Woody Hayes and The Ohio State University


Joan Baxter



Every year The Ohio State University football fans look forward to another winning season.

This year is very different from previous years, but the team will soon be taking to the field to the delight of the fans.

A good team must have a good coach, and those in recent history have proven again and again that they can bring the team to victory.

There was coach a few years ago who also made history with the Buckeyes. That coach was Wayne Woodrow Hayes, better known to the fans as “Woody.” He served as head coach from 1951-1978.

Did you know he was born in Greene County?

Woody’s father, Wayne Benton Hayes, served as Superintendent of the Clifton School from 1912 to 1916. Woody was born in a house on Jackson Street on Feb. 14, 1913.

Wayne Hayes accepted a position as superintendent of the Newcomerstown Schools in Coshocton County in 1916. He continued to serve in that position until his death in 1929. Woody graduated from Newcomerstown High School in 1931 and went on to Denison University, graduating in 1935.

Woody’s father purchased a radio while Woody was in high school. The young man was especially excited because the purchase came in time for him to listen to the Rose Bowl game. He told the following story: “I went down to the planning mill in town and got a long board. I got a piece of cardboard and I tacked it on this board and then drew a football field on the board. Then I started to chart the football game, which I did my entire life.”

His first coaching position was as an assistant at Mingo Junction High School in 1935. He went on to coach at New Philadelphia from 1936-1940. He took a break from coaching while he served in the United States Navy during World War II.

His first assignment as head coach at a university was Denison in 1946. He remained with Denison three years. In 1949 he was named head coach at Miami University and in 1951 The Ohio State University offered him the position of head coach.

Under his direction the Buckeyes won five national titles (narrowly missing out on four others). The team won 205 games and won the Big Ten Title a total of 13 times. On two different occasions, the Buckeyes won a conference record of 17 straight league games. At the time of his death, he was listed as the fifth winningest coach in college football with an amazing record of 238-72-10 in his 30 seasons of coaching.

According to information from The Ohio State University, the Buckeyes played 11 bowl games including eight Rose Bowls. The Ohio State University team was the only Big Ten team which played in four consecutive Rose Bowls, 1972, 73, 74 and 75.

When Woody died George Chaump, who had served as assistant coach make the following statement: “Woody was a unique man. He was such a tough demanding individual at times that you almost hated him. Yet he loved his players and coaches so much he’d do anything for them. He never forgot a player or a coach and always kept in touch with them no matter where they went.”

He was fanatic about education and determined that his players should have a good education in addition to their role on the playing field.

He did have a temper and when in 1978 his team was losing to Clemson at the Gator Bowl, he struck a Clemson player after the he intercepted an Ohio State pass in the closing minutes of a 17-15 loss. This was unfortunately caught on national television. He had been previously reprimanded for his temper on several occasions and had been placed on probation by the university on two occasions. This time his temper cost him his job.

In 1983, he was enshrined in the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame and honored in the Ohio Stadium where he dotted the “I” in the band’s famed script Ohio. Later the road in front of the Ohio Stadium was named Woody Hayes Drive.

He felt honored when he was invited to be the guest speaker during a Clifton Union School reunion shortly before the school closed in 1962. He was delighted to visit the school where his father has spent many years.

He spoke for various groups in Greene County from time to time, regaling the audience with his ability to talk about most anything including football.

He suffered a stroke in 1985 and his health continued to deteriorate. He suffered two heart attaches before he finally succumbed on March 12, 1987 at the age of 74.

Tributes were offered from United States presidents, former players, other coaches, and many others who had known him during his long career.

At the time of his death, Gov. Richard Celeste ordered all state flags flown at half-mast and gave this tribute: “I was deeply sadden to learn of the death of Woody Hayes. He was a great coach and a strong individual. Over the years Woody Hayes gave Ohioans many occasions on which we could be proud — proud of ourselves, proud of our state.”

He was alternately loved and hated by his players, but in the long run, they adored him and would welcome his advice on the field and off.

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Joan Baxter

Joan Baxter is a Greene County historian and resident.

Joan Baxter is a Greene County historian and resident.