Ohio State's first bowl game came during the 1920 season when, under the leadership of eighth year head coach John Wilce, the team went onto the Rose Bowl where they would be defeated by California 28–0. Following their first Rose Bowl appearance, the school would not make another bowl appearance until 1949, when head coach Wes Fesler led the Buckeyes to the Rose Bowl again, this time defeating the California Golden Bears 17–14. Following Fesler, Woody Hayes took over the position of head coach at Ohio State and during his career would lead the Buckeyes to eleven bowl games and compiling a 5–6 record. The Buckeyes appeared in the Rose Bowl eight times during Hayes' tenure and would go 4–4 in those games. Hayes would also lead the Buckeyes to one Orange Bowl, one Sugar Bowl, and one Gator Bowl appearance during his time as head coach.
Earle Bruce become the head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes following Woody Hayes in 1979. Bruce would lead the Buckeyes to the Rose Bowl in his first season, coming one point away from a national championship, losing to the USC Trojans 17–16. Over Bruce's career, the Buckeyes would make eight bowl appearances going 5–3 in those games. Ohio State also made two Rose Bowl appearances under Bruce, in which the team went 0–2. Following Bruce, John Cooper became the head coach of the Buckeyes and would lead the school to ten bowl appearances, including one Rose Bowl victory in 1997, the school's first Rose Bowl victory since 1974. Cooper would lead the Buckeyes to a 3–8 bowl record during his tenure. Cooper would also lead the Buckeyes to the Sugar Bowl in 1999, the first Bowl Championship Series appearance for Ohio State.
Jim Tressel was hired as the head coach of the Buckeyes in 2001 and would remain head coach at the university until 2010. Under Tressel, Ohio State made a bowl appearance in all his ten seasons as head coach and made eight BCS bowl appearances for a total of nine appearances for the university, the most of any other school. Tressel would also lead the Buckeyes to the national championship game in 2002, where the Buckeyes defeated the Miami Hurricanes 31–24 in double overtime for their first national championship since 1970. Tressel compiled an overall bowl record of 5–4 with one vacated victory, including two appearances in the BCS National Championship Game, four appearances in the Fiesta Bowl, one in the Rose Bowl, one in the Sugar Bowl, one in the Outback Bowl, and one in the Alamo Bowl. Ohio State would also reach the Gator Bowl in 2011 under head coach Luke Fickell, which they would lose 24–17 to the Florida Gators bringing their official all time bowl record to 19 wins and 24 losses.