Remember When: Earle Bruce Took the Ohio State Football Team to See Easy Rider and Woody Hayes Lost His Mind

By 11W Staff on June 29, 2024 at 2:35 pm
Jack Nicholson and Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider (1969)

The Ohio State football team used to go out to movies on Friday nights before games.

They still watch movies as a team the night before they play, but with technological advances, they no longer need to head out to a theater and can watch something in the team hotel.

For decades, however, that's exactly what they'd do. One coach would be in charge of finding a movie for the players to watch, the staff would make arrangements with the theater – whether it be the State Theatre on campus or the RKO Theater in downtown Columbus – and the team would go to the movies to think about something other than football for a few hours as kickoff inched near.

In 1969, Ohio State's “movie coach” was Earle Bruce, who also happened to be in charge of coaching the interior of the defending national champion's offensive line. But we're going to focus on his duties as the movie coach and one hilarious choice he made that season.

“Woody only had two rules about our movies,” star middle guard Jim Stillwagon told the Columbus Dispatch in 1996. “We weren't supposed to see any love scenes, and we were never allowed to see any hippies. We couldn't see any sex, but violence was okay. I think Coach Hayes thought that was something that could fire you up."

“If you could find a John Wayne movie, you were doing pretty good,” former OSU assistant Bill Conley told the Dispatch. “He liked those shoot'em-ups. Now Earle, he was a Clint
Eastwood fan.”

In later years, Woody's teams saw plenty of Patton, starring George C. Scott as General George Patton. But this was 1969 and Patton had not been released yet, and the team was evidently tired of seeing John Wayne movies.

Earle had to pick a movie and thought he was picking an action movie about motorcycles for the team. From Michael Rosenberg's classic War as They Knew It: Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, and America in a Time of Unrest:

A passage from the book War As They Knew It


“We were sitting there watching these guys up on the screen smoking grass, and we're saying, 'This is great!'” Stillwagon said. “Earle was so upset. He got us out of that theater so fast you wouldn't believe it. He about lost his job when Woody found out.”

A passage from the book War as They Knew It

Mind you, this is 1969. The country was involved in an unpopular war in Vietnam, and protests were gripping campuses nationwide. Woody, very much a pro-Vietnam War guy in that day, had no time for hippies or what they stood for. You can only imagine how livid he was when he found out about the team's choice of movie ahead of that Minnesota game.

And that's the story of how Earle Bruce's career as the movie coach at Ohio State came to a screeching halt.

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