COLUMBUS, Ohio — Earle Bruce embraced the difficult task of following his mentor, Woody Hayes, as Ohio State’s head football coach. In his later years, he became a much-loved patriarch of the program he helped build.

Bruce died in Columbus at the age of 87, according to a statement released by his daughters through Ohio State on Friday. He’d been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Bruce had a record of 81-26-1 as head coach at Ohio State from 1979-87. He took over under most unusual and challenging circumstances, hired after the revered Hayes was fired for punching a Clemson player in the 1978 Gator Bowl.