Woody Hayes was already a legendary coach when George Chaump joined the Ohio State football staff before the 1968 season.
But even though Hayes had coached three teams that won at least a share of the national championship, his job security was shaky after Ohio State lost eight of 18 games in 1966 and ’67.
Chaump, who died on Sunday at age 83, arrived in Columbus after a highly successful career as a high school coach in Harrisburg, Pa. But he found out what others had, that Hayes was highly resistant to change.
But with help from other OSU assistants, Chaump prevailed in persuading Hayes to modernize an unimaginative playbook to take advantage of a talented sophomore class that would become eligible that year.
With quarterback Rex Kern masterfully directing the offense, the Buckeyes went undefeated and won the 1968 national championship. Chaump stayed at Ohio State until Hayes was fired after the 1978 season.
“Everything I accomplished at Ohio State is really because of coach Chaump,” said Cornelius Green, who quarterbacked the Archie Griffin-led Buckeyes from 1972-75. “I have to give him all the credit for everything I accomplished.”
Green described Chaump as a father figure who was invaluable after his arrival from Washington, D.C.
“He knew I was homesick, being away from D.C.,” Green said. “He kind of put his arms around me when I was a freshman. He knew I had little health problems in addition to the physical and mental strain that coach Hayes put on you.
“There were a lot of times he gave me good advice totally away from football in just how to survive. I always looked up to coach.”
Greene was admittedly raw as a quarterback and Chaump started almost from scratch with him. He taught Green the proper way to take the snap and hand off. He watched hours of film with him.
Though the heavy lifting in updating the Ohio State offense came in the Kern era, it continued with Green.
“He fought for me, too,” Green said. “Teams would bring 10 men to the line of scrimmage and coach Hayes still wanted to run the ball. Coach Chaump said, ‘Coach, you’ve got to trust your quarterbacks.’”
Because of Chaump, Green said, “We loosened up a little bit. We could call audibles.”
After Hayes’ firing following the 1978 Gator Bowl for punching Clemson’s Charlie Bauman after a game-clinching interception, Chaump joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as an assistant coach. He later became the head coach at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Marshall and Navy. He finished his career where it began, on the high school level in the Harrisburg area.
Green said he regrets that he didn’t stay in closer contact with Chaump after his Ohio State days. He saw him mainly at Buckeye reunions.
“He gave me great advice and I’ll keep him in my heart,” Green said.