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24 Club: Wes Fesler coached OSU to its first Rose Bowl win

Fesler’s team won the Rose Bowl but he was undone by losses to Michigan.

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 18th head coach Wes Fesler.

Name: Wes Fesler
Seasons Coached: Four (1947-1950)
Overall Record: 21-13-3

Where Does He Rank in the 24 Club?
Overall Wins: No. 12 out of 24 OSU Coaches
Winning Percentage: No. 18 out of 24 OSU Coaches

A six and a half point underdog, Ohio State took the field in the Rose Bowl against California in 1950. It was OSU head coach Wes Fesler’s third year leading the Buckeyes. Fesler, a three-time All-American end at OSU in his playing days, now led Ohio State in search of the program’s first Rose Bowl win. The Buckeyes sprang the upset — walking out of Pasadena with a 17-14 victory before a record crowd of more than 100,000.

The Rose Bowl was a high point for Fesler, but the Snow Bowl would soon be a low point. On November 25, 1950, Fesler’s eighth-ranked Buckeyes took the field in a blizzard against the unranked Wolverines in Columbus. Now in his fourth season, coach Fesler had yet to beat the Wolverines. The game was one of the most unique in the history of the rivalry — and Michigan walked away a 9-3 winner without recording a single first down. The Wolverines scored on a safety and recovered a blocked punt in the end zone to spoil the day. Fesler’s record against Michigan fell to 0-3-1, and he resigned shortly after citing the pressure that came with the coaching position.

Fesler’s four years as coach was a microcosm of where the Ohio State program stood — it had Rose Bowl winning potential but struggled with consistency. Consistency started at the top — the revolving door of OSU coaches had now seen five coaches come and go in 11 seasons. OSU needed a winner. A coach who would call Columbus home for decades. A coach who knew how to beat Michigan.

OSU’s next coaching move would tick all those boxes — Ohio State hired Woody Hayes.