In normal times, Debbie Myles would have been able to tell the story at her father’s funeral.
But these aren’t normal times, so the visitation and funeral for former Ohio State assistant football coach and associate athletic director Bill Myles have to be adjusted.
A walk-through viewing with social-distancing measures will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at Diehl-Whittaker funeral home for Myles, who died last Tuesday at age 83. A private funeral for the family is Thursday.
Now for the story: Debbie Myles wanted to attend Ohio State from the time she was a girl and saw the Buckeyes on television. It wasn’t any player or team she fell in love with, though she did like the Buckeye leaves on the cheerleaders’ uniforms.
What really caught her attention was that one of the cheerleaders was African American. Myles had never seen a cheerleader of her race on TV.
From then on, Ohio State was her dream school. But Bill Myles was an assistant coach at Nebraska, and she enrolled in Lincoln as a freshman in 1976. A year later, Ohio State coach Woody Hayes, tired of having Myles pry recruits out of Ohio, did his own recruiting of Myles.
Part of the pitch was that he offered to pay Debbie’s tuition to Ohio State out of his own pocket, which is exactly what he did.
Tuition for out-of-state students, which was her designation as a sophomore, was $755 per quarter, though children of OSU employees got a 50% discount. That’s a small fraction of tuition now, but Hayes made a smaller fraction of what top coaches do now. His salary in 1978, his final season, was only $43,000.
"At the time, Woody’s belief was that the OSU football coach should not make more than the governor," Debbie Myles said. "So every time he got a salary increase, he put it in this (informal) fund, and so it was through this fund that they paid for my schooling."
Ohio State also was notoriously frugal in paying its assistant coaches back then, so Hayes’ financial help as part of his pay-it-forward philosophy was much appreciated.
"People think we made big bucks, but we did not make big bucks," said Lorita Myles, who was married to Bill for 62 years.
For Debbie, attending Ohio State lived up to her hopes.
"I enjoyed it," she said. "I was on cloud nine. I was exactly where I wanted to be."
Debbie and Lorita Myles don’t know if Hayes paid for tuition for the children of other OSU assistants. She said she was the only college-age kid of OSU assistants at the time. Her brother, Bill III, is 5 years younger and attended Dayton.
Hayes was fired after the 1978 season, but Debbie would still see him on campus.
"He’d ask me how school was," she said. "He was always interested in education. What was my major? How was I doing? He’d ask me that all the time, even when he wasn’t coaching anymore."
Bill Myles shared Hayes’ passion for education. One of his sayings, according to Debbie, was that "A man without an education is headed for a bad situation."
Debbie graduated with a marketing degree, and that remains her career field. She knows how fortunate she was to have gotten the unofficial Woody Hayes scholarship.
"I don’t think I realized how important it was until I saw how many friends were in work-study and were going to have bills afterwards," Debbie said. "That’s when I realized what a wonderful gift it was."