Buckeye history: We look back at what made Ohio State a national power
Here is a roundup of the stories published so far from our 14-part series on different aspects that shaped OSU's evolution as a football program through its history.
Ohio State has avoided the extended slumps that have befallen every single other powerhouse. Only three times in the past 73 seasons has Ohio State lost as many as six games. Not since 1922-24 have the Buckeyes had consecutive losing seasons.
Chic Harley was the flint that created the spark that started the fire that fueled the passion for a sport that had received only tepid interest before his arrival.
Harley was not an imposing figure, but it is no stretch to say that it is on his narrow frame that Ohio Stadium, completed in 1922, and Ohio State’s reputation as a national football powerhouse solidly stand today.
Some Ohio State fans are too young to recall when a successful season could be defined by a win over Michigan and playing in the Rose Bowl. These days, anything short of a College Football Playoff appearance, culminating in a national championship, leaves many fans, players and coaches feeling frustrated.
The Buckeyes had their first Black player in only their second year of existence. They also went decades without any Blacks on the roster. Ohio State didn’t have a Black assistant coach until 1968.
The program’s history with race is a complex one, but it also is filled with glory, starting with Bill Bell 90 years ago and Bill Willis in the early 1940s. More recent times have included illustrious stars whose last names are unnecessary to Ohio State fans: Archie. Eddie. Troy. All won Heisman Trophies.
Ohio State had played in the early afternoon on fall Saturdays for almost a century, a seemingly fixed time slot that offered a familiar routine for spectators.
But as the season opened in 1985, the Buckeyes hosted Pittsburgh in a game that began much later. Kickoff came at 8:08 p.m. In order to stage the contest after the sun faded, portable lights were installed at the stadium.
It remains a watershed moment in the Buckeyes’ history as one of the earliest instances when a television contract dictated when a football game at the Horseshoe would start.
It’s right there on the university seal. One little word that, like a pinch of cayenne, creates a spicy stew when tossed into any college football conversation.
The Ohio State University. Depending on fan affiliation, it comes off as arrogant or awesome. The Buckeyes are admired for their consistent success — they rank first all-time nationally in winning percentage (.729) and have had only two losing seasons (1988 and 2011) in the past 54 years — but they also have their share of critics who want the pretentious bully to get his comeuppance.
Hating teams at the top is natural. Jealous wannabes want what they don’t have.
The opportunity to be the head football coach at Ohio State mattered to Jim Tressel almost on a molecular level.
The son of a coach, Tressel was raised in a family with an appreciation for what the Buckeyes meant to Ohioans even without attending the university. That feeling of responsibility was one he brought with him when he was hired to replace John Cooper in January 2001. When Cooper was fired, it made him the sixth consecutive Ohio State coach to either quit or be fired, a streak stretching back to Paul Brown in the early 1940s.
For the next decade, Tressel would take his turn before resigning on May 30, 2011. His tenure was marked by the program returning to its place as a perennial national power, and the responsibility of leading the Buckeyes was not lost on him, Tressel said.
Ohio Stadium was born a century ago as a leap of faith.
It now stands as an iconic structure, the home and symbol of Ohio State football. The program and its stadium are inseparable, each making the other stronger.