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The Ohio State Buckeyes made their football debut in 1890, and have become one of the powerhouse programs of college football. The Buckeyes boast eight National Championships, 41 Conference titles, and no less than seven Heisman Trophy winners.

The program is special. Many great players have put on the scarlet and grey, and since 1922 Ohio Stadium has been a fortress for the Buckeyes to protect and honor. It takes great talent to be as successful as Ohio State has been, but it also takes great coaching. Today's article recognizes some of the greatest coaches in Buckeye football history.

Ohio State Coaches History

Ohio State football history has seen the Buckeyes win National Championships under four different head coaches. Theyve won conference championships with twelve and have eight head coaches inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Woody Hayes won the most games as the head coach of the Buckeyes, with 205 wins in 275 games coached between 1951 and 1978. Urban Meyer has the highest winning percentage, with a .901 win rate and a 73-8 win-loss record across six seasons as Buckeyes coach. John Cooper, Jim Tressel, and other great Ohio State head coaches are now proud members of the College Football Hall of Fame, and we'll get into the details of each of their tenures in today's list.

Ranking the 10 Greatest Football Coaches in Ohio State History

10. Carroll Widdoes - 1944-1945

Carroll Widdoes was born in the Philippines but moved to Otterbein, Ohio where Widdoes would go to school. After graduating at the age of 23 he took up a high school assistants position under head coach Paul Brown, who he later followed to Ohio State University when Brown took up the head coaching job.

In 1944, Brown joined the Navy, and it was Carroll Widdoes who took over as the head coach of the Buckeyes. He would lead them to an undefeated season and coached the first Buckeye to win the Heisman Trophy, Les Horvath. In his two seasons in charge, Widdoes helped Ohio State to a 16-2 record.

9. Francis Schmidt - 1934-1940

Francis Schmidt coached at Tulsa, Arkansas, and TCU before taking over with the Ohio State Buckeyes in 1934. His early coaching career was interrupted by World War 1, where Schmidt would serve in the United States Army.

Schmidt had won two Southwest Conference championships in five seasons at TCU and went on to win two Big Ten championships during his seven-year tenure with the Buckeyes. He boasted a 39-16-1 record while in charge at Ohio State and was best known for unique trick plays and formations. He created a high-scoring Buckeyes team and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1971.

8. John Wilce - 1913-1928

John Wilce was a tri-athlete at the University of Wisconsin during his playing days, He was a star fullback in the early 1900s.

When the Buckeyes joined the Western Conference in 1913, which would later be named the Big Ten, they hired Wilce to coach the football team. He helped them to conference championships in 1916, 1917, and 1920, leading the team to their first win over the Michigan Wolverines in 1919.

Wilce coached the Buckeyes for sixteen seasons, the second longest tenure in school history, and fielded some great football teams during that era. John Wilce was the head coach during Chic Harley's time as a player with the Ohio State Buckeyes. Harley was a halfback at the time and is well respected as the driving force that led to Ohio State picking up national media attention.

John Wilce would retire from coaching in 1928 to pursue a career in medicine. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1954.

7. John Cooper - 1988-2000

John Cooper helped the Buckeyes to three Big 10 Championships in 1993, 1996, and 1998. He coached the second most games of any head coach in school history (158) and holds a record of 111 wins, 43 losses, and 1 tie.

He coached at Tulsa and Arizona State before taking over as the head coach of the Buckeyes in 1988. He helped Ohio State to their first appearance in the Rose Bowl in 13 years, where they would be Arizona State in 1997.

Cooper coached great talent during his long reign at Ohio State, including Heisman Winner Eddie George, one of the greatest college football players of all time, Orlando Pace, Terry Glynn, Mike Vrabel, and Antoine Winfield.

Ohio State did struggle against rivals Michigan during Cooper's time in charge, going 3-8 against the Wolverines. The 1998 season was a particular highlight in his tenure, with the Buckeyes going 8-0, beating the Wolverines, and finishing the season second in the AP poll.

John Cooper is a proud member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

6. Ryan Day - 2019-Present

Ryan Days current tenure as the head coach of the Buckeyes has proven one of the most successful in the school's history. Ohio State is 33-4 under Ryan Days coaching and went to back-to-back College Football Playoffs in 2019 and 2020.

In the 2020 season, Day led the Buckeyes to the National Championship game, where they would fall short against Alabama. He has had great success with quarterbacks during his time as the head coach, having been a quarterbacks coach in his previous roles. Day spent time with the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers as a quarterbacks coach and has therefore done a great job harnessing the talent of his quarterbacks with the Buckeyes, including Justin Fields and current quarterback CJ Stroud.

Ryan Day's win percentage (0.897) is currently the school's second-best record in history, behind only Urban Meyer and slightly ahead of Carroll Widdoes (0.889).

5. Earle Bruce - 1979-1987

Earle Bruce took over as the Buckeye's head coach following the legendary Woody Hayes's departure. Hayes had been coaching the Buckeyes for 276 games and notched over 200 wins for the program. His successor had some act to follow, and Bruce took on the task.

Bruce was a graduate of Ohio State and had played for the football team as a fullback. He'd been an assistant coach for the Buckeyes in the 60's, with roles as the Ohio State offensive line coach and defensive backs coach, before taking the head coaching roles at Tampa and Iowa State. He returned to Ohio State as the head coach in 1979, where he would lead the Buckeyes to at least nine wins in each of his first eight years in charge.

His best season ended up being his first season in charge, with the team going 11-0 and being ranked the number-one team in the country. They would end up losing to USC in the 1979 Rose Bowl.

The former Ohio State graduate led the team to 81 wins as the head coach and was inducted into the College Football Hall of fame as a coach in 2002.

4. Paul Brown - 1941-1943

Paul Brown had been a tremendously successful high school football coach, losing just ten games in 11 seasons. He was then hired by Ohio State University in 1941 to take over as the head coach at the collegiate level. He was 33 years old at the time and considered an unusual hire, and one which many were not sure about.

It was Paul Brown who coached the Buckeyes to their first National Championship in 1942, surpassing the achievements of Ohio State past coaches. The Buckeyes lost just one game that season and finished the year top of the AP poll, claiming the NCAA football tournament trophy.

His third and final season was derailed by World War II. The military draft pulled the roster apart and Brown was left with 17-year-old players who were not called up to serve.

Brown’s career after his time with the Buckeyes saw him take over as the head coach of the Cleveland Browns, before co-founding and becoming the first head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals. When he retired from coaching in 1975, he remained the president of the Bengals until he passed in 1991. The Bengals stadium was named after Paul Brown in honor of his dedication to the franchise.

His son Mike Brown took over the ownership of the Bengals after his father's death, a role he still holds today. Paul Brown brought the first National Championship to the Buckeyes and a brand-new franchise to the state of Ohio.

He is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

3. Urban Meyer - 2012-2018

Urban Meyer was a major hire for the Buckeyes. After winning two National Championships with the Florida Gators, Meyer had taken a break from coaching and was serving as an analyst for ESPN.

He was hired to be the head coach for Ohio State football in late 2011, and in his first season in charge in 2012 led them to a 12-0 record and a third-place ranking in the AP poll.

The 2014 season was a major marker in Meyer's tenure at Ohio State. After starting quarterback Braxton Miller suffered an injury before the season, Meyer turned to redshirt freshman JT Barrett. The Buckeyes went 11-1 in the regular season before Barrett too suffered an injury prior to the Big Ten Championship game. Cardale Jones came in, and helped the Buckeyes beat the Wisconsin Badgers in a 59-0 blowout, before going on to beat #1 ranked Alabama in the semi-final of the College Football Playoff.

Meyer would lead a Buckeye team that had faced quarterback adversity to a National Championship over the Oregon Ducks. He is the winningest coach in Ohio State Buckeye football history, boasting an 82-9 record and a 0.901 win percentage.

2. Jim Tressel - 2001-2010

Jim Tressel might be third on this list, but that is purely due to the prestigious careers of two other great Ohio State coaches. Jim Tressel would be number one on many lists. He is loved by Ohio State fans for his dominance of the Michigan Wolverines.

When Tressel took over, Ohio State was the underdog, but that changed immediately when it became Jim Tressel's team. During his time in charge, the Buckeyes went 9-1 against the Michigan Wolverines, a glowing success.

Further to that, Tressel led the Buckeyes to their first National Championship in 32 years when the 2002 team went 14-0, defeating the Miami Hurricanes in the Fiesta Bowl to claim the title.

Tressel finished his career with the Buckeyes with a 94-22 record, six Big Ten championships, and of course the all-important 9-1 record against the Wolverines.

His record against Michigan makes him the second most successful head coach in Buckeye history against the Wolverines behind only Woody Hayes. He took the team to three BCS College Football National Championship games and is highly regarded as one of the greatest coaches in school history.

Tressel was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2015.

1. Woody Hayes - 1951-1978

There aren’t many better-known coaches in the history of college football than Woody Hayes. He is not only a Buckeyes legend but a key contributor to college football's history and development.

Woody Hayes is responsible for five of the school's eight total National Championships. He helped the Buckeyes win national titles in 1954, 1957, 1961, 1968, and 1970, and won 16 games against the Michigan Wolverines, more than any other coach in school history.

He holds the Ohio State football record for games coached (276), with a 205-61-10 record and a 0.761 winning percentage.

His 16-11-1 record against Michigan is one of many reasons for Woody Hayes being the greatest coach in Buckeye history. He led the team for 28 seasons and was responsible for some of the great talents that suited up for the school.

Running back Archie Griffin was recruited by Hayes and remains the only player to have ever won the Heisman trophy twice.

Hayes was loved and respected at OSU for his commitment to academics and his relationships with faculty staff and teachers. He taught physical education classes and was known as Professor Hayes to students at the school.

He was respectful to all of his students regardless of race or background and played a role in keeping a peaceful environment at Ohio State. He was very close to his team, his players, students, and staff.

Woody Hayes gave everything to Ohio State and college football. He brought National Championships, Heisman winners, education, and intuition. There are few more deserving College Football Hall of Fame inductees, and it seems impossible that he will ever be replaced as the greatest Ohio State Buckeye head coach of all time.

Parameters For Ranking

These great Ohio State coaches have been ranked based on their accomplishments as coaches of the Ohio State Buckeyes alone. Other coaching achievements and accomplishments while in charge of other teams have not factored in these rankings.

National championships, Big Ten championships and success rate in historic rivalries such as the Buckeyes' rivalry with the Michigan Wolverines all factor in the success of an Ohio State coach. This is all represented here.