Over the years since his hiring in 1951, football coach Woody Hayes became the most widely known individual at Ohio State and one of the most recognized figures in sports nationally.
Editor's Note: This is original coverage of an event in the life of legendary Ohio State coach Woody Hayes, taken from the archives of The Columbus Dispatch newspaper. These stories, photos and clippings in the Woody Hayes Archive predate the Internet era and are being presented in digital form for the first time.
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(Originally published on September 7, 1975)Has it Been That Long? This Will Be Woody's 25th Season at OSU
By Paul Hornung
Dispatch Sports Editor
Ohio State, with a lusty assist from its rabid fandom, had been saddled with the highly unflattering tag of "graveyard of coaches," and the resignation of Wesley Fesler in December of 1950 further justified the reputation. They university thus began a search for its sixth head football coach in 11 years.
Fesler, a Buckeye athletic hero of the 1930's, had been moderately successful, even taking his team to a Big 10 co-championship and victory in the Rose Bowl the previous season. But he'd committed the cardinal sin: He never managed to beat arch-rival Michigan and had come under fire when OSU lost to the Wolverines in a game that never should have been played: the 1950 "Blizzard Bowl."
The popular choice as Fesler's successor was Paul Brown, the "miracle man form Massillon," who had produced Ohio State's first National Championship team in 1942 and appeared to be building a dynasty when World War II drafted away his players and he eventually followed some of them into the Navy.
Brown, now acknowledged as one of the great coaches in the history of football, had finished his fourth year of building the pro Cleveland Browns, but came to Columbus to be interviewed again for the Ohio State position. However, during his meteoric rise he'd stepped on some toes and stern opposition to his return existed among some of the more powerful in the university's hierarchy.
So, on Feb. 18, 1951, the Board of Trustees approved the appointment of Wayne Woodrow Hayes, a 37-year-old-Denison grad who led his alma mater to two Ohio Conference Championships in three years as its head coach, and who had given Miami University a Mid-American Conference title in his second year.
Although he made a favorable impression personally and commanded respect for all-out dedication to his job, rookie Hayes failed to win over many of the dubious legions when his first Buckeye edition finished 4-3-2 including a loss to Michigan in the traditional season finale.
He improved to 6-3 the next season and even beat the hated Wolverines. He'd made some progress, but it was slow going. The 1953 Buckeyes were again 6-3, but muttering became almost a ground swell. Hayes had not only lost to Michigan, but his team had looked inept in doing it. Graduation dealt its usual damage, and the early schedule in 1954 loomed forbidding. The coach's future seemed at least shaky.
He tells a story himself about sleeping on his screened-in porch one hot night that summer and hearing someone at a party in a neighboring yard say, "This is the year we get rid of old Woody."
"Like hell you will!" he said to himself.
The '54 Buckeyes won 10 straight games including the Rose Bowl, were acclaimed national champions and began what was to be a Big 10 record of 17 consecutive league victories.
Woody, now 62 and recovered from a heart attack, begins his 25th season Saturday, Sept. 13, and only Amos Alonzo Stagg at Chicago (41 years) and Bob Zuppke at Illinois (29 years) coached longer in the Big 10.
He will be looking for his 203rd coaching victory. Only Alabama's Bear Bryant has won more among active coaches and only five coaches in football's long history have won more than 202. His teams have won or shared 10 Big 10 championships, won three national championships, twice have enjoyed 17-game league win streaks and have played in seven Rose Bowls. He's had 45 first-team All-Americans.
Hayes' critics didn't "get" him in 1954, because he didn't give them the chance. He's given them little chance since, finishing under .500 in only two widely spaced seasons (1959 and 1966). The school had four unbeaten seasons in its first 60 years of football. It's had four since 1951.
Not that he hasn't had and still doesn't have critics, especially after defeats (of which there have been a mere 10 in the last 73, a winning .899 average). But he's converted Ohio State from the "graveyard of coaches" to the graveyard of coach's critics. The school has the reputation of being "college football capital of the nation," since OSU has been No. 1 in attendance among all major universities for 21 of the last 24 years.
The 25 years have wrought same changes in Hayes, not the least of which is in his sideline attire. In those first years, he wore a coat, tie and only cold days, a wide-brimmed felt hat. Later, his short-sleeved white shirt and baseball cap became a famous identification.
Maybe an incident at Iowa in 1952 discouraged him from wearing a coat. The Buckeyes trailed 8-0 and Woody determined to do something to fire them up for a last-ditch drive. In the process, he ripped off his sport coat and threw it into the stands – still considered a stadium record for coat-throwing. Delighted with the souvenir, not to mention the performance, Iowa fans declined to give it back.
Hayes also attracted attention by appearing in the short-sleeved shirt in even freezing weather, insisting cold is "all in the mind." But he has abandoned that theory in recent years and wears a jacket on chilly days.
He doesn't have quite as many meetings anymore. During the first season (1951), guard Dick Logan made an observation that lasted through the years.
"We may not be leading the Big 10 in won-lost," he contended, "but we gotta be leading the league in meetings."
Assistant coaches even get a night off each week during football season and a month's vacation during the summer. But Woody's own routine hasn't changed. "I always figured I had to outwork the opposition," he's often said. That he's done, although many additional factors have contributed to his lavish success.
Several years ago he acquired 30 acres of strip mining land in Noble County that he calls his "farm." He retreats there as often as possible – actually only a few times a year – to hike and camp out. His heart attack in June, 1974, slowed him down for a while. But only a while. Football has been a seven-days-a-week, 52-weeks-a-year, 15-hours-a-day life – and mostly because he loves it. "I can't think of anything I'd rather do," he has said again and again.
The 24 years at Ohio State have been as as colorful as they have been successful, and the center of it all is W.W. Hayes. He's become the most known individual at Ohio State and one of the most recognized figures in sports nationally.
When President Ford came to the campus for the 1974 graduation exercises, he requested that Hayes be among those meeting him at the airport and predicted in his commencement address that "we had our picture taken together and when that picture appears in today's Dispatch, I'm pretty sure the caption will say: 'Woody Hayes and friend.' "
The Dispatch fulfilled the President's forecast.
When Bob Hope came to play in the Columbus Pro-Am tournament, he spent an hour at University Hospital where Hayes was recuperating from a heart attack.
Hayes is so famous that sports pages in Detroit and Chicago and Los Angeles and other scattered points can refer to "Woody' and have their readers immediately recognize that it refers to Woody Hayes. Yet, though he walks with kings, two of his best buddies are John Bozick, who heads the OSU athletic equipment department, and Phil Bennett, who keeps Buckeye athletic equipment in repair.
A sports information director of a rival school summed it up recently after listening to Hayes give a many-faceted talk to a Big 10 group. "That man," he decided, with obvious admiration, "is a one-of-a-kind."
The 25th year figures to be more of the same, with sellout Ohio Stadium crowds cheering the Buckeyes, but also keeping an eye on the man in the baseball cap on the sidelines. He's an institution within an institution.
* * *The Woody Hayes Archive:
>> Ohio State hires a new coach (1951)
>> Rose Bowl win caps perfect season for Ohio State (1955)
>> Another national title, another Rose Bowl victory for Ohio State (1958)
>> Ohio State students protest as faculty bans Rose Bowl trip (1961)
>> Thrilling comeback win at Michigan makes Ohio State's season (1965)
>> Ohio State coach visits troops in Vietnam (1966)
>> Wearing short sleeves in the snow on the Ohio State sideline (1967)
>> Ohio State's Woody Hayes joins rally with Richard Nixon (1968)
>> O.J. visits Ohio State locker room after Rose Bowl win (1969)
>> Ohio State win over Michigan called 'our greatest victory' (1970)
>> No. 1 Ohio State loses at Michigan State in controversial finish (1974)
>> Hayes starts his 25th season as Ohio State coach (1975)
>> Ohio State comeback against Michigan is 'greatest game' (1975)
>> Ohio State coach sponsors a Vietnamese refugee family (1975)
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