It should be quite simple, really. A few minor details. Anybody can win at State. Everybody knows that.
Bob Palcic, who coaches guards and centers, came to Ohio State in June '86 and is one of three coaches Cooper has kept from Bruce's staff. Palcic remembers his first night in Columbus vividly: "I turned on the radio, and in five minutes people were calling up and screaming, 'Why can't Nine-and-Three Earle win!' This was in June. I'd just come from Arizona, where we went 8-3-1 and were heroes, and here they want to get rid of a 9-3 coach? Unbelievable."
Cooper played safety and tailback at Iowa State in the late '50s, on a team known as the Dirty Thirty because all but 30 players had been run off due to the harshness of coach Clay Stapleton's regime. Cooper is proud of the fact that he gutted it out, but he wonders what it all proved. "That doesn't seem like the way to do it," he says softly. "The easiest thing to do is run a kid off. We would have had a hundred players on that team. The point to me is to help. I am demanding, but why not help people?"
Cooper is lunching with Bobby Joseph, Bob Carlen and James Leahy, three prominent Columbus businessmen, and Ohio State's 1950 Heisman Trophy winner, Vic Janowicz. The lunch is a get-acquainted, fun kind of thing, but there is pressure, too. As always.
"So what's this crap I hear?" says Joseph with a smile. "The cupboard's bare? The team's no good?"
"I didn't say that," replies Cooper. "As Joe Paterno says, don't bad-mouth your kids. They're all you got. You can't draft 'em. Can't trade 'em."
The men chuckle. Bruce wasn't good at this kind of stuff. They ask how many games Cooper will win this year.
"The way I figure it," he answers, "the coaches can win two or three games, the players are good for three or four, and you fans can win two. From you I want LSU and Michigan."
"You're the greatest coach in the world," says Janowicz with a thin, meaningful grin. "Until November 19."