For more than 40 years, Bill Myles was a constant, beloved and influential presence in the Ohio State athletic department.

He became one of the Buckeyes’ first African American assistant coaches when Woody Hayes hired him away from Nebraska in 1977. Myles continued coaching under Earle Bruce and then served as a longtime associate athletic director. Even after his retirement in 2008, he stayed close to the program.

Myles, 83, died Tuesday morning. He suffered a stroke in 2014 and had been in declining health.

“Bill’s impact on student-athletes and coaches was immeasurable,” Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith told The Dispatch. “My first introduction to Bill was when he was an assistant coach at Nebraska and he recruited me. To come full circle and have an opportunity to work with him at OSU was truly a blessing. Our hearts are filled with sadness. Bill will be missed.”

Myles grew up in Kansas City and played college football at Drake. After coaching at the high school level, Myles was hired by Tom Osborne at Nebraska.

“Coach Hayes was losing a lot of recruits in Ohio to Nebraska and wondering why,” former Ohio State All-America offensive lineman Jim Lachey said. “There was a guy in Lincoln named Bill Myles, and the next thing you knew, he was on the staff here with Woody.”

Myles coached tackles and tight ends at Ohio State.

“He was a great position coach, a great recruiter,” Lachey said. “Guys could relate to him. He understood what he had to do to get his guys ready, and his guys were always ready.”

Lachey compared Myles to current Ohio State defensive line coach Larry Johnson in his approach.

“He was a good cop,” he said. “A lot of guys are yellers and screamers, but he wasn’t a guy that swore. He just found a way to use better words. Guys enjoyed being around him. He was a guy that everybody on both sides of the ball trusted.

“They would talk to coach Myles if they had problems because he was a go-to guy. Everybody in my era had tons of respect for coach Myles.”

When Bruce replaced the fired Hayes after the 1978 season, Myles and Glen Mason were the only assistant coaches retained.

Mason, who roomed with Myles on road trips, described Miles as “total class” and said he “coached for all the right reasons.”

Mason even joked about how early Myles awoke each day.

“The thought of him having to set an alarm would be an insult,” Mason said.

In the 1980s, Myles moved into athletic administration and oversaw the football and basketball programs as well as the expansion of women’s sports under Title IX. In 1995 under athletic director Andy Geiger, Myles created Ohio State’s program designed for athletes who hadn’t graduated to return to complete their degrees.

“No one was reaching out to these guys, so I thought it would be a good idea to establish a program that would bring them back,” Myles told the Call & Post in 2007. “It was a win-win for everyone the athlete and the school. It’s one of the things I’m proudest of in my time here.”

Two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin, who worked with Myles in the athletic department, said that program became a model for other schools.

“He really, really cared about young people,” Griffin said.

Myles is survived by his wife, Lorita, and two children, Debbie and Bill.

“I knew it was close,” Griffin said of Myles’ passing, “but it’s always tough when you hear.”

He noted the recent death of former athletic director Jim Jones.

“I’ll miss those guys,” Griffin said, his voice cracking with emotion. “(Bill) was loved by all. People loved talking to him, loved being around him. He was special.”

brabinowitz@dispatch.com

@brdispatch