Big Day For Coop, Special K

It’s been a big last couple of days for Buckeye birthdays and today is no different as John Cooper and Clark Kellogg blow out the candles on their cakes.

John Cooper was born July 2, 1937, in Powell, Tenn., a small rural community outside Knoxville so small that, Cooper’s words, “We had to go toward town just to hunt.”

Most Ohio State fans think of Cooper only as a football coach. That is probably a fair assessment since he spent 38 years in the profession. But before he went into coaching, Coop was an excellent college football player at Iowa State.

After graduating from high school and spending two years in the U.S. Army, Cooper was a dual threat at running back and safety for the Cyclones under head coach Clay Stapleton. In his first year of varsity ball, Cooper became a member of the 1959 Iowa State team affectionately known as the “Dirty Thirty.”

The university’s football media guide calls that squad “one of the great underdog teams in college football.” The Cyclones were picked to have a losing season after injuries and attrition pared the roster down to only 30 varsity players for the season opener. But the team proceeded to have one of the best seasons in school history, posting a 7-3 record that included upset victories over Nebraska and Colorado.

The “Dirty Thirty” nickname was given to the team by trainer Warren Ariail. As the team was returning to the locker room after a season-opening 41-0 victory at Drake on a wet and muddy field, Ariail exclaimed, “Here comes the dirty thirty.”

The name stuck as the team rolled to win after win, facing a season-ending showdown at Oklahoma with the winner representing the Big Eight in the 1960 Orange Bowl. Unfortunately, the Cyclones they fell behind early and wound up on the losing end of a 35-12 decision. But Iowa State had gained nationwide recognition for its gritty, determined play.

The following year, the Cyclones got a measure of revenge on the Sooners, ending a 23-game losing streak in the series with a 10-6 victory in Ames. In 1961, with Cooper as team captain, Iowa State went to Norman and knocked off Oklahoma again, marking the first time ever the Cyclones had beaten OU in back-to-back seasons. Cooper led the team with four interceptions as a senior.

After graduation, Cooper wasted no time making the transition from player to coach. He joined Stapleton’s staff the following fall as freshman coach and began a career that spanned most of the next four decades.

Along the way, Cooper learned from some of the top coaches in college football history – Tommy Prothro at Oregon State and UCLA, Pepper Rodgers at Kansas and Fran Curci at Kentucky. In 1977, Cooper got his first head coaching job at Tulsa and turned the Golden Hurricane program into a winner. The last five years Cooper was with the program, it won Missouri Valley Conference championships each season.

Cooper left Tulsa following the 1984 season and took over the program at Arizona State, where he posted a 25-9-2 record that included the 1986 Pac-10 championship and a victory over Michigan in the Rose Bowl.

In 1988, Ohio State made him the 21st head coach in school history, succeeding Earle Bruce who had been fired with a week remaining in the previous season. Cooper, of course, struggled in his initial season in Columbus and his teams seemed to fade at the end of the season – his 2-10-1 record against Michigan and 3-8 ledger in bowl games is testament to that.

But the Buckeyes had some excellent seasons under Cooper, most notably 1996 and 1998 when the team finished No. 2 in the final national rankings. He was dismissed following the 2000 season, and his 111 wins at Ohio State ranks second only to Woody Hayes in program history.

On May 1, he was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.

SPECIAL K’S DAY

With the Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr. era still fresh in the minds of Ohio State basketball fans, it is difficult to remember the days of short pants and no three-point circle.

It is also difficult to imagine Clark Kellogg as anything but an analyst for CBS on its NCAA Tournament coverage. But you could make an argument for including Kellogg on a list of the top five basketball players in OSU history. He was that good.

Clark Clifton Kellogg Jr. was born July 2, 1961, in Cleveland, and quickly became a basketball star at St. Joseph’s High School. As a senior, Kellogg carried his team to the state championship game in Columbus only to suffer a 79-65 defeat to a powerful Columbus East team. But Kellogg scored 51 points in that game, still an Ohio high school state finals record.

He was considered one of the top three prep basketball prospects in the country along with Isiah Thomas and James Worthy, but while those players selected national championship contenders Indiana and North Carolina, respectively, Kellogg opted to stay closer to home and play for his instate school.

Kellogg moved into the starting lineup for the Buckeyes early in his freshman season of 1979-80 and quickly became one of the top performers in the Big Ten. As a sophomore, he posted career-highs of 17.3 points and 12.0 rebounds per game and the following year he was conference MVP in 1982 when he averaged 16.1 points and 10.5 rebounds.

The 6-8, 225-pounder was the team leader in scoring and rebounding in both 1981 and ’82, and finished his Ohio State career with 1,285 points and 872 rebounds. His lifetime average of 10.1 rebounds per game still ranks fifth in school history behind only Jerry Lucas (17.2, 1960-62); Bill Hosket (12.3, 1966-68); Luke Witte (11.2, 1971-73) and Brad Sellers (10.8, 1985-86).

After his junior season, Kellogg became the first Ohio State basketball player to forgo his final year of eligibility and declared for the NBA draft. The Indiana Pacers made him the eighth overall pick of that draft, a selection process that was led off by Los Angeles selecting Worthy.

Special K became an instant star for the Pacers, earning NBA All-Rookie honors in 1983 when he started 81 games and averaged 20.1 points and 10.6 rebounds for a team that finished 20-62 and in last place of the Central Division. The following season, Indiana improved only slightly to 26-56 while Kellogg remained steady. He started all 79 games in which he played, averaging 19.1 points and 9.1 rebounds – both team highs.

Kellogg continued to play well in his third season – leading the team again with 18.6 points and 9.4 rebounds per game – but the Pacers weren’t competitive. They finished in the Central Division cellar again with a 20-62 record.

During the 1985-86 season, disaster struck. Kellogg suffered a knee injury that required surgery and limited him to only 19 games. He would try to make a comeback the following year, he attempted a comeback but gave it up after only four games. The career that had showed so much promise was over after only 260 games.

His career average of 18.9 points per game ranks better than just stars as Connie Hawkins, Bob Cousy, Reggie Miller and Gary Payton while his lifetime rebounding average of 9.5 is higher than those posted by Charles Oakley, Bob McAdoo, Robert Parish and Alonzo Mourning.

In 1990, Kellogg began a broadcasting career with ESPN and WTTV in Indianapolis. Four years later, he joined CBS as color analyst on NCAA Tournament games, and moved into the studio for expert tournament analyst in 1997.

He still lives in the Columbus area with his wife Rosy and their two children – daughter Talisa, who plays volleyball at Georgia Tech, and son Alex, who plays basketball at Providence.

HAPPY! HAPPY!

Others celebrating today include former Philippines First Lady and shoe maven Imelda Marcos; former Mexican president Vicente Fox; laconic producer/actor Larry David (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”); E Street Band keyboardist Roy Bittan; actress/model Jerry Hall (and mother of four Mick Jagger’s seven children); former pro wrestler Bret “The Hitman” Hart; former slugger and admitted steroids user José Canseco; Boston Red Sox first baseman Sean Casey; singer Michelle Branch; actress/professional train wreck Lindsay Lohan; actress/singer Ashley Tisdale (“High School Musical”); NASCAR legend Richard Petty; and BSB’s own Adam Jardy.

Also, 46 years ago today the American retail landscape was changed forever when the first Wal-Mart opened for business in Rogers, Ark., on July 2, 1962.

AND FINALLY

** I went with my daughter last night to see “Hancock” starring Will Smith, Jason Bateman and Charlize Theron. Very good escapist fare that makes for a near-perfect summer movie. It gets a little weird at times, but all in all, real good entertainment. Two thumbs up.

** In case you missed it, former Indiana and Northwestern head coach John Pont died yesterday at his home in Oxford, Ohio. He was 80 and had been battling cancer. Pont was a star player at Miami (Ohio) and became the school’s first athlete to have his jersey number retired. In 1956, he followed Ara Parseghian as head coach at Miami and was later head coach at Yale before taking over the program at Indiana in 1965. He guided the Hoosiers for eight years, including a 9-2 record in 1967 that resulted in the school’s only Rose Bowl appearance. Pont later coached at Northwestern from 1973-77 and was that school’s athletic director from 1975-80.

** Not a very good week for college football in the Peach State. Georgia mascot Uga VI died last Friday night followed less than 72 hours later by the arrest of two Bulldog offensive linemen on misdemeanor battery charges. That same day, a third Georgia player was named by police as a suspect in a different case where a fellow student was beaten and hospitalized. Somewhere in between, Georgia Tech suspended cornerback Jerrard Tarrant after he was arrested and charged with rape.

** Complaint Department No. 1: I visited a Barnes & Noble bookstore yesterday and was appalled by the behavior of some of the so-called patrons. Since when did it become permissible to rip open the plastic on a sealed magazine, flip through the pages and then return the magazine to the rack? Also, if you’re going to treat the place like a library (plopping yourself down and reading for free), get off your damn cell phone.

** Complaint Department No. 2: Probably just like you, I have some gripes about the MSM (that’s the mainstream media). My complaints are more style-based, though. For example: the terms “sat down with” is one of my pet peeves. When a reporter can’t think of a decent lead for a story, or wants to do a simple Q&A , they write “We recently caught up with so-and-so” or “I recently sat down with blah-blah-blah.” Really? You caught up with them? Were they running away from you? And then they politely sat down to talk rather than making you do the interview standing up or while doing a handstand at the top of a tall building?

** Complaint Department No. 3: Someone needs to explain to me exactly what Kid Rock brings to the party. He had some marginal success several years ago but still seems to be everywhere you turn around. Awards shows, Super Bowls, parties at the Playboy mansion … and recently he showed up wearing bib overalls and no shirt underneath to play in the pro-am portion of the Buick Invitational. When is this guy’s five minutes gonna be over?

** Question of the day: If Ohio State is so overrated, how did two of their upcoming opponents land among the top five among toughest non-conference schedules? According to ESPN.com football writer Bruce Feldman, Troy has the second-hardest non-league slate in 2008 while USC has the fifth-toughest. In addition to a game at Ohio Stadium, Troy also has a road contest at LSU. And the Trojans aren’t slacking off with a trip to Virginia in their season opener two weeks before hosting the Buckeyes. The Cavaliers aren’t invincible at home, but they have won 24 of 30 games in Charlottesville over the past five years.

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