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Earle Bruce

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Subject: Woody Hayes, Ohio State Buckeyes football, List of Big Ten Conference football champions, Cleveland Thunderbolts, Iowa Barnstormers
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Earle Bruce

Earle Bruce
Sport(s) Football
Biographical details
Born (1931-03-08) March 8, 1931
Cumberland, Maryland
Playing career
1951 Ohio State
Position(s) Running back
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1953–1955 Mansfield HS (OH) (assistant)
1956–1959 Salem HS (OH)
1960–1963 Sandusky HS (OH)
1964–1965 Massillon Washington HS (OH)
1966–1971 Ohio State (assistant)
1972 Tampa
1973–1978 Iowa State
1979–1987 Ohio State
1988 Northern Iowa
1989–1992 Colorado State
1994 Cleveland Thunderbolts
1995–1996 St. Louis Stampede
2003 Iowa Barnstormers
2004 Columbus Destroyers
Head coaching record
Overall 154–90–2 (college)
82–12–3 (high school)
19–25 (AFL)
Bowls 7–5
College Football Data Warehouse
Accomplishments and honors
4 Big Ten (1979, 1981, 1984, 1986)
AFCA Coach of the Year (1979)
Big Ten Coach of the Year (1979)
College Football Hall of Fame
Inducted in 2002 (profile)

Earle Bruce (born March 8, 1931) is a former American football player and coach. He served as the head coach at the University of Tampa (1972), Iowa State University (1973–1978), Ohio State University (1979–1987), the University of Northern Iowa (1988), and Colorado State University (1989–1992), compiling a career college football record of 154–90–2. At Ohio State, Bruce was the successor to the legendary Woody Hayes, and won four Big Ten Conference titles. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach in 2002. Bruce returned to coaching in 2003 to helm the Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena Football League for a season and also guided the Columbus Destroyers the following year.


  • As a player and player/coach 1
  • Coaching career 2
    • High school coaching 2.1
    • College coaching 2.2
    • Ohio State 2.3
    • After Ohio State 2.4
  • Return to coaching and later life 3
  • Coaching tree 4
  • Head coaching record 5
    • College 5.1
  • References 6
  • External links 7

As a player and player/coach

Bruce was recruited as a fullback at the Ohio State University by head coach Wes Fesler. He played on the OSU freshman team in 1950, but before he could join the varsity team in 1951 he suffered a torn meniscus, ending his football career. Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes asked Bruce to join the coaching staff, which he did until his graduation in 1953. He was a member of the Chi Phi Fraternity while attending Ohio State.

Coaching career

Bruce accumulated a collegiate coaching record of 154–90–2 with five different universities. Preceding that, Bruce was one of the most successful high school football coaches in Ohio history, accumulating a record of 82–12–3 in 10 seasons of head coaching positions with three Ohio high schools.[1] He led four different college teams to bowl games, where he had a 7–5 record.

High school coaching

Upon graduating from Ohio State, Bruce accepted a position as an assistant coach at Mansfield High School in Mansfield, Ohio.[2] In 1956, Bruce accepted his first head coaching position, at Salem High School in Salem, Ohio. Over the next four seasons, he led the Quakers[3] to a record of 28–9.[2] From 1960 until 1963, Bruce coached the Blue Streaks at Sandusky High School, Sandusky, Ohio. He compiled a record at Sandusky of 34–3–3.[1][2]

Massillon High School then hired Bruce as head coach, where his teams went undefeated in 1964 and 1965.[2] Though the Massillon Tigers have gained national fame for their football teams over the years,[4] Bruce remains the only undefeated head football coach in Massillon High School history.[1]

College coaching

Hayes then hired Bruce back to Ohio State as a position coach for the offensive line and later defensive backs. After five seasons the University of Tampa brought Bruce on as head coach in 1972. During his first season, Tampa went 10–2, including a win in the Tangerine Bowl. Bruce moved into the head coaching position at Iowa State University following his success at Tampa. Iowa State experienced some success in six seasons with Bruce as head coach, including the second and third bowl appearances in school history. He is the only coach in modern times to leave Iowa State with a winning record. In 2000, Iowa State inducted Bruce into their school hall of fame, named the Louis Menze Hall of Fame.

Ohio State

After Woody Hayes was fired from Ohio State, Bruce was offered that head coaching position. Bruce coached Ohio State from 1979–1987. In Bruce's first year, Ohio State went undefeated in the regular season and played in the Rose Bowl, losing the game—and the national championship—by a single point.

The Buckeyes would win nine games in each of the next six years and won 10 games in 1986. However, they would only appear in one more Rose Bowl (after the 1984 season) and would only tally one more top ten finish (in 1986). This rankled a fan base used to contending for a national title every year. In 1987, Bruce was fired just prior to the last game of the season—against Michigan—but was allowed to finish out the year. Reportedly, school president Edward Harrington Jennings made the move out of pique over a last-second loss to Iowa that dropped the Buckeyes to 5-4-1, meaning they needed to beat Michigan in order to be bowl-eligible.[5] Bruce was able to defeat Michigan at Ann Arbor. This is something Ohio State would not do again until 2001 under head coach Jim Tressel. After the game, Bo Schembechler told Bruce, "I always mind losing to Ohio State but I didn't mind so much today."

After Ohio State

Bruce was the leading candidate to replace Bob Valesente as head coach of the Kansas Jayhawks after the 1987 season, but due to a contract dispute, KU did not hire him. KU instead hired Glen Mason out of Kent State. Bruce took over the head coaching position at the University of Northern Iowa for one year, and then finished his intercollegiate coaching career at Colorado State University. In his second season, he led the Rams to a winning record and a victory over Oregon in the Freedom Bowl, their first bowl appearance since 1948 and their first bowl victory ever. He was fired two years later for, among other things, verbally and physically abusing his players and discouraging players from taking classes that conflicted with football practice.[6]

After Colorado State, he moved on to the Arena Football League, where he coached the Cleveland Thunderbolts in 1994 and the St. Louis Stampede in 1995 and 1996 before retiring.

Return to coaching and later life

In 2001, Bruce came out of retirement to coach the final ten games for the Arena Football League's Iowa Barnstormers, guiding them to a 7–3 record. In 2004, Bruce returned to Ohio to become the head coach for the Columbus Destroyers, who were moving from Buffalo to Columbus that year. He retired to a front office position after coaching the Destroyers to a 6–10 record in 2004, and was replaced as head coach by Chris Spielman, who played for Bruce at Ohio State. Bruce finished with a 19–25 record over four seasons in the AFL.

Today, Bruce works as an Ohio State football analyst for WTVN 610AM in Columbus as well as being an analyst for ONN on their OSU programming.

In his private life, Earle Bruce is married with four children and eight grandchildren. His daughters' names are Lynn, Mikky, Aimee, and Noel.

Coaching tree

Played under:

Coached under:

Former assistants who became NCAA Division I FBS or NFL head coaches:

Former players who became NCAA Division I FBS or NFL head coaches:

Head coaching record


Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs Coaches# AP°
Tampa Spartans (Independent) (1972)
1972 Tampa 10–2 W Tangerine
Tampa: 10–2
Iowa State Cyclones (Big Eight Conference) (1973–1978)
1973 Iowa State 4–7 2–5 T–6th
1974 Iowa State 4–7 2–5 6th
1975 Iowa State 4–7 1–6 7th
1976 Iowa State 8–3 4–3 T–4th 18 19
1977 Iowa State 8–4 5–2 T–2nd L Peach
1978 Iowa State 8–4 4–3 T–3rd L Hall of Fame Classic
Iowa State: 36–32 18–24
Ohio State Buckeyes (Big Ten Conference) (1979–1987)
1979 Ohio State 11–1 8–0 1st L Rose 4 4
1980 Ohio State 9–3 7–1 T–2nd L Fiesta 15 15
1981 Ohio State 9–3 6–2 T–1st W Liberty 12 15
1982 Ohio State 9–3 7–1 2nd W Holiday 12 12
1983 Ohio State 9–3 6–3 4th W Fiesta 8 9
1984 Ohio State 9–3 7–2 1st L Rose 12 13
1985 Ohio State 9–3 5–3 T–4th W Florida Citrus 11 14
1986 Ohio State 10–3 7–1 T–1st W Cotton 6 7
1987 Ohio State 6–4–1 4–4 5th
Ohio State: 81–26–1 57–17
Northern Iowa Panthers (Gateway Collegiate Athletic Conference) (1988)
1988 Northern Iowa 5–6 3–3 4th
Northern Iowa: 5–6 3–3
Colorado State Rams (Western Athletic Conference) (1989–1992)
1989 Colorado State 5–5–1 4–3 T–5th
1990 Colorado State 9–4 6–1 2nd W Freedom
1991 Colorado State 3–8 2–6 T–8th
1992 Colorado State 5–7 3–5 T–7th
Colorado State: 22–24–1 15–15
Total: 154–90–2
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title
#Rankings from final Coaches Poll.
°Rankings from final AP Poll.


  1. ^ a b c "Massillon Tigers CyberRevue". Retrieved 2007-11-17. 
  2. ^ a b c d Park, Jack (2003). The Official Ohio State Football Encyclopedia: National Championship Edition. Sports Publishing LLC.  
  3. ^, accessed November 17, 2007. Archived January 15, 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Greatest HS Football Rivalries, a documentary series produced by NFL Films. Summary at Versus' website. Accessed November 17, 2007
  5. ^
  6. ^ "SPORTS PEOPLE: COLLEGE FOOTBALL; Colorado State Lists Charges Against Bruce". The New York Times. November 26, 1992. Retrieved May 1, 2010. 

External links

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Ron Selesky
Columbus Destroyers Head Football Coach
Succeeded by
Chris Spielman
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