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|Born||July 2, 1937|
|Position(s)||Running back, defensive back|
|Coaching career (HC unless noted)|
|Iowa State (assistant)|
Oregon State (assistant)
|Head coaching record|
College Football Data Warehouse
|Accomplishments and honors|
5 Missouri Valley (1980–1984)
1 Pac-10 (1986)
3 Big Ten (1993, 1996, 1998)
Sporting News College Football COY (1986)
John Cooper (born July 2, 1937) is a former American football player and coach. He served as the head coach at the University of Tulsa (1977–1984), Arizona State University (1985–1987), and Ohio State University (1988–2000), compiling a career record of 192–84–6. Cooper was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach in 2008.
Early years and playing career
Cooper grew up in the Knoxville suburb of Powell, Tennessee and joined the United States Army after high school. After serving for two years, he enrolled at Iowa State University where he played football for three years eventually becoming team captain and MVP.
Cooper spent time as an assistant coach at Iowa State, Oregon State, UCLA, Kansas, and Kentucky. In 1977, he was named the head football coach at the University of Tulsa. At Tulsa, he compiled a 56–32 record with five Missouri Valley Conference titles. He became the head coach at Arizona State in 1985 where his teams played in three consecutive bowl games, including the 1987 Rose Bowl, during his three-year tenure. Notably, he was just 0–2–1 against arch-rival Arizona. He accepted the job as head coach at Ohio State on December 31, 1987. It is rumored that he became the front-runner for the head coaching position at Ohio State because of his 1987 Rose Bowl victory over Michigan.
Cooper's first season in Columbus was somewhat undistinguished; the Buckeyes notched their first losing season since 1966. However, he quickly turned the Buckeyes around and led them to shared Big Ten titles in 1993, 1996, and 1998. In his 13 seasons at Ohio State Cooper compiled a 111–43–4 record, second in Ohio State history behind only Woody Hayes. Among his most memorable victories at Ohio State were back-to-back victories against Notre Dame (1995 & 1996), leading Ohio State to its first Rose Bowl in 13 years (the 1997 Rose Bowl--a win over Arizona State), and a 1999 Sugar Bowl victory over Texas A&M. Cooper's teams at Ohio State were loaded with a great deal of talent that would go on to play in the NFL, including: 1995 Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George, 1995 Fred Biletnikoff Award winner Terry Glenn, 1996 Outland Trophy winner Orlando Pace, 1998 Jim Thorpe Award winner Antoine Winfield, Alonzo Spellman, Robert Smith, Dan Wilkinson, Joey Galloway, Rickey Dudley, Mike Vrabel, Korey Stringer, David Boston, Shawn Springs, Ahmed Plummer, Na'il Diggs, Nate Clements, and Ryan Pickett.
However, Cooper will be remembered for his 3-8 bowl record and his 2–10–1 record against rival Michigan. His most crippling losses to the Wolverines came in 1993, 1995, and 1996; each season, Ohio State entered the Michigan game undefeated and ranked in the top five, but came away with a gut-wrenching loss. In 1993 Ohio State was ranked #5 and heavily favored, only to be shut out by the Wolverines 28-0 and denied its first trip to Pasadena in almost 10 years. In 1995 Ohio State lost a #2 ranking, the Big Ten title, and another shot at the Rose Bowl by losing to the Wolverines, 31–23, in Ann Arbor. In 1996, the Buckeyes were again ranked #2 and had already secured a Rose Bowl berth when they faced Michigan. The Buckeyes smelled victory after shutting out the Wolverines in the first half, but Michigan rallied in the second half to upset the Buckeyes yet again, 13-9, costing them a chance at the national championship. Ohio State would go on to win the 1997 Rose Bowl against Arizona State and finish the season ranked #2. With this victory, Cooper became the first coach to win the Rose Bowl with a Pac-10 and a Big Ten team.
In 1997 Ohio State smelled revenge as it was Michigan who entered the game undefeated and Ohio State with the chance to play spoiler. However, the Wolverines again defeated the Buckeyes, 20-14. To add insult to injury, Michigan's win was sparked by the spectacular performance of Ohio native and 1997 Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson, who made big plays on offense, defense, and special teams.
Cooper's Buckeyes were expected to have a strong season in 1999, but slumped to 6-6--their first non-winning record since Cooper's first year. They rebounded to 8-4 a year later, but a 38-26 flogging by Michigan cost Cooper his job at the end of the season.
Later life and honors
On May 1, 2008, Cooper was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame. He will be inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame on December 30, 2012 representing both Arizona State and Ohio State football teams.
Head coaching record
|Tulsa Golden Hurricane (Missouri Valley Conference) (1977–1978)|
|Tulsa Golden Hurricane (Independent) (1979)|
|Tulsa Golden Hurricane (Missouri Valley Conference) (1980–1984)|
|Arizona State Sun Devils (Pacific-10 Conference) (1985–1987)|
|1985||Arizona State||8–4||5–2||T–2nd||L Holiday|
|1986||Arizona State||10–1–1||5–1–1||1st||W Rose||5||4|
|1987||Arizona State||7–4–1||3–3–1||6th||W Freedom||20|
|Ohio State Buckeyes (Big Ten Conference) (1988–2000)|
|1989||Ohio State||8–4||6–2||T–3rd||L Hall of Fame||21|
|1990||Ohio State||7–4–1||5–2–1||5th||L Liberty|
|1991||Ohio State||8–4||5–3||T–3rd||L Hall of Fame|
|1992||Ohio State||8–3–1||5–2–1||2nd||L Citrus||19||18|
|1993||Ohio State||10–1–1||6–1–1||T–1st||W Holiday||10||11|
|1994||Ohio State||9–4||6–2||2nd||L Citrus||9||14|
|1995||Ohio State||11–2||7–1||2nd||L Citrus||8||6|
|1996||Ohio State||11–1||7–1||T–1st||W Rose||2||2|
|1997||Ohio State||10–3||6–2||T–2nd||L Sugar†||12||12|
|1998||Ohio State||11–1||7–1||T–1st||W Sugar†||2||2|
|2000||Ohio State||8–4||5–3||4th||L Outback|
|National championship Conference title Conference division title|
|†Indicates BCS bowl, Bowl Alliance or Bowl Coalition game. #Rankings from final Coaches' Poll. |
°Rankings from final AP Poll.