Earle Bruce, Ohio State coach who followed Hayes, dies at 87

Published 8:05 am Monday, April 23, 2018

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Earle Bruce stepped into his dream job, football coach at Ohio State, under most challenging circumstances, replacing the program’s revered longtime leader after a fall from grace.

Bruce embraced the task of following Woody Hayes, and went on to have his own Hall of Fame career. He never did quite match Hayes’ record or status at Ohio State, but Bruce earned a special place of his own in Buckeyes football history as adored patriarch and sage and the mentor to the program’s current coaching star.

Bruce died in Columbus at 87, according to a statement released by his daughters through Ohio State on Friday. He’d been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

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He had a record of 81-26-1 as Ohio State’s coach from 1979-87. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2003.

Bruce was hired after the revered Hayes was fired for punching a Clemson player in the 1978 Gator Bowl. Even after being fired by Ohio State and moving on to other jobs, he never lost his passion for Ohio State football.

“He was just so genuine,” said former Ohio State All-American Chris Spielman, who played for Bruce from 1984-87. “I think the one thing that stood out to me, and I heard other people describe him this way. There was nothing phony about him. What you saw was what it was. I loved him smiling when he told football stories.”