but is likely to get hammered in a NCG." He also is embracing social media and technology in ways no predecessor ever has. If he can hold his life together through adversity (learn from the Fla experience) he will be the GOAT Buckeye coach and a top 3 CFB coach of all time. I expect to see 2-4 national championship games in the next decade if he sticks around. And he will win more of those than he loses. Go Bucks Forever!