Remembering Earle Bruce: Ohio State Coaches, Players And More Pay Tribute To Legendary Buckeyes Coach

By Dan Hope on April 20, 2018 at 2:48 pm
Earle Bruce before Ohio State's game against Rutgers in 2016.

Greg Bartram – USA TODAY Sports


If you didn't already know what Earle Bruce meant to the Ohio State community, you only needed to look at Twitter on Friday to see how much he meant to Buckeyes coaches and players, both past and present, as well as many others.

In the hours following the Friday morning announcement that Bruce had died at the age of 87, tributes to the former Ohio State coach poured in on social media, in which Bruce was remembered for bringing toughness to the Buckeyes on the field but for his kindness, generosity and love of family off the field, all the while demonstrating a love and passion for Ohio State that few others have matched.

Although Bruce's coaching career at Ohio State concluded in 1987 after nine seasons leading the Buckeyes, he continued to have a presence around the Ohio State football program in the decades to come, especially in recent years.

Current Ohio State coach Urban Meyer is among those whose lives were most profoundly impacted by Bruce, who Meyer has long considered to be a mentor and father figure. Bruce played an integral role in launching Meyer's college football coaching career, hiring him as a graduate assistant at Ohio State in 1986 and later as a wide receivers coach at Colorado State in 1990, and in turn, Meyer made sure to keep Bruce close to the program once he became Ohio State's head coach in 2011.

"I’ve made it clear many times that, other than my father, Coach Bruce was the most influential man in my life," Meyer said in a statement. "Every significant decision I’ve made growing up in this profession was with him involved in it. His wife [Jean] and he were the role models for Shelley and me. They did everything with class. He was not afraid to show how much he loved his family and cared for his family."

Meyer wasn't Bruce's only connection to Ohio State's current coaching staff. Bruce's grandson, Zach Smith, has been the wide receivers coach at Ohio State since Meyer arrived. Smith remembered him Friday as "one of the finest men I've ever met."

Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford, meanwhile, played for Bruce when Bruce was the head coach at Colorado State. Alford remembered Bruce in multiple tweets on Friday, describing him as "a father figure, mentor &, most importantly, a leader of young men."

In his nine years coaching the Buckeyes, Bruce coached some of Ohio State's all-time greats, including Keith Byars and Chris Spielman, both of whom also tweeted tributes to Bruce on Friday.

Including Meyer, Bruce also worked with a long list of assistant coaches who have gone on to have head coaching careers of their own, including Glen Mason and Mark Dantonio, who shared their own tributes to Bruce.

Friday's tributes to Bruce, however, were far from limited to players who actually played for Bruce. Because of the presence he continued to have around Ohio State even after he was no longer coaching the Buckeyes, Bruce was fondly remembered on Friday by many Ohio State players from the decades since.

Friday's tributes to Bruce weren't limited to those who played or coached football at Ohio State. Legendary former Buckeye golfer Jack Nicklaus, basketball assistant coach Ryan Pedon and the Ohio State marching band – who chose Bruce to dot the "i" before the Buckeyes' 2016 game against Rutgers – were also among those who remembered Bruce on Friday.

Ohio State University president Michael Drake released a statement on Bruce's passing.

"On behalf of all Buckeye Nation, Brenda and I extend our deepest condolences to Earle Bruce’s family and friends," Drake said. "He was a great family man, a hall of fame football coach and a mentor to so many at Ohio State and beyond. He left an indelible mark on our football program, our university and the greater community. Earle, his late wife, Jean, and their family have helped raised more than $1 million to fund Alzheimer’s research at Ohio State, supporting drug therapies for the treatment of degenerative disorders, social work and outreach for affected families, and more. Coach Bruce was a great Buckeye — and he will be remembered always and greatly missed."

Tributes for Bruce also came in from other college football coaches from throughout the country, including Michigan's Jim Harbaugh; Texas' Tom Herman, who had the opportunity to build a relationship with Bruce when he was Ohio State's offensive coordinator for the first three years of Meyer's tenure; and Matt Campbell of Iowa State, where Bruce coached before becoming the Buckeyes' coach.

Several media members who had the opportunity to cover or get to know Bruce also shared fond memories of the former Buckeyes coach.

Those tweets are all just a sampling of the many tributes made Friday to Bruce, whose legacy at Ohio State and lasting impact on the program should continue for many years to come.

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