Hall of Fame coach Earle Bruce, who won 81 games in nine seasons with at Ohio State, died Friday morning at the age of 87 in Powell, Ohio, his family announced.
Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer, whose first college job was as a graduate assistant under Bruce during the 1986 and 1987 seasons, praised his former boss in a Twitter post.
"Buckeye Nation lost one of its own," Meyer wrote. "Thoughts and prayers to the Bruce Family. My mentor and friend, thank you for all you did for The Ohio State University, and all those players and coaches whose lives you made a difference in."
Bruce's four daughters released this statement: "He was a great man, a wonderful husband, father and grandfather, and a respected coach to many."
Bruce, who was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2002, had 17 former assistants go on to become head coaches, including Meyer, Pete Carroll, Jim Tressel, Nick Saban, Mark Dantonio, Dom Capers and Joe Bugel.
In addition, 10 of his Ohio State players earned All-American honors.
Bruce, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2017, coached the Buckeyes from 1979 to 1987. He succeeded legendary Woody Hayes and guided Ohio State to an 11-1 record in his first season, suffering only a one-point loss to USC in the Rose Bowl.
Hayes encouraged Bruce to get into coaching after his Ohio State playing career was cut short by injury.
Bruce won two outright Big Ten titles and a share of two more, and he had a 5-3 record in bowl games with Ohio State.
"You don't want to lose in Columbus, Ohio," Bruce once told The Associated Press. "A football loss? That's terrible. You want to win all your home games. You're only as good as your last game here."
Bruce, who visited Meyer to watch the Buckeyes spring practice session on March 8, had the honor of dotting the "i" in "Script Ohio" during the halftime performance in 2016 -- one of only six times that honor has gone to a non-band member.
During his 21 seasons on the college sidelines, Bruce also coached at Tampa, Iowa State, Northern Iowa and Colorado State, compiling an overall record of 154-90-2 before retiring in 1995.
After he retired from coaching, Bruce returned to Columbus and worked for several years as a radio analyst on Ohio State football and was well known for saying he "bled scarlet and gray."
Born in Pittsburgh and raised in Cumberland, Md., Bruce started as a high school coach in Ohio. He became head coach in 1956 at Salem High School, where be posted a 28-9 record in three seasons.
Bruce had a 34-3-3 mark in four seasons Sandusky High beginning in 1960, before taking over at prep powerhouse Massillon, where his teams were 20-0 in two seasons.
Bruce was preceded in death by his wife, Jean. Survivors include his four daughters and nine grandchildren, including Ohio State wide receivers coach Zach Smith, and three great grandchildren.