Hayes, Wayne Woodrow ("Woody")

views updated

HAYES, Wayne Woodrow ("Woody")

(b. 14 February 1913 in Clifton, Ohio; d. 12 March 1987 in Upper Arlington, Ohio), college football coach who led the Ohio State Buckeyes to three national championships and developed dozens of outstanding players yet tarnished his reputation with his explosive temper.

Hayes was the youngest of three children born to Wayne Benton Hayes, a teacher and public school superintendent in Newcomerstown, Ohio, and Effie Jane Hupp Hayes, a homemaker. Hayes's father instilled in him a love of learning and books, and Hayes's sixth-and seventh-grade teacher fanned his interest in history and English. He came to appreciate sports by doing small chores for the retired pitching great Denton "Cy" Young, manager of the town baseball team. Hayes and his brother also liked boxing and often staged exhibition bouts against their parents' wishes. At Newcomerstown High School, Hayes played basketball and football, starting in football at tackle and captaining that team as a senior in 1931.

A good player, Hayes developed a reputation as a smart athlete contemptuous of defeat. He earned three football letters at Denison College, from which he graduated in 1935 with a B.A. in history and English. Unable to afford law school, his preference, he took a job as a seventh-grade teacher and assistant football coach at Mingo Junction (Ohio) High School in 1935. The next summer he began graduate work in educational administration at Ohio State University, where he received a master's degree in 1948. He moved to New Philadelphia (Ohio) High School in 1937 and became head football coach the following year. In the summer of 1941 he enlisted in the navy and rose to command a patrol boat and a destroyer escort in the Pacific theater. He married Anne Gross of New Philadelphia in 1942. They had one son. After being discharged as a lieutenant commander in 1946, Hayes returned to Denison as head football coach. His first season was a disaster. But in 1947 and 1948 he pushed his players hard, and the Denison Big Red went undefeated. Miami (Ohio) University hired Hayes as head coach in 1949. His first team finished 5–4, but in 1950 the Miami Redskins won all but their first game and upset Arizona State in the Salad Bowl, 35–21. Hayes's success as a recruiter and his near-obsessive devotion to conditioning and discipline made him attractive to Ohio State, which was searching for a coach for the third time in seven years. However, his lack of major college experience made Hayes a controversial choice. The Buckeye players did not take to his hard-nosed approach either. They locked him out of the dressing room prior to the game against Illinois and a week later lost to their arch-rival Michigan, 7–0, to end the season at 4–3–2. Hayes weathered this storm and the public's discontent that accompanied it. His 1952 team finished 6–3, and victories over Illinois and Michigan probably saved his job.

Hayes dismissed his critics two years later, when the Buckeyes went undefeated and beat Southern California in the Rose Bowl. The Associated Press (AP) named the Buck-eyes national champions. In 1957 they won a second national championship, this time from United Press International (UPI), for a 9–1 season that included a Rose Bowl win over Oregon. The American Football Coaches' Association gave Hayes its Coach of the Year award, further cementing his status. In 1968 Hayes won a third national title, this time from both wire service polls, as the Buckeyes went 10–0 and defeated Southern California in the Rose Bowl again. By this time Hayes was regarded as one of the best.

Hayes coached a style of football often described as "three yards and a cloud of dust." It relied on sound execution of fundamentals, strong and punishing defense, and relentless, conservative offense that eschewed passing. He and his assistants devoted long hours to preparation, and even in the off-season his mind was never far from football. Hayes likened the game to warfare and read military history to reinforce this viewpoint. He adopted George Patton as his hero and frequently referred to his naval experience for ways to solve problems. His intensely competitive attitude made many games memorable, especially when Ohio State played Michigan. Hayes refused to call the Michigan team anything but "that team up north," and his yearly battles against the Wolverine coach Glen "Bo" Schembechler, one of Hayes's protégés, for supremacy in the Big Ten transformed the conference for a while into the "Big Two and the Little Eight."

Hayes possessed a great deal of personal charm. He was a polished public speaker with a fine sense of humor. The Woody Hayes Show, a half-hour of live television that ran throughout his career, was required viewing for many Buckeye fans. More importantly Hayes was extremely loyal to his players and his assistant coaches, and he even titled the third of his three books You Win with People (1973). Stories about his devotion to those who played for him are legion, and many centered on his insistence that they earn a degree no matter how long it might take. While Hayes lived a modest life, he made sure his coaches were well paid. He worked them hard and trained them well. As a result eighteen of his forty-two assistants became head coaches. His affection for Ohio State University was unbounded. When student demonstrators forced the university to close in the wake of the National Guard shootings at Kent State in May 1970, Hayes prowled the campus, listening to the protesters' speeches and urging everyone to remain calm.

Hayes's inability to harness his own temper, though, proved his undoing. His career was marred by sporadic outbursts aimed at game officials and members of the media. When a Clemson linebacker intercepted a pass in front of the Ohio State bench to ensure a Buckeye loss in the 1978 Gator Bowl, Hayes lost control and punched the player in the face. The university fired him the next morning. Hayes's record at Ohio State over 28 years was 205–68–10, and his 241 victories overall ranked him third all-time when he was terminated. His teams won or shared thirteen Big Ten championships and appeared in eight Rose Bowls.

In retirement Hayes gradually came to terms with the reason for his dismissal and his mixed legacy. He continued to speak at athletic banquets and a variety of other functions, as he had throughout his career. He delivered the 1986 winter commencement address at Ohio State, during which he freely expressed his love for the university. He died at home of a heart attack, and is buried in Union Cemetery in Columbus.

Hayes wrote three books, Football at Ohio State (1957), Hot Line to Victory (1969), and You Win with People (1973). While most books on Hayes are quite laudatory, Paul Hornung, Woody Hayes: A Reflection (1991), is balanced; and Robert Vare, Buckeye: A Study of Coach Woody Hayes and the Ohio State Football Machine (1974), is even critical. An obituary is in The Sporting News (23 Mar. 1987).

Steven P. Gietschier

About this article

Hayes, Wayne Woodrow ("Woody")

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article