John Cooper remembered – And NOT in a good way

Written July 20th, 2009 by Jeff

This morning, our old friends at Eleven Warriors published a brilliant piece on John Cooper and his recent induction in the College Football Hall Of Fame.

Of course, you can’t write a Cooper-based piece with using the numbers 2, 10, and 1. 11W did that. Sprinkled around the article is a list of Coop’s accomplishments, and The BBC will not argue with the fact that these feats qualify our former coach for the HOF.

But our disagreements about Cooper end there. I haven’t yet forgiven Coach for many of his failures and perhaps I still hold too much of a grudge….but my frustration with him hasn’t faded.

My freshman year at The Ohio State University was 1987. Earle Bruce had a team with minimal talent and he caught a few horrible breaks that year (seriously, a TD on 4th-and-23 to Iowa….in The Shoe). But four days after the administration fired Bruce, his team went up to Michigan Stadium and beat Bo Schembechler. With Greg freaking Frey taking snaps, no less.

My sophomore year was Cooper’s first year, and the season hadn’t even begun before Cooper’s heart was being questioned. I recall an article in The Lantern in which Cooper was openly mocking students who had casually reminded him that he shouldn’t be wearing a blue blazer around campus. Rather than run to complain to the student newspaper, he should have pulled aside any one of his assistant coaches or players and asked them why it was so important to ditch the blue (and/or maize) colored apparel.

When the season began, the first three games would tell you all you needed to know.

  • Game 1 – No turnovers, no penalties against the Bucks, as Ohio State laid waste to Syracuse on national TV
  • Game 2 – Travel to Pitt, give up 6 touchdowns to the Panthers and lose by more than 30 points.
  • Game 3 – Fall behind 33-20 to visiting LSU with 2 minutes to play, and pull off the miracle win.  They scored 16 points in less than 90 seconds and beat the Tigers 36-33.

The Buckeyes were schizophrenic under Cooper and when they finally captured some sort of consistency, it wasn’t the type of consistency we wanted to see.

John Cooper, during the off-season, was a brilliant recruiter and nobody could ever (and possibly will ever again) put together a team like he could.  Every amazing player you saw in the 1990s was brought to Columbus through the charm and brilliance of John Cooper.  Eddie George.  David Boston.  Orlando Pace.  Shawn Springs.  Joey Galloway.  Etc, etc, etc.

But where we may have been the most talented team on the field every single Saturday, that talent was often wasted with poor coaching decisions time and time again.  Let’s not forget…..

  • Sensation RB Robert Smith, who was chastized by the coaches for missing a practice….to attend class.  Smith’s well-publicized run-in with the coaching staff led to his leaving the Buckeyes prematurely.
  • The whole “I was left with a pack of slow white guys” whine-fest.
  • The day Cooper allowed the game to end early because of rain.  In 1990, trailing USC with just under three minutes to play, the Buckeyes began making a hasty exit for the locker room, followed by the Trojans team.  A sold-out stadium was left wondering what had happened until we were later told that the game had been called due to weather.  Cooper later told reporters that he didn’t want any players to be in danger from lightning.  He left no word about whether or not he was concerned about the 100,000 fans in attendance who had no opportunity to run to the locker room before their job was complete.
  • Two words.  Air F***ing Force.
  • In the 4th quarter of a tie game in Michigan territory, Cooper calls for Greg Frey…yes, Greg Frey…to run an option play. On 4th down. Seriously.  Having never run an option play before, the Buckeyes failed.  Michigan used a handful of plays to move the ball forward just enough to kick the game-winning field goal.
  • Following the huge victory over Arizona State in the Rose Bowl, reporters rushed in to get the first comment from Cooper.  Rather than praise his team, his first words were an attack on Buckeye fans, as he said “let’s see if that’s a big enough win for them”.  Classy, Cooper.
  • Cooper’s final game against South Carolina, when the team fell apart and lost all semblance of discipline.  After a series of cheap shots from Buckeye players, LB Joe Cooper was finally ejected for a late hit in the end zone. John Cooper’s career came to end with that woeful afternoon.

I could actually go on and on for a long time.  I’m sure you could too.  Cooper’s issues are a novel waiting to be written.

Eleven Warriors closes their article with “if you can’t at least bring yourself to recognize and appreciate the good that Cooper did at Ohio State, then you’re either clueless, or hold irrationally long grudges. Neither is healthy.”

11W is right….Cooper deserves to be in the Hall Of Fame.  But let me be the first to stand up and say that while I recognize and appreciate the good that Cooper did, I am not at all prepared to forgive him for the shame and humiliation brought upon us by him.

To this day, I still can’t figure out why we haven’t hired him to be a recruiter for Ohio State, and then put a restraining order on him every Saturday afternoon in the fall to prevent him from showing up at Ohio Stadium.


  1. Eric GNo Gravatar
    July 20th, 2009 at 11:53 am

    You’ve made a mistake. The game that was called for rain was not UCLA, it was the 1990 USC game. My parents distinctly remember the horrible smell that was that particular game. =)


  2. Jeff at The BBCNo Gravatar
    July 20th, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    Thanks Eric….I was at that game too. I guess my anger from that day has clouded my memory. I appreciate your help!


  3. Palm Beach BuckeyeNo Gravatar
    July 20th, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    Thank you for the post…. 11W does a great job, but on Coop we differ drastically. I am still seething from all the years of ridculous coaching (best example Michigan State 1998— I think we had a 23-9 lead) …… I am getting mad thinking about it!!!!

    I could not agree more, and why is he in the HOF fame again?? What accomplishments does he have?? How many N/C’s does he have???


  4. Eric G.No Gravatar
    July 20th, 2009 at 7:23 pm

    I totally understand. From what I’ve heard of that game, I’m glad I don’t remember it!


  5. John J.No Gravatar
    July 20th, 2009 at 10:14 pm

    Also, how about John Cooper totally ruining the talent of the 1st Mr Ohio Football, probably the most forgotten/ highest hyped running backs to ever come out of the State of Ohio. The one and only Buster Howe… An unbelievable talent that was wasted by poor attitude from John Cooper. I will never forgive him for that.


  6. KenNo Gravatar
    July 21st, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    Coop’s record against Michigan was horrific. The Straw, as far as I’m concerned was the game against Gamecocks. The team was not prepared to play and an embarrassment to Buckeye fans everywhere. Oh, and his insistence to play a probably pretty good defensive back, Steve Bellisari, at QB.


  7. WW HayesNo Gravatar
    November 2nd, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    The HOF already had no class-wasn’t Switzer in there already? Coop’s recruiting was really bottom feeding, taking ANYBODY regardless of background. That also served Switzer, Bowden & Sherrill very well. The payoff came when these low character players would bail late in the season (can’t risk getting hurt before NFL combines.
    Coop couldn’t win the big ones and his record against Mich was a laughing stock. The only bigger laughing stock was what he made of the academic integrity of the program.


  8. chuckrNo Gravatar
    November 2nd, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    While John Cooper will always have his M******n record and the NC shots they cost him hanging over his head, he is a good and decent man. John Cooper is an OHIO STATE man! I know this isn’t a popular position to take, but the facts are the facts. First, after his firing, he could have run to another school, and never had to hear another harsh word against him. Most schools would kill for a coach who wins 9 games a year. Instead Coop stayed in the city he had come to know and love, became one of the Bucks biggest cheerleaders, and even has a box at the shoe so that he can watch his beloved Buckeyes. Second, he really did start behind the 8 ball player wise, by the time he caught up with scUM talent wise, his losing streak had gained a life of it’s own. Is it any wonder his teams played tight against scUM, all they heard from everyone around them, all year long, was that they couldn’t beat M******n. (Have to admit the 4th down option with Greg Frey was a bonehead call) I met Coop twice when he was coaching, both times by chance. He could have avoided me but instead was gracious, funny, and engaging each time. I found myself rooting for Coop and his teams after that and will continue to root for him. It’s easily forgotten just how far Earl and the boys had let our program slip in the 80′s. We had become a joke, and although he beat scUM, no one else feared playing us. NOT EVEN INDIANA! Coop brought the program back to National prominence and deserves a measure of the credit for our NC in 2002. So I say congrats to Coop for his HOF induction, and THANKS, for being a BUCKEYE!


Comment On Article