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Coaching The Game for the Last Time

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In the spirit of an impending coaching change at Michigan, let's take a look back at every head coach for each team and how they fared in The Game before resigning, retiring, or being fired.

Hoke cheering for the Wolverines in his first meeting with Ohio as head coach.
Hoke cheering for the Wolverines in his first meeting with Ohio as head coach.
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Since the Michigan-Ohio game ends the regular season for both teams, it's the last non-postseason game for any head coach of either team, regardless of whether he is fired, resigns, or retires. All signs are pointing to this being Brady Hoke's last game with Michigan's Block M on his polo, so in the spirit of his tenure as the Wolverines clapping, headset-less head coach, let's take a look back at every head coach for either team and how their last performance in The Game turned out.

COACHES WHO NEVER COACHED THE GAME

Michigan:

No coaches, 1879-90

Frank Crawford, 1891

Frank E. Barbour, 1892-93

William L. McCauley, 1894-95

William D. Ward, 1896

Ohio:

Alexander Lilley, 1890-91

Frederick Ryder, 1892-95, 1898

Charles Hickey, 1896

*Indicates that the Michigan-Ohio game wasn't regularly the last game of the season yet

GUSTAVE FERBERT (MICHIGAN 1897-99) AND DAVID EDWARDS (OHIO 1897)*

Ferbert and Edwards were the coaches in the first meeting between Michigan and Ohio, a 34-0 Wolverines romp. I'm putting them together since the teams didn't play in 1898 or 1899. Edwards led Ohio to a 1-7-1 record in 1897 - the worst in the team's seven-year existence - which cost him his job. For Michigan, Ferbert stuck around two more years, earning the Wolverines first conference in 1898 before resigning at the end of the 1899 season to prospect for gold in Alaska. There's differing accounts as to whether scored "a $1,000,000 touchdown" in his quest or that the claims made were grossly exaggerated. Regardless, Ferbert gave the Wolverines a win in what became arguably the biggest rivalry in sports history.

LANGDON LEA (MICHIGAN 1900)*

Lea led Michigan for a single disappointing season: 7-2-1 and tied for fourth in the Western Conference. He coached Michigan in their second meeting with Ohio and failed to repeat the success of the inaugural game as the teams tied 0-0. Following the conclusion of the 1900 season, Lea decided to return to his alma mater, Princeton, where he was hired away from by Michigan following the 1899 season.

JOHN ECKSTORM (OHIO 1899-1901)*

Eckstorm was around for the aforementioned 0-0 tie in 1900 as well as a 21-0 Michigan victory in 1901. He decided to leave at the end of the 1901 season, likely due to the emotional stress from coaching the final four games of the season after John Sigrist - a senior captain - passed away due to injuries suffered in a game against Case Western.

PERRY HALE (OHIO 1902-03)*

Hale's Ohio teams were steamrolled twice by Michigan squads coached by Fielding Yost: 86-0 in 1902 and 36-0 in 1903. Coupled with two straight seasons of finishing second in the Ohio Athletic Conference, Hale departed at the end of the 1903 season.

EDWIN SWEETLAND (OHIO 1904-05)*

Similar to Hale, Sweetland departed after two seasons and his teams ran into the unstoppable force of Fielding Yost's Michigan squads, losing 31-6 in 1904 and 40-0 in 1905. However, it should be noted that he coached the first Ohio team to score against the Wolverines, for what it's worth.

ALBERT HERNSTEIN (OHIO 1906-09)*

Four meetings against his alma mater, Michigan; four losses, 6-0, 22-0, 10-6, and 33-6. He kept The Game closer but couldn't find a way to eke out Ohio's first victory in the rivalry. Hernstein left coaching after the 1909 season as Ohio's winningest coach up to that point in history with 28 career victories.

HOWARD JONES, HARRY VAUGHN, JOHN RICHARDS (OHIO 1910, '11, and '12, respectively)*

Jones tied Michigan 3-3 before going into private business at the end of the 1910 season.

Vaughn lost 19-0 to the Wolverines before following Jones into the private business world.

Richards lost 14-0 to Michigan but led Ohio to their second Ohio Athletic Conference title. I couldn't figure out why he and Ohio parted ways, especially after a successful season. Maybe it had to do with Ohio leaving the Ohio Athletic Conference and joining the Big Ten in 1913?

GEORGE LITTLE (MICHIGAN 1924)*

Little was an assistant under Yost for the 1922 and '23 seasons before taking over as head coach for a single year. He handed Ohio a 16-6 loss in Columbus in the penultimate game that season before leaving to take the head coach and athletic director positions at Wisconsin.

FIELDING YOST (MICHIGAN 1901-23, 1925-26)*

Yost dominated Ohio during his legendary time as Michigan's head coach, compiling a 16-3-1 record in the rivalry and winning his final matchup against Ohio, 17-16 in Columbus. Even though he coached during Ohio's first win in the series, Yost revolutionized both Michigan athletics and the sport of football, and his triumphs far outweigh his defeats. Following his second stint as head coach in 1925 and '26, he retired from coaching to be Michigan's athletic director until 1940. Also, he coached in the 1918 Michigan-Ohio meeting which marked the first time The Game ended the season.

ELTON WIEMAN (MICHIGAN 1927-28)*

Wieman won his first game against Ohio by a score of 17-0 in '27 but lost in his second (and last) matchup 19-7 in '28. Following a miserable 3-4-1 '28 season and reports, but public denial, that the relationship between Wieman and Yost was strained, Wieman was relieved of his head coaching duties at the end of the season.

JOHN WILCE (OHIO 1913-28)*

Wilce was Ohio's first long-term and fairly successful head coach, eclipsed in time of tenure only by Woody Hayes. He coached Ohio to their first win over Michigan in 1919, a three-game winning streak in the series from 1919-21, and a victory in 1928, his final season as Ohio's head coach. He resigned at the end of that year, the first Ohio coach to leave his position with a win against the Wolverines, albeit not in the final game of the season.

SAM WILLAMAN (OHIO 1929-33)*

Willaman followed an interesting path in the Michigan-Ohio rivalry during his five years as head coach. He won in '29 and '31 in Ann Arbor by a score of 7-0 each time and lost in '29, '32, '33 by scores of 13-0, 14-10, and 13-0 respectively. Amid complaints that his Ohio teams underperformed as well as the pressure of holding a losing record against the Wolverines, Willaman resigned at the end of the '33 season.

HARRY KIPKE (MICHIGAN 1929-1937)

Kipke coached the Wolverines to back-to-back national champions in '33 and '34 - Michigan's first since winning six under Yost - but his teams fell off a bit in his later years. He performed poorly against Ohio, stumbling to a 3-6 record in the series including a four-game losing streak in the rivalry before being notified that his contract would be renewed shortly after the '37 Michigan-Ohio game. It should be noted that during Kipke's tenure the tradition of playing The Game to end the season began, with the first occurrence coming in '35 (exceptions to this include '42, '86, and '98).

FRANCIS SCHMIDT (OHIO 1934-40)

After winning his first four games against Michigan, Schmidt failed to win a game in the rivalry from 1938-1940. In those three games, the Wolverines beat Ohio by a combined 79-0, including two victories in Columbus. A 40-0 Michigan romp in 1940 in Columbus spelled the end of the Schmidt-era in Ohio.

PAUL BROWN (OHIO 1941-43)

Brown tallied one of each outcome possible during his three games against Michigan: a 20-20 tie in '41, a 21-7 win in '42, and a 45-7 loss in '43. He left Ohio to join the Navy following the 1943 season.

CARROLL WIDDOES (OHIO 1944-45)

Widdoes was an assistant to the aforementioned Brown at Ohio and took over his duties upon his departure. He split his two games against Michigan, winning 18-14 in '44 and losing 7-3 in '45. He decided to take the head coaching job at Ohio University following the '45 season and named his offensive coordinator, Paul Bixler, head coach.

PAUL BIXLER (OHIO 1946)

Only head coach for one year, Bixler's Ohio squad was decimated in Columbus by the Wolverine, 58-6. He decided to move on and take the head coaching position at Colgate.

FRITZ CRISLER (MICHIGAN 1938-47)

Crisler wasn't the most successful coach in Michigan history - although he did win a national championship in his final year - but he did make sure his teams beat Ohio. In nine games, he compiled a 6-2-1 record in the rivalry, including a 21-0 upset by an unranked Michigan team over #6 Ohio in '39. Crisler went out on top of the college football world with a national championship in '47, thanks to an undefeated season capped by another 21-0 victory over Ohio.

WES FESLER (OHIO 1947-50)

Fesler, if he's remembered for any reason, was the coach that came before Woody. A tie in '49 against the Wolverines was the high point of his tenure as it gave Ohio a split of the Big Ten title with Michigan. He lost his other three contests against the Wolverines, including a 9-3 loss in Columbus to end his time in Ohio.

BENNIE OOSTERBAAN (MICHIGAN 1948-58)

Oosterbaan picked up right where Crisler left off at Michigan, leading the Wolverines to another national championship in his first year to give the team back-to-back titles. His 11 years as Michigan's head coach started off strong and diminished as the years went by. Against Ohio, he went 5-5-1 with three of those wins coming in his first four years, including a victory in the famous Snow Bowl. A 20-14 loss in Columbus ended Oosterbaan's time in Ann Arbor as he resigned following the game.

BUMP ELLIOTT (MICHIGAN 1959-68)

Elliott failed as Michigan's head coach, winning a single Big Ten championship while also getting demolished by Woody Hayes and Ohio for a decade. Under Elliott, the Wolverines compiled a 3-7 record in the rivalry, beat Ohio once in Ann Arbor, and were at the receiving end of Woody's famous, "Because we couldn't go for three!" quote following Ohio's 50-14 rout in Bump's final game. After the loss, Elliott resigned.

WOODY HAYES (OHIO 1951-78)

Woody doesn't need an introduction as he's Ohio's most successful and well-known coach. The battles between Bo and Woody are the reasons this rivalry is what it is today. Hayes amassed a 16-11-1 record in the rivalry, tying him with Yost for the most wins by a coach for either team in the series. However, 12 of those wins came before Bo came to Michigan, and Schembechler sent Hayes into retirement as a loser against the Wolverines. Before the '78 Gator Bowl incident that concluded in his dismissal, Woody lost three straight against Michigan: 22-0 in Columbus, 14-6 in Ann Arbor, and 14-3 in Columbus.

BO SCHEMBECHLER (MICHIGAN 1969-89)

Like Woody, Bo's name speaks for itself. He didn't have the best record against Ohio - 11-9-1 - but like I said above, he and Woody defined the rivalry through The Ten Year War, which Bo won with a 5-4-1 record. Bo took his first game against Ohio, the 24-12 upset in '69, as well as his last game in the rivalry, 28-18. He handed to reigns over to his offensive coordinator, Gary Moeller, following the '89 season.

EARLE BRUCE (OHIO 1979-87)

Bruce had big shoes to fill after the firing of Hayes, and he never quite reached the same level of success as his Ohio teams were always about one or two steps away. Because of this, Bruce already knew he was fired prior to the Michigan game in '87. Ohio won the game 23-20, and Bo told Bruce after the game: "I always mind losing to Ohio State but I didn't mind so much today." With the win, he finished 5-4 against the Wolverines.

GARY MOELLER (MICHIGAN 1990-94)

In his short stint as Michigan's head coach, Moeller finished 3-1-1 against Ohio, including the monumental, 28-0 upset over #5 Ohio to ruin their undefeated season and national title hopes. Unfortunately, Moeller lost his final meeting with Ohio by a score of 22-6 and resigned the following May in response to a drunken arrest.

JOHN COOPER (OHIO 1988-2000)

If the Wolverines hand picked a head coach for Ohio for the rest of eternity, it'd be John Cooper. In 13 years, Cooper went 2-10-1 in the series, including back-to-back losses with an undefeated season on the line in '95 and '96. After a 38-26 loss against Michigan in Columbus and a defeat in the Outback Bowl, Cooper was fired.

LLOYD CARR (MICHIGAN 1995-2007)

Carr dominated the helpless Cooper for the first half of his time as Michigan's head coach but never figured out the next man to lead Ohio, Jim Tressel. With a 6-7 record against Ohio, Carr only won once in his last seven games and left the Wolverines with a four-game losing streak in the series. He announced his retirement following the 14-3 loss against Ohio in '07.

RICH RODRIGUEZ (MICHIGAN 2008-10)

RichRod never beat Ohio and was booed out of town.

JIM TRESSEL (OHIO 2001-10)

The Sweater Vest was the most dominant coach in the rivalry, and Wolverines across the world had to be thanking whatever higher power they may believe in that Tressel was forced to resign amid all those NCAA violations. If that hadn't happened, who knows if Michigan breaks Ohio's streak. Ohio had to forfeit Tressel's last victory against Michigan, but even without it, he left Ohio with a six-game winning streak in the series.

LUKE FICKELL (OHIO 2011)

Fickell was never more than a stopgap in Columbus, and he performed about as well as one would expect. Ohio faltered in '11, and first-year Michigan head coach Brady Hoke took advantage to end Ohio's winning streak with a 40-34 victory. Urban Meyer's hire had already been rumored prior to The Game, but it was confirmed that Fickell was out and Meyer was in two days after the loss.

URBAN MEYER (OHIO 2012-PRESENT)

Meyer hasn't lost in The Game, winning a pair of close games in the previous two years. If Hoke and Co. don't find a way to win in 2014, Michigan has to hope the replacements will find a way to restore balance in a rivalry that's been one-sided since Y2K. Otherwise, Meyer will run away with the series just like Tressel.

BRADY HOKE (MICHIGAN 2011-PRESENT)

Barring a ridiculous decision from the powers that be, Hoke will be gone following this season, win or lose against Ohio. After beating Ohio and ending their winning streak in '11, Hoke hasn't been able to find victory in The Game since. I'm in the group that thinks Hoke is a good guy and horrible coach, and I hope the team rallies behind him à la Earle Bruce to send Hoke out on top and crush Ohio's College Football Playoff dreams.


So that's it. By my count, three of the above coaches were guaranteed to be gone following The Game: Bruce, Rodriguez, and Fickell (you could possibly add Cooper to this list as well). Hoke will likely be joining them soon, so he might as well add one more big win to his resume. BEAT OHIO! GO BLUE!