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24 Club: Francis Schmidt, OSU’s first coach to finish with a winning record against Michigan

In his first four seasons, coach Schmidt’s Buckeyes outscored Michigan 114-0.

Sports Illustrated

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 14th head coach Francis Schmidt — OSU’s first coach to finish with a winning record against Michigan.

Name: Francis Schmidt
Seasons Coached: Seven (1934-1940)
Overall Record: 39-16-1

Where Does He Rank in the 24 Club?
Overall Wins: No. 7 out of 24 OSU Coaches
Winning Percentage: No. 12 out of 24 OSU Coaches

Francis Schmidt took over an Ohio State program that was winning but failing to do two things — beat Michigan and win conference championships. Stepping onto campus after a highly-successful head coaching stint at TCU, Schmidt delivered one of the best one-liners in OSU history.

Asked about his squad’s prospects against a strong Michigan team, Schmidt said, “They put their pants on one leg at a time just like everybody else.” The saying caught fire — and the tradition of players earning gold pants after beating Michigan was born.

Schmidt also walked the walk. Up to that point OSU’s record against the Wolverines was a lousy 6-22-2. Things were about to change. Over the next four seasons, Schmidt’s Buckeyes dominated Michigan, going 4-0 and outscoring the Wolverines 114-0. His 1935 and 1939 Buckeyes captured Big Ten championships — the program’s first conference titles since 1920.

Schmidt had a tireless work ethic and a brilliant offensive mind. His wide-open style of play swelled crowds at Ohio Stadium even amid the ongoing Great Depression. But things soon turned. After a perfect 4-0 start against Michigan, Schmidt would lose three in a row to the Wolverines. In his final season in 1940, the Buckeyes finished a disappointing 4-4 — OSU’s first .500 finish in more than a decade. Schmidt saw the writing on the wall and resigned as head coach. A .500 finish wasn’t good enough at Ohio State.

Schmidt left a lasting mark on OSU. Even though he ended on a down note, he became the first OSU coach to finish with a winning record against the Wolverines. He also became the first Buckeye coach to capture Big Ten titles since Ohio Stadium opened its doors in 1922.

OSU had five Big Ten championships to its name, but the program was still in search of its first national championship. That would soon change. The Buckeyes would hire a rising star coach at Massillon High School. His name? Paul Brown.