Former Ohio State football coach Earle Bruce dies at age 87

Former Ohio State football coach Earle Bruce dotted the i with the Ohio State Marching Band in 2016. Bruce died Friday at the age of 87

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.

Taking over the Buckeyes program after Hayes was sacked for punching an opposing player in the 1978 Gator Bowl, Bruce coached the team to an 81-26-1 record over the next nine seasons.

The coach won 81 games at the helm, including a final victory over the University of MI at the Big House in 1987.

Simply said Coach Bruce was a respected husband, father, friend and football coach. He was 7-5 all-time in bowl games and led all four Division I programs he coached - Tampa, Iowa State, Ohio State and Colorado State - to a bowl. He sustained a knee injury that effectively ended his playing days and got him to thinking about becoming a coach. He returned to his alma mater as an assistant from 1966-71 and then again in 1979 as the head coach as he replaced Hayes, who was sacked after his infamous sideline punch of a Clemson player in a 1978 bowl game.

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Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer, whose first college job was as a graduate assistant under Bruce during the 1986 and 1987 seasons, praised his former boss in a Twitter post. Earle, his late wife, Jean, and their family have helped raised more than $1 million to fund Alzheimer's research at Ohio State, supporting drug therapies for the treatment of degenerative disorders, social work and outreach for affected families, and more. After nine years there, he was sacked and surprised many by taking the job at the University of Northern Iowa.

"My mentor", Meyer said a year ago while introducing Bruce at a coaching clinic. "You're only as good as your last game here".

With quarterback Art Schlichter working out of an updated, modernized offense and the Buckeyes employing the same old in-your-face defense, Ohio State went unbeaten through the 1979 regular season before losing the national title to Southern California, beaten 17-16 in the Rose Bowl. Survivors include his four daughters and nine grandchildren, including Ohio State wide receivers coach Zach Smith, and three great grandchildren.