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Published: Friday, 1/5/2001

Cooper couldn't win

Tuesday was a sad day for Michigan Wolverine football. Ohio State fired its football coach.

U of M fans won't have their Man of the Decade, John Cooper, to kick around any more - he was fired after 13 seasons of fun and frustration in Columbus.

That he lasted so long despite his 2-10-1 record against Michigan and a dismal bowl mark of 3-8 was beyond comprehension for most rabid Buckeye fans. His unceremonious dumping by OSU on the heels of a blowout defeat to unranked South Carolina in the Outback Bowl was long overdue, as far as the scarlet-and-gray crowd was concerned.

To say John Cooper strained the patience of Buckeye backers clawing for respect in the Big Ten and desperate for victory against the hated maize and blue was an understatement at best. In a college town where football rules, Coach Cooper couldn't win - enough. He was second only to the legendary Woody Hayes in OSU victories, but not where it counted: in the big, high-profile games.

School officials insist the coach got the boot for a compilation of failures, from upset losses on the field to poor management of the football program. Athletic Director Andy Geiger cited frequent disciplinary problems along with a disturbing lack of team competitiveness and near total disregard for the academic pursuits of some team members.

But true Buckeye fans know the bottom line is winning and ex-coach Cooper had to go because he couldn't beat Michigan and couldn't win bowl games. His fate was sealed long ago despite a better-than-expected football season last year and an even more promising one predicted for the next.

In abruptly losing his job the second day of the new year, John Cooper was surprisingly magnanimous in his parting remarks, offering to fully support the next football coach and staff, and declaring the Buckeyes would have no better fan than himself.

Which is no great consolation to rival fans in Ann Arbor who, until now, have reveled in their own sort of John Cooper Appreciation Days over the years. They even talked of having another one on Feb. 10 - 2-10-01- get it? Now the “magic” is gone. Could the Bucks be back?

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