RIP Earle Bruce

Submitted by mGrowOld on April 20th, 2018 at 7:36 AM

Passed this morning at 87.  FWIW I met coach Bruce several years ago when I got invited to play golf in the Scarlet & Grey golf classic.  I was wearing a Michigan polo (so I was obviously loved by all the OSU players that day) and on one hole coach Bruce and I were waiting to tee off and we both were having a beer while we waited.

I told him "hey coach - I was at your last game rooting obviously for Michigan.  You were down 14-0 and came back to win.  I thought you got hosed by OSU so it didnt bother me as much that we ended up losing that day."

He looked at me for a second and then barked loudly.  "IT WAS 13-0.  I REMEMBER EVERY GOD DAMN PLAY OF THAT GAME."   Then he stopped for a second and said softly "you know - Bo told me that was the only game he didnt mind losing to OSU.  I've never forgotten that."

He was our rival but I respected the hell out of him.  RIP coach Bruce - say hi to Bo for us today.



April 20th, 2018 at 8:00 AM ^

Coach Bruce got pretty buzzed that over the course of that day (it was hot as hell and coach Bruce liked his beer) so my fairly small co-worker who was playing with me decided he would mess with him near the end of the day by telling him he played for him (as a kicker) and was hurt that he didnt remember him.

When he said this coach Bruce looked him up and down and said (again very loudly) "YOU NEVER PLAYED FOR ME.  YOU'RE A FUCKING LIAR.  I REMEMBER EVERY PLAYER WHO DID - EVEN THE STUPID FUCKING KICKERS" and then he started laughing like hell.

He was a lot of fun to play with (even for a buckeye) and every player (and i mean EVERY player) came up to him and gave him a hug at some point during the day and you could tell there was genuine and real affection for the man.


April 20th, 2018 at 8:51 AM ^

And let his brother know that Earle was nice as hell to a random nobody wearing a Michigan polo shirt of all things playing golf  in the Scarlet & Grey classic.

One last nugget.  At the end of the day before we ate dinner coach Bruce asked me if I had ever been in the clubhouse before (obvously I hadnt) so he encouraged me to explore a little bit and not just stay in the dining hall.  They had some amazing old pictures of Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf from their playing days at OSU that were definitely worth a visit.


April 20th, 2018 at 8:01 AM ^

Earle Bruce was a classy guy and was respectful of the rivalry in a way that we don’t seem to see these days. Of course, that respect is also contingent on us winning games, too.


April 20th, 2018 at 8:12 AM ^

Just last week Ron told me that he wasn’t doing very well. That same phone call, Ron said how much Earle respected Jim H. When Earle dotted the “I” in script Ohio, Jim had sent a long letter congratulating him on the event. Ron thought that was a very classy move and he always refers to it when he sees me. So, it comes across as very genuine.


True Blue Grit

April 20th, 2018 at 8:36 AM ^

EB seemed to be a classy, good person.  He definitely got hosed by the school when he was fired.  I remember how Bob Ufer used to refer to him as Earle "Darth Vader" Bruce, but I don't where BU came up with that or why.  Probably just a good natured jab at a rival.  RIP Coach.  


April 20th, 2018 at 8:47 AM ^

it was at a Temple football recruiting camp when Addozio was HC and Loefler was OC. Earle was the guest speaker and had the kids pumped up. He gave a great speech. Afterwards stood next to him and Loefler listening to them go at it OSU vs UM. Fun guy who had a ton of great stories. OSU treated him poorly until Meyer arrived and gave him the respect he deserved.

RIP Coach Bruce


April 20th, 2018 at 8:54 AM ^

RIP,  Mr. Bruce. 

And thank you for running your mouth at the televised pep rally the night before the 1996 game in Columbus, which our players watched from their hotel rooms and got fired up over and then held the OSU offense to 3 field goals.   


April 20th, 2018 at 9:02 AM ^

My opinion on Earle Bruce changed forever when I watched the HBO Michigan v Ohio State documentary.  At a lunch the day before the 2006 game "we lost a good coach, good man and good father" when asking the attendees to bow their head to acknowlege Bo's passing.  Hopefully he can find Bo and Woody then fire up a projector.  


April 20th, 2018 at 9:28 AM ^

I also remember the ‘87 game very well and we got hosed by a blown call towards the end of the first half that probably changed the outcome. With a 13-0 lead we recovered a Carlos Snow fumble on OSU’s end of the field and would have had a good chance to push the lead to 3 scores. Tom Quinn came in from behind the play and incorrectly ruled Snow down and OSU kept possession. They ended up scoring a TD before the end of the first half. Quinn’s mistake was a 2 possession swing that gave them much needed confidence and momentum.


April 20th, 2018 at 9:46 AM ^

His dismissal as head coach of the Buckeyes was the last straw for my mom, who was a huge fan of Buckeye football; she never rooted for them again. She taught me to love college football, and “allowed” (actually encouraged) me to root for Michigan because Bo had been a Woody disciple since we lived in Michigan and I was born in Ann Arbor.

I was going to be a Spartan over her dead body.

Good woman, my mother.

I’ll never forget Coach Bruce’s genuine emotion the day before The Game in 2006 when he asked for everyone to bow their heads and say a prayer for Bo. He was a good man. In the end, that’s all any of us should ever really hope to be.

Section 1.8

April 20th, 2018 at 10:56 AM ^

The invovlement of one of the great Michigan Men of all time in that affair.

At the time of Earle Bruce's dismissal, the Ohio State Athletic Director was former Michigan wrestler, football player and wresting coach Rick Bay.

Here's the Wikipedia page for Rick Bay; one of the greatest student-athletes and athletics administrators ever to be produced by the University of Michigan.

When the OSU trustees told Rick Bay that he needed to fire Earle Bruce and hire a new coach, Bay resigned in protest.



April 20th, 2018 at 10:26 AM ^

and I definitely admired his life after coaching - took up the cause of fundraising for Alzheimer's research which is unfortunately what he contracted himself in 2017.

A life well lived.

Here's a crazy stat (saw this on reddit).  11 of the last 16 National Championships have been won by a one-time Bruce assistant coach. Carroll, Saban, Meyer, Tressel.

UMbilical Cord

April 20th, 2018 at 10:24 AM ^

Fuck Ohio State, but God bless Earl Bruce.  I know his wife died of alzheimers as well.  Never met him, but enjoyed hearing his commentary when talking about The Game.  He truly understood what it meant to be a part of the tradition and history of the rivalry.  I hope his family finds peace in knowing their father was a good man.

Blue Durham

April 20th, 2018 at 11:45 AM ^

1986 game at OSU (Harbaugh guarantee win) and the game in Ann Arbor the following year with my parents and younger brother. I was a grad student at Michigan and my younger brother undergrad at OSU.

As stated above, Earl Bruce's firing by the president (or board) was announced the previous week and OSU's athletic director, Rick Bay, resigned immediately in protest. Bay was very well regarded and quickly hired by Minnesota.

My parents traveled from New Jersey and stayed in a hotel in Plymouth (the closest I could get for them) my brother up from Columbus stayed with me in my apartment.

The morning of the game my brother and I drove out to Plymouth to pick up our parents. Outside, there were about 6 OSU buses with all kinds of cheerleaders and band members around. This was where they were all staying. While waiting for my mother in the lobby, we saw Rick Bay being interviewed in an adjacent area (I don't recall if it was Musburger or someone else conducting it) to be broadcast during the game.

Down the hall walks Bruce with his assistant coaches to exit the front doors. Just inside, his wife and daughter were waiting for him, and they had a very heat-felt tearful goodbye. Since Michigan's season was mediocre, I turned to my brother and said that I almost wouldn't mind much Michigan losing this game.

The weather at the game was the coldest I ever attended. Michigan played decently the first half, OSU didn't. My parents were miserable and I had absolutely no feeling in my legs and feet. We left at half time in order to catch the rest of the game in the warmth of my apartment. By the time we got there and I got everyone a beverage of choice, Michigan had lost their half time lead and was on their way to a loss.

It was the least disappointed I have ever seen Bo after a loss.

Blue Durham

April 21st, 2018 at 10:16 AM ^

in their early 60's, and they were absolutely miserable. Hell, I was miserable. IIRC, it was in the 20's, mostly cloudy and windy (the previous year's game the weather was in the 60's in Columbus).

My younger brother and I ran to get the car while my parents waited at the stadium gate. Running, I couldn't feel my feet hit the ground and was almost sure I would fall.

I went to a number of games from 1979-1990, and the '86 and '87 OSU games stand out the most of all of them.

rob f

April 21st, 2018 at 10:41 AM ^

that day. Probably one of the top 10 worst weather days in the 41 seasons I've had season tickets. My then-wife skipped going to that game because of the cold weather that day and I don't blame her.

To me, I remember the miserable walk back to the cars as much as the miserable outcome, finding a place to park that day was a huge mess as many of the lots nearest Michigan Stadium were either closed or restricted due to muddy conditions and we had to park about a mile away.

But leaving The Big House early has never been an option for me. Though I'm now in my early 60's, I've always stayed until the clock reads "0:00" no matter what the score.


April 20th, 2018 at 1:50 PM ^

I was a manager for the 1980 team.  A group of us went up to the press box before the Purdue game that year, which was one week before the OSU game.  He said something to the effect that he needed a nickname for him because he had one for Woody ("Dr. Stangehayes"). He chose Darth Vader because he thought EB's scowl gave him that look.


April 20th, 2018 at 2:30 PM ^

in 1979 and 1981 in Ann Arbor.

For a time there it looked like home field advantage in The Game didn't mean shit.

The 1979 game with Jim Laughlin blocking Bryan Virgil's punt and Todd Bell picking it up and scoring - I will just never forget it.  Ripped my heart out.  And I will always remember Earle Bruce's name for that.

It wasn't exactly his team. It was mostly Woody's recruits. But Ohio State was 7-4-1 from the prior year and Bruce kicked their asses around to 11-0.  They lost the Rose Bowl by one point that year.

Bruce didn't know it yet, but that was a tough time to join Ohio State.  The scholarship limits were hitting the traditional power teams, and other Big Ten programs like Indiana, Iowa, Illinois, Purdue and Wisconsin all started to surge in talent, power and competitiveness, and some of these "Little 8" teams defeated Ohio State with Earle Bruce at the helm - often their first wins over Ohio State since the 1960s.

Wisconsin, not Michigan, was the greatest bane of Earle Bruce's Big Ten coaching career.

But Earle Bruce was like Moeller to me in the sense that he wanted Ohio State to move toward the modern era and throw the ball a crap ton more. He reduced the option plays and started throwing the ball more, molding and recruiting good quarterbacks and receivers to do it - Mike Tomczak,  Jim Karsatos, John Frank, Chris Carter, Thad Jemison.

Bruce finished 5-4 vs. Michigan

7-2 vs. Illinois

8-1 vs Indiana

5-2 vs Iowa

6-1 vs MSU

8-1 vs Minnesota

0-1 vs Penn State

6-1 vs Purdue

But 4-5 vs. Wisconsin


RIP Mr. Bruce.