10:40 AM

​Celebration of life honors former Ohio State coach Earle Bruce

“Well, heaven just got a little more intense recently.”

The Ohio State University head football coach Urban Meyer eulogized his mentor and colleague Earle Bruce today in a ceremony honoring the former Buckeye football coach. Bruce, who coached the Buckeyes for nine seasons, died in his home last week at the age of 87.

Meyer joined former head coach Jim Tressel, current assistant coach Tony Alford, assistant coach and Bruce’s grandson Zach Smith and WTVN radio personality Matt McCoy to honor Bruce at St. John Arena. WBNS sports anchor  Dom Tiberi hosted the event and William White, a team captain from Bruce’s 1987 team, delivered the invocation.

Hundreds of former players, coaches and fans turned out for the celebration of the coach’s life and his impact.

“He was a very intimidating coach because he was never wrong. Even when he was wrong, he was never wrong,” Meyer said.

Urban Meyer speaks at an event honoring Earle Bruce

Meyer’s first collegiate coaching position was as a graduate assistant for Bruce during the 1986 and 1987 seasons. He said Bruce was as much of a mentor to him as his own father and he learned numerous life lessons from the coach: “When given an opportunity, you swing as hard as you possibly can. You give it all you’ve got,” Meyer said.

Bruce led Ohio State to eight bowl games in his nine seasons as coach from 1979 to 1987, including two Rose Bowls. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2003 and the Ohio State’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2004.

Bruce’s legendary intensity was well remembered by those who knew him best. Alford, who was a player for Bruce at Colorado State University, said the coach pulled together a team that had struggled to find success and led them to their best season in school history at the time.

“He forced us to believe in ourselves and he forced us to believe in each other,” Alford said. “When he spoke, I heard him, but I also listened to him as well.”

As passionate as Bruce was about coaching, he was also committed to his family. Tressel, the president of Youngstown State University and a former assistant coach on Bruce’s staff, said Bruce’s life was a long love affair with this family, coaching and Ohio State.

“With Coach Bruce, the love affairs never end. The one with [his wife] Jean, that lasted forever, and the one with football,” Tressel said.

Smith said even when Bruce was suffering from symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, it never stripped him of his strongest memories.

“The two things he loved more than anything was the Buckeye Nation and his family. His memory for those two things was too strong for Alzheimer’s to touch,” Smith said.

Alzheimer’s had ravaged Bruce’s family. The disease caused the death of his father and two sisters and he worked to raise money to help find a cure.

McCoy, who worked on the radio with Bruce for 23 years, said The Earle and Jean Bruce Alzheimer’s Research Fund in Neurology at Ohio State had raised more than $1.2 million since it was founded.

“Look around this arena,” McCoy said. “We are all here because of Earle Bruce’s light.”