Earle Bruce

Earle Bruce
Sport(s) Football
Biographical details
Born March 8, 1931
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Died April 20, 2018(2018-04-20) (aged 87)
Columbus, Ohio
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
2001 Iowa Barnstormers
2004 Columbus Destroyers
Head coaching record
Overall 154–90–2 (college)
82–12–3 (high school)
19–25 (AFL)
Bowls 7–5
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 (March 8, 1931 – April 20, 2018) was an 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 succeeded 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 2001 to helm the Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena Football League for a season and also later guided the Columbus Destroyers.

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

On the strength of his success at Massillon, Bruce returned to Ohio State in 1966 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 what would be his only 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 at least a share of the national championship—by a single point.

The Buckeyes would win nine games in each of Bruce's first eight years, including another 10-win season in 1986. They also won or shared three more Big Ten titles (outright in 1984, shared in 1981 and 1986). However, they would only appear in one more Rose Bowl (after the 1984 season–Ohio State's last Rose Bowl appearance until after the 1996 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, Ohio State was sent reeling when star receiver Cris Carter was kicked off the team for signing with an agent. Without Carter, the school's all-time leader in receptions, the Buckeyes appeared to be a rudderless team. They lost to Indiana for the first time in 38 years, with Bruce calling the loss “the darkest day in Ohio State football”, and never recovered.

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 (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]

In his final season at Fort Collins, he coached the Rams to a 17-14 victory over LSU in Baton Rouge. Five years earlier, his final Ohio State team played LSU to a 13-13 tie in Tiger Stadium in a nationally televised game.

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 2003, 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.

Thereafter, Bruce worked as an Ohio State football analyst for WTVN 610AM in Columbus as well an analyst for ONN on their OSU programming. On October 1, 2016, Bruce was honored during the Rutgers-Ohio State halftime and dotted the "i" during Script Ohio.[7]

In his private life, Bruce was married with four children. It was revealed, on August 25, 2017, that Bruce was in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease.[8] His death from complications of that disease was announced by his family on April 20, 2018.

Head coaching record


Year Team Overall ConferenceStanding Bowl/playoffs Coaches# AP°
Tampa Spartans (Independent) (1972)
1972 Tampa 10–2W Tangerine
Tampa: 10–2
Iowa State Cyclones (Big Eight Conference) (1973–1978)
1973 Iowa State 4–72–5T–6th
1974 Iowa State 4–72–56th
1975 Iowa State 4–71–67th
1976 Iowa State 8–34–3T–4th1819
1977 Iowa State 8–45–2T–2ndL Peach
1978 Iowa State 8–44–3T–3rdL Hall of Fame Classic
Iowa State: 36–3218–24
Ohio State Buckeyes (Big Ten Conference) (1979–1987)
1979 Ohio State 11–18–01stL Rose44
1980 Ohio State 9–37–1T–2ndL Fiesta1515
1981 Ohio State 9–36–2T–1stW Liberty1215
1982 Ohio State 9–37–12ndW Holiday1212
1983 Ohio State 9–36–34thW Fiesta89
1984 Ohio State 9–37–21stL Rose1213
1985 Ohio State 9–35–3T–4thW Florida Citrus1114
1986 Ohio State 10–37–1T–1stW Cotton67
1987 Ohio State 6–4–14–45th
Ohio State: 81–26–157–17
Northern Iowa Panthers (Gateway Collegiate Athletic Conference) (1988)
1988 Northern Iowa 5–63–34th
Northern Iowa: 5–63–3
Colorado State Rams (Western Athletic Conference) (1989–1992)
1989 Colorado State 5–5–14–3T–5th
1990 Colorado State 9–46–12ndW Freedom
1991 Colorado State 3–82–6T–8th
1992 Colorado State 5–73–5T–7th
Colorado State: 22–24–115–15
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title or championship game berth

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:


  1. 1 2 3 "Massillon Tigers CyberRevue". Archived from the original on 2007-12-11. Retrieved 2007-11-17.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Park, Jack (2003). The Official Ohio State Football Encyclopedia: National Championship Edition. Sports Publishing LLC. ISBN 1-58261-695-7.
  3. SalemHistoryMakers.com, accessed November 17, 2007. Archived January 15, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. Greatest HS Football Rivalries Archived 2008-01-08 at the Wayback Machine., a documentary series produced by NFL Films. Summary at Versus' website. Accessed November 17, 2007
  5. http://www.news-herald.com/articles/2011/05/30/sports/nh4069963.txt?viewmode=fullstory
  6. "SPORTS PEOPLE: COLLEGE FOOTBALL; Colorado State Lists Charges Against Bruce". The New York Times. 26 November 1992. Archived from the original on 25 April 2018. Retrieved 1 May 2010.
  7. "Earle Bruce to dot the "i" in Script Ohio on Saturday". 2016-09-26. Retrieved 2016-10-01.
  8. https://www.elevenwarriors.com/ohio-state-football/2017/08/84514/earle-bruce-battling-early-stages-of-alzheimers
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