Best and Worst Times to be an Ohio State Football Fan

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Which era under Woody Hayes was the best?

Which era under Woody Hayes was the best?

Best and Worst Times to be an Ohio State Football Fan

Pinpointing the best times to be an Ohio State fan are pretty plain: Competing for national titles, winning Rose Bowls, fielding Heisman Trophy winners and, most of all, beating Michigan.

Over the years, Ohio State fandom enjoyed great highs, from when Woody Hayes dominated the first battles of the Ten Year War with Michigan and Bo Schembechler. And though Jim Tressel’s tenure may be remembered as much for its futility against the SEC and the scandal that cost Tressel his job, rooting for the Buckeyes at the start of the 21st century was awfully fun.

The lows seem to be marked by uncertainty more than extended periods of losing. The lowest point in Ohio State fandom may have been the disappointing 1978 season that started in the top 10 and ended with the sudden demise of Ohio State’s legendary coach. Though the 2011 season didn’t make our list of the worst times to be an Ohio State fan, the 6-7 season and coaching and NCAA instability must not have been fun for the Buckeye faithful.


BEST TIMES TO BE AN OHIO STATE FAN

1968-75
Record: 73-11-1
National championships: 2
Coach: Woody Hayes
Notable players: Archie Griffin, John Hicks, Jack Tatum, Randy Grandishar, Crhis War, Tom Cousineau, Jim Stillwagon
Ohio State had already won two national championships under Woody Hayes in the 1950s, but this is when things started to get really interesting. The Buckeyes entered the ’68 season with limited expectations, but an upset of No. 1 Purdue in third game of the season changed everything. The class of “Super Sophomores” of quarterback Rex Kern, defensive back Jack Tatum and defensive lineman Jim Stillwagon led an undefeated national champion in ’68. Eleven players from that team would earn All-America honors one time or another in their careers. The following year, though, began The Ten Year War between Ohio State’s Hayes and Michigan’s Bo Schembechler. Ohio State went 5-2 in its first seven matchups including four consecutive wins from 1972-75. Ohio State went to six Rose Bowls in eight seasons during this period, and running back Archie Griffin became only player to win the Heisman Trophy twice (’74 and ’75).

2002-10
Record: 87-17
National championships: 1
Coach: Jim Tressel
Notable players: Troy Smith (left), Maurice Clarett, A.J. Hawk, James Laurinaitis, Chris Gamble, Ted Ginn Jr. (right), Chris Wells, Mike Doss, Quinn Pitcock, Terrelle Pryor
Ohio State rarely had long stretches of mediocre football, but the Buckeyes had tired of losing to Michigan when they hired Jim Tressel from Youngstown State. Tressel paid dividends against more than just UM in his second season when the Buckeyes won six one-score games during the regular season before upsetting a loaded Miami team in the Fiesta Bowl for the 2002 national championship. Ohio State, Tressel and the Big Ten became better known for near-misses at the hands of the SEC during this time as the Buckeyes lost back-to-back national title games to Florida and LSU in 2006 and ’07. Still, the run included eight BCS games, seven top-10 finishes and a Heisman Trophy winner (Troy Smith) in a span of nine seasons. Tressel also re-took the series against Michigan, winning nine of 10 games against the Wolverines. Moreover, the basketball program reclaimed national power status under Thad Matta reaching the Final Four in 2007.

1960-62
Record: 21-5-1
National championships: 1
Coach: Woody Hayes
Notable players: Bob Ferguson
Ohio State won a share of the national title in 1961, but we picked this time because of the two-sport exploits in Columbus during this time. As the football team fared well, the men’s basketball program won the 1960 title and reached the NCAA championship game in ’61 and ’62 with future Basketball Hall of Famers Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek on campus.

1954-57
Record: 32-6
National championships: 2
Coach: Woody Hayes
Notable players: Howard “Hopalong” Cassady, Jim Parker
Hayes put his stamp on the program by leading Ohio State to a 10-0 season and national title in 1954, its first national championship since 1942 under Paul Brown. Hopalong Cassady also became Ohio State’s third Heisman winner in 1955. For the second (but not the last) time under Hayes, the Buckeyes won the UPI national championship and the Rose Bowl in 1957.

WORST TIMES TO BE AN OHIO STATE FAN

 

1978
Record: 7-4-1
Coach: Woody Hayes
Ohio State started the season in the preseason top 10 before a 19-0 loss to Penn State to open the season. Things would be downhill from there. Ohio State finished the regular season 7-3-1 with a 14-3 loss to Michigan. But the season would be infamous after a 17-15 loss to Clemson in the Gator Bowl. After Clemson’s Charlie Baumon intercepted the Buckeyes, Hayes punched Bauman and one of his own players who was trying to restrain the coach. Ohio State fired the best coach in school history the next day. Hayes was fourth all-time in career wins when he was fired. Earle Bruce went 11-1 with a Big Ten title in his first season replacing Hayes, but Ohio State fans were understandably shaken.

IT WASN’T SO BAD WHEN...

1995-98
Record: 43-7
National championships: 0
Coach: John Cooper
Notable players: Eddie George, Orlando Pace, Mike Vrabel, Joe Germaine, Terry Glenn, Korey Stringer, David Boston
Cooper’s tenure will be remembered partly for the coach’s futility against Michigan (he went 2-10-1 overall and 1-3 against the Wolverines from ’95-’98). But look at the star power from this era. George won the Heisman, and Pace was one of the best offensive linemen of all time. During Cooper’s best days with Ohio State, the Buckeyes won the Rose Bowl in 1995, twice reached the Sugar Bowl.

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