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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A "Vest"rospective Look Back At Jim Tressel's First OSU Decade: The Comparisons (Seventh In A Series)

After ten seasons at Ohio State, Jim Tressel's record stands at 106-22, an impressive accomplishment. I have taken the opportunity in previous posts to discuss Coach Tressel's winning seasons, close wins, and bowl victories.

One interesting aspect I wanted to examine was how Coach Tressel's record after ten years compared to other Ohio State coaches. Including Coach Tressel, there have been 22 men who have coached Ohio State, but only four - John Wilce, Woody Hayes, John Cooper, and Tressel - have lasted at least ten seasons as the head football coach at Ohio State. The derisive nickname "Graveyard Of Coaches" that Ohio State was tagged with many years ago may have been well-deserved.

John Wilce ~ (1913-1928; 16 seasons) Of all the men on this list, Wilce will both suffer by comparison, as well as stand out by comparison. Let me provide the stand out comparison first - Wilce concluded his coaching career at Ohio State to become a physician, as well as teach medicine at Ohio State. There truly are not too many football coaches that you could compare Wilce to in this regard.

The suffering comparison is the fact that Wilce was the coach of an Ohio State team and program that was in its beginning stages, as college football was beginning to become a national phenomenon. When compared to today, there were few bowl games, no national rankings, or postseason awards such as the Heisman Trophy to even compare Wilce to Hayes, Cooper, or Tressel. Some of the notable opponents Ohio State played back in those days were Ohio Wesleyan, Oberlin, Denison, and Case Western Reserve.

Notably, John Wilce was the head coach when Ohio State decided to join the then-named Western Conference, before it was named The Big Ten. Wilce was also the head coach of "Chic" Harley, who was considered Ohio State's greatest player in the early years of the program; Harley's jersey is now retired in Ohio Stadium. Speaking of Ohio Stadium, Wilce was the head coach of the newly-created Ohio Stadium in 1922.

John Wilce's ten year record between 1913-1922 stood at 53-16-3, for a winning percentage of 74%. Wilce's teams were Big Ten champions in 1916-17 and 1920, had three victories over Michigan in 1919-21, and appeared in the Rose Bowl after the 1920 season (28-0 loss to California).

Woody Hayes
~ The coach who defined Ohio State football for over a quarter of a century. Every coach who has followed Hayes is compared to Hayes, fairly or unfairly.

One thing to point out as it relates to Coach Hayes is that Hayes was not the first choice of the Ohio State selection committee back in 1951 - Missouri's Don Faurot was tabbed for the job, but backed out at the last moment. Hayes was then hired from Miami University, and held the job for the next 28 seasons.

Coach Hayes' first ten seasons from 1951-1960 resulted in a record of 64-23-5, for a winning percentage of 70%. Coach Hayes' teams defeated Michigan six times, won three Big Ten titles (1954-55, 1957), appeared in the Rose Bowl twice, and were national champions in 1954. Ohio State was voted national champions by UPI in 1957, finishing second to Auburn in the AP poll.

John Cooper ~ The coach who was never truly embraced by the Ohio State faithful. Hired from Arizona State, Coach Cooper led Ohio State from 1988 through the 2000 season.

As I wrote up above, Coach Cooper suffered for two sins in the eyes of Ohio State fans - an inability to defeat Michigan, and losing bowl games. In Coach Cooper's first ten years from 1988-1997, Coach Cooper had a record of 86-32-4, for a winning percentage of 70%. Coach Cooper's teams tied Michigan in 1992, defeated them in 1994, were victorious in the 1993 Holiday Bowl over BYU, and were Big Ten co-champions in 1993 and 1996. The most notable victory took place in the 1997 Rose Bowl, with a dramatic victory over Arizona State.

Summary ~

By comparison, Coach Tressel has a superior winning percentage (83%), more victories over Michigan (9), more bowl victories (6), and more Big Ten championships (7). The only area where his predecessor Coach Hayes has the upper hand is in national championships, and Coach Tressel's teams have played for it three times in his first ten seasons, winning it in 2002.

Ohio State fans may truly be experiencing the golden age of Ohio State football with Coach Tressel.

Part Six: The Bowl Wins

Part Five: The Nailbiters

Part Four: The Defeats

Part Three: The Seasons

Part Two: The Recruits

Part One: The Speech

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