Sometimes a little history of college football does a current fan of the game a little good. For all my sports fans, especially those that are members of the Oklahoma Sooner Nation and The Ohio State Buckeye Nation, I am blogging this entry on Hall-of-Fame football player and legendary football coach Gomer Jones.
I had a few minutes of spare time today so I viewed one of my DVR’d movies that I recorded this past month from Turner Classic Movies. Low and behold, in the opening credits of the film, THE BIG GAME, shot in 1936, a screen shot of former Buckeye All-American and Sooner assistant and head coach/Athletic Director Gomer Jones appeared on my 65′ Panasonic Plasma (the best TV for movies ever made).
As any fan OU and OSU should know, Gomer Jones was one of the great linemen of the 1930’s at the Columbus school, gaining consensus All-American honors twice, in 1934 and 1935. Mr. Jones was named by the team as the MVP of those two seasons as the starting center on offense and linebacker on defense.
Jones played the 1933 season as a sophomore for the Buckeyes but it was in 1934 that he showed his skills as one of the best players in the Big Ten. He was named captain in his senor season of 1935.
The 1934 team finished second in the Big Ten behind Minnesota, a team that would include future Oklahoma Sooner head coach Bud Wilkinson. The Buckeyes only loss was to Illinois and the great Red Grange. The Gophers of Minnesota were undefeated that year and were National Champs. That Buckeye loss was a Big Ten conference game, hence, the Gophers were champions, conference and nationally. In those years of the 1930’s, the Big Ten teams played only five conference games.
In 1935, Minnesota again won the National Title with their undefeated season. OSU was ranked 5th nationally, up three spots from their 8th ranking in 1934. Both teams shared the Big Ten title with five wins and zero losses. I am sure that Jones and Wilkinson were on each others radar that year even if the two teams did not meet. Wilkinson was an All-American guard for Minnesota. The Buckeyes only loss in Jones senior season was an 18-13 loss at home to Notre Dame in front of 81,000 fans. That loss cost the Buckeyes and Jones any chance for a national title.
To note, the Big Ten champion was not an automatic selection for the Rose Bowl until the 1946 season where they would play the best team from the west coast, usually the PAC champion. Ohio State had it’s first bowl appearance in 1921 and did not go bowling next until 1950. During the span of 29 seasons, the Buckeyes had some great teams but no bowl games.
Jones was drafted to play professional football but made a decision to coach football after that final year at Ohio State. Gomer Jones was the 15th player selected in the draft.
Jones stayed in Columbus and coached for the Buckeyes as an assistant from 1936 through the 1940 season. From 1941 through 1946 Jones continued to coach, as an assistant at John Carroll University and following one year at the Univ. of Nebraska, Bud Wilkinson hired Jones as his top assistant at Oklahoma University which ran from the 1947 season, the first for both the new head coach and his assistant, through the next 17 seasons until Wilkinson’s retirement in 1963. As the line coach during those historic years, Jones developed 16 All-America linemen, and was the architect of Oklahoma’s great lines.
Jones was named the new head coach for 1964 and his tenure lasted two seasons as Jones went 9-11-1. He continued to be the athletic director at OU (he was head coach and AD) and died on the job in the spring of 1971 in New York City attending the National Invitational Basketball tournament in Garden. Gomer Jones was 57.
The great lineman of OSU was posthumously inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1978 as a player. Earlier that year he had been inducted into Ohio State’s own Varsity O Hall of Fame. As the coach was not noted for his head coaching at OU, his significant coaching of the lines of Bud Wilkinson’s championship teams tell Sooner fans he was the greatest assistant coach in OU history. Gomer Jones is buried in Norman, OK.
(As for the movie “The Big Game”. Two stars out of five. The addition of the football All-Americans of the day are the best thing about this not so good film.)