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Former Ironton football coach Bob Bruney dies

Jim Walker
jim.walker@irontontribune.com

Bob Bruney should have been a contractor.

Bruney was known for his enthusiasm and toughness. He showed it as a player but it was never more prevalent than when he was a football coach.

It was that enthusiasm, toughness, hard work and relentless drive that helped him turn the Ironton High School football program around.

Bruney, the man who laid the foundation for Ironton’s long-time success, died Monday in his hometown of Martins Ferry.

“Bruney turned Ironton football around. He got out of the C.O.L. and joined the SEOAL and turned the attitudes and work ethic around. Bob Lutz came along and took it to another level,” said Mike Burcham, a former assistant under Bruney and close life-long friend.

Bruney was the head coach at Ironton from 1966 to 1971. He compiled a 29-29-2 record and won a share of the Southeastern Ohio Athletic League championship in 1971 when Ironton finished 9-1 and was ranked as high as No. 5 in the Associated Press Class AA poll.

At that time, there were only three classifications in Ohio and the playoff system did not start until 1972.

Although Bruney’s record was a modest .500, it didn’t tell the whole story.

Bruney took over after Ironton had finished 0-9 and 1-9 following two other losing seasons.

Ironton was only 1-9 in Bruney’s first season but 6-4 the next year as the Fighting Tigers joined the SEOAL.

A 1-7-2 record followed but the lone win came over rival Ashland who was ranked No. 1 in Kentucky. The following seasons were 7-3, 5-5 and 9-1.

“Coach Bruney once said, ‘One day we’re going to start winning and we’re never gonna stop,’” recalled former All-Ohio lineman Dr. Mike Albrink.

Bruney resigned at Ironton after the 1971 season and returned to his alma mater Martins Ferry. He was the Purple Riders football coach from 1974-78, wrestling coach from 1976-77, and athletic director from 1985-94. He posted a 26-24 record as the head football coach.

Bruney graduated from Martins Ferry in 1960 and went on to play running back and defensive back for the Ohio State Buckeyes. He earned two letters as a defensive back.

Martins Ferry inducted Bruney into its Athletic Hall of Fame in 1997. Besides coaching and playing football at Martins Ferry, Bruney was an outstanding wrestler who was 22-1 his senior season and placed third in the state tournament.

Bob Lutz followed Bruney at Ironton and went on to become Ohio’s winningest coach at 381-93-5 by the time he retired in 2011. Lutz was 361-85-4 at Ironton.

Bruney’s cousin Dave Bruney followed him as head coach at Martins Ferry and continued to build on the success. In 39 seasons, Dave Bruney was 275-134 with 14 playoff berths.

Bob Bruney knew how to lay down the foundation for strong football programs.