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.