There have been 24 head coaches in the history of Ohio State football. Each has a story and legacy. This offseason, Land-Grant Holy Land’s new series 24 Club will help you get to know the coaches from past and present who built the program. Today we look at Ohio State’s 16th head coach — Carroll Widdoes, who held the record for highest winning percentage in program history until Urban Meyer arrived.
Name: Carroll Widdoes
Seasons Coached: Two (1944-1945)
Overall Record: 16-2
Where Does He Rank in the 24 Club?
Overall Wins: Tied No. 14 out of 24 OSU Coaches
Winning Percentage: No. 3 out of 24 OSU Coaches
It was 1944 — the world was at war and things were changing on the football field at Ohio State. OSU head coach Paul Brown took leave from his position to coach at the Great Lakes Navy base outside of Chicago. Great Lakes played other military bases and schools as part of the military’s emphasis on sports to boost the morale of troops. Filling Brown’s shoes as head coach at Ohio State was his long-time assistant, Carroll Widdoes.
Widdoes was an assistant under Brown at Massillon Washington High School and followed Brown to Columbus. He was viewed by the university as a placeholder coach — keeping an eye on things until World War II ended and Brown returned. But Widdoes did more than idly pass the time waiting for his great predecessor to come back. Led by the school’s first Heisman Trophy winner Les Horvath, his 1944 Buckeyes raced to a 9-0 record. In his second season at the helm, OSU finished with a top 15 ranking and a 7-2 record.
While he proved a natural winner, Widdoes wasn’t a fit for the head coaching role at Ohio State. He didn’t like the pomp and circumstance or the pressure that came with the role. He preferred to be behind the scenes working with players, rather than holding the mic in front of press and at public gatherings. So, when World War II ended and Paul Brown shocked Ohio State by announcing he would not return to Columbus — instead choosing to coach the new professional football team in Cleveland — Widdoes stepped back in his role.
Oddly, he and OSU assistant coach Paul Bixler switched roles: Bixler became head coach of the Buckeyes, and Widdoes became an assistant coach. Widdoes would remain an assistant at OSU for the next three seasons.
Widdoes’ tenure was a strange one. Only a head coach for two years, he nevertheless made his mark with a 1944 team that stands among the great OSU teams of all-time. His winning percentage (.889) ranks third in OSU history, behind only Urban Meyer (.901) and Ryan Day (.941). Widdoes’ downfall was the downfall of many Ohio State coaches then and now — leading the Buckeyes is a 24/7 pressure cooker. Few could handle the heat, including his successor.