You see it all around college football, and even the NFL. Ohio State has a historically strong football program, the quality of which breeds desirable candidates for coaches and assistant coaches at every level of the game. If you can't get the top coach, you want to at least get the guy who learned from him, right?
Earle Bruce played at Ohio State under Wes Fesler, and served as an assistant coach at Ohio State under Woody Hayes, and also succeeded Hayes as the Buckeyes' head coach. Dick LeBeau played for Hayes at Ohio State, and was the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals, as well as the very successful defensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers for what seems like forever. Even That Team Up North's legendary coach Bo Schembechler, played for Woody at the University of Miami, Ohio, and was an Ohio State assistant coach from 1958-1962. Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini is a former Buckeye, having played free safety at Ohio State during Earle Bruce's tenure.
Lou Holtz was an assistant coach at Ohio State under Woody Hayes in 1968, helping to lead the Buckeyes to a national championship. Current Seattle Seahawks head coach and former USC head coach Pete Carroll was the secondary coordinator under Earle Bruce during the 1979 season. Alabama head coach Nick Saban was the defensive backs coach at Ohio State under Earle Bruce from 1980 to 1981, and Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers took over as the defensive backs coach from 1982-1983. Former Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith was a defensive backs coach for the Buckeyes under John Cooper in 1995. We could go on.
And, of course, Ohio State's current head coach, Urban Meyer, served as a tight ends coach at Ohio State under Earle Bruce in 1986, and was the Buckeyes' wide receivers coach in 1987.
Purdue's head coach, Darrell Hazell, was also an assistant at Ohio State, under former head coach Jim Tressel. Hazell was a standout wide receiver at Muskingum University, and began his coaching career in 1986 at Oberlin College, a small private university in in northern Ohio, which you may remember was the last in-state school to beat Ohio State in football. Hazell bounced around quite a bit, as is common for college coaches, spending time at West Virginia and at Rutgers under Greg Schiano.
In 2004, Hazell was hired by Jim Tressel as the Buckeyes' wide receivers coach, and in 2004 he was promoted to assistant head coach while maintaining wide receivers coaching responsibilities. Kent State hired Hazell as their head coach in December 2010, and he spent two years with the Golden Flashes before being hired as the Boilermakers' head coach.
Hazell is not the only Purdue coach with ties to Ohio State. The Boilermakers' linebackers coach, Marcus Freeman, played for the Buckeyes from 2004-2008. Freeman was twice named to the All-Big Ten second team, and recorded 139 solo tackles, 125 assists, 21.5 tackles for loss, six sacks and two interceptions during his time in the scarlet and gray.
Freeman was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the 2009 NFL Draft, but was waived, and then spent some time on the Buffalo Bills' practice squad, and with the Houston Texans. His pro career ended abruptly when it was discovered in a preseason physical for the Indianapolis Colts that Freeman has an enlarged heart valve. Freeman literally left his physical, drove to Columbus, where he was living in the offseason, and met with the Buckeyes coaching staff the next day. Freeman would spend 2010 as a defensive graduate assistant.
The next season, Freeman joined Darrell Hazell, who was coaching at Ohio State when Freeman was a player, and who was on Ohio State's coaching staff when Freeman served as a graduate assistant, at Kent State. Freeman then made the jump to Purdue when Hazell was hired by the Boilermakers as their head coach.
Darrell Hazell and Marcus Freeman's connections to the Ohio State University mean that Saturday's game is not just another game for them. "I love everything about Ohio State, but on Saturday, it's about doing what it takes to win," Freeman said about Saturday's game.
Buckeyes fans will certainly not be rooting for Purdue this week, but Hazell's and Freeman's respective histories with Ohio State's program make it easy to wish the Boilermakers' head coach and linebackers coach the best on any other Saturday.