Fall 1912: Harley plays his first year of high school football for East High School. He is promoted as the best “open field runner” and “speedier” than any of the competition, despite his “midget” size.
1913: Harley’s family moves back to Chicago, but Harley talks his parents into letting him continue to live in Columbus. During the football season, Harley collided with another player and suffered what is now thought to be a serious concussion. This was not the only head injury he sustained during high school.
Harley plays his last game for East High and loses for the first time during his three years at the school. He left the field “weeping as though his heart would break.”
By the time Harley graduated, he was a popular and well-respected player. East High named their football stadium in his honor. He received offers to play at Michigan, Notre Dame and the University of Chicago, but turned down the football powerhouses to play for the “baby” Ohio State.
Fall 1915: Harley went home to Chicago for the summer after high school and didn’t register for Ohio State until a week after classes started, causing rumors to spread that he wasn’t coming back, but was going to stay in Chicago to play football. He spends his first year at OSU on the Freshman Football team.
Sophmore Season: 1916
Ohio State beat Ohio Wesleyan, 12-0.
Ohio State beat Oberlin, 128-0. This game score raised a few eyebrows but brought little recognition to the team.
Ohio State beat Illinois, 7-6, after Harley managed to make a touchdown on a soggy, muddy field with two minutes remaining in the game. After his touchdown, Harley requested a new shoe, as the one he was wearing was caked in mud. He slowly replaced the shoe and laced it as fans waited breathlessly, then walked over and calmly kicked the needed goal. This win against the Big Ten powerhouse brought the OSU team, and Harley in particular, more national recognition.
Ohio State beat Wisconsin, 14-13, after Harley drove the ball 80 yards to score in the last quarter.
Ohio State beat Indiana, 46-7. After gaining 107 yards in the first eight minutes of the game, Harley was taken out to “save” him.
Ohio State beat Case, 28-0.
Ohio State beat Northwestern, 23-3 for the Big Ten Championship, when Harley, after sitting out the first half of the game, managed to score 20 points for the team, disproving Northwestern’s claim that their Paddy Driscoll — touted as the choice for All-American — would show up Harley.
Harley was named to Walter Camp’s All-American team, and was the first Buckeye so honored.
Junior Season: 1917
Sept. 15, 1917: The Dispatch announces that Harley will not return to OSU for the 1917 season, but will seek a position with the Aviation Corps. Despite pressure to return to the football field, Harley stated, “I’m afraid I wouldn’t feel right by going back. I honestly am crazy to get into the service and have my decision made. I am going to apply for the aviation service. It appeals to me as the most interesting branch and the one for which I am best fitted.”
Fall 1917: While waiting for his acceptance into the air force, Harley plays another season for OSU. He again leads the Buckeyes to an undefeated Championship title. Their record for the year was 8-0-1. He was again selected for the All-America team.
Dec. 10, 1917: The Dispatch honors Harley as he leaves for World War I, by requesting that all readers have a drink in his honor at 7:30 pm.
Military Service: 1918
Early 1918-1919: Harley attends flight training in San Antonio, Texas. While there, he flies his plane to visit a young woman forty or fifty miles from the base. He was discharged from the service for his unapproved flight but was later given a second chance on the condition that he start his training over again. By the time Harley had completed training, rumors of an armistice were widespread.
April 1919: Days away from being discharged, Harley was caught asleep on his bunk after 7:30 a.m. He was court martialed and sentenced to three months in the guard house; his military associates claim the sentencing unjust and some suggest that the punishment was a means of keeping him from playing football in the fall. Depression set in and he began chain-smoking to calm his nerves.
July 1919: With the help of the Secretary of War, the governor of Ohio, the Ohio State University president and the school athletic director, Harley was finally discharged from the army.
Senior Season: 1919
Oct. 25, 1919: OSU beats Michigan for the first time in football history, beginning one of the strongest rivalries in college football. After the win, Michigan coach Fielding Yost came into the Buckeye’s locker room and congratulated them on a “brilliant” game. He said, “And you, Mr. Harley, I believe you are one of the finest little machines I have ever seen.”
Nov. 22, 1919: Harley loses his one and only game — his last with OSU — against Illinois for the conference championship before a record-breaking crowd of 17,000. Many blame this loss on Chic’s injured knee, knowledge which leaked out about a week prior to the game. As the game came to a close, “Captain Chic” was the team’s only hope, but with “tears streaming down his bruised and strained face [he] was unable to respond.” His teammate later wrote, “Chic Harley was as wonderful in defeat as he had been after his many victories. The only difference was that in defeat he took all the blame for the loss, while in victory all his praise was for the other man.”
Harley was again selected for the All-America team.
1920: Harley plays basketball and baseball for OSU. He receives offers from professional baseball teams, but turns them down.
Offered positions as Tennessee’s head football coach and a vice presidency at Firestone Tire and Rubber Co.
May 2, 1920: Harley, despite tempting offers from around the country, decides to stay at OSU and become part of the coaching staff. His goal is to complete the coursework he missed during his time in the military and receive his degree from OSU. He only coached for a year, as it wasn’t his forte. His skill was pure athleticism and that couldn’t be imparted on others.
July 21, 1921: Harley decides to play with and take part ownership in the Chicago Staleys pro football team. He begins showing signs of stress and mental illness. He injured his ribs during a game, suffers embarrassment from his teammates who view him as a handicap and rumors spread about his health. The partnership ended in disaster.
Aug. 3, 1921: Ground is broken for the new Ohio State stadium.
Oct. 1921-Aug. 1922: Harley moves between Chicago, Columbus, and medical hospitals in Dayton and Asheville, N.C. His mental state continues to deteriorate. Rumors circulate that Harley suffers from syphilis, but there is no actual proof that he has it, either from doctor’s examinations or private reports from family or close friends. He was found by doctors to suffer from dementia praecox, but no one knows the direct cause — whether it was the result of the bat that hit him as a child, his head injuries as a high school football player, his time in the air force, or just genetics. The newspapers keep Harley out of the news and public eye, so only a few close associates know what’s going on. Those who do know raise private funds for his treatments. Paying him for working as an “assistant coach” (when he really wasn’t) was one way OSU justified funding his medical expenses.
Oct. 21, 1922: The now famous horseshoe shaped stadium was dedicated and offered seating for 63,000. Harley managed to attend the dedication after leaving the hospital in Dayton. He is credited with “building” the stadium and creating the “foundation of the dynasty.”
December 1922: Harley is declared legally “insane” after a brief examination during the half-time of one football game. On these grounds, he is recommitted to the Dayton hospital, but escapes two weeks later to have Christmas in Chicago with his family.
1923-1924: Harley spends most of his time living with his devoted family, but continues to experience a “rapid disintegration of his thought process.”
1925-1938: Harley’s whereabouts are a bit vague. He spent time in Columbus and again in Chicago, although he began to wander. He becomes increasingly apathetic, negligent, asocial and alone. In 1925, 1926, and 1927 exhibition games were held at Ohio Stadium in which Harley participated. Much of the money raised from these games secretly went into a fund for Harley’s expenses.
1938: Harley retires to a veterans facility in Danville, Ill., where he lives until his death. During his stay here, the OSU team would often come to visit him and work out on the fields surrounding the hospital.
1947: The Chic Harley Scholarship Fund begins with $4,000. The scholarship, under the direction of the Scholarship Committee at Ohio State, is meant for any boy — athlete or not — who appears most likely to carry on the Chic Harley tradition.
Fall 1948: After a round of insulin injections, Harley’s mental condition seems to stabilize. He is able to travel to more OSU football games and experiences greater freedom for the remainder of his life and stay at the Danville facility.
Nov. 20, 1948: Chic returns to Columbus from the veterans facility to attend the annual Homecoming game between Michigan State and OSU. Despite the gray, rainy day, he was greeted by an estimated 75,000 fans at the train station and a ticker-tape parade was held in his honor.
Nov. 7, 1953: Chic Harley was inducted into Football’s Hall of Fame during halftime of the Michigan – Ohio State game. He accepted his plaque, after his coach had praised his abilities, with characteristic humility and appreciation for his past teammates.
April 21, 1974: Chic Harley dies of bronchial pneumonia at the age of 78.
Oct. 30, 2004: Harley’s jersey No. 47 is retired and Ohio State officials finally put his name alongside the school’s five Heisman Trophy winners. Ironically, there was no Heisman trophy when he played — the trophy’s namesake, John W. Heisman, was still coaching then.