"The Punch" from a Clemson Perspective

By Vico on December 12, 2013 at 2:30p
Woody Hayes punches Charlie Bauman

The 2014 Orange Bowl will feature the Clemson Tigers and Ohio State Buckeyes in only their second encounter ever. It is what happened in the two teams' only encounter that will dominate much of the conversation, and b-roll, leading to kickoff of the game in Miami. This game was the infamous 1978 Gator Bowl, in which newly anointed Clemson coach Danny Ford defeated Woody Hayes' Buckeyes, 17-15.

It was the aftermath of this otherwise ordinary game that made it last in college football lore. Charlie Bauman, a linebacker for Clemson, intercepted a pass from freshman Ohio State quarterback Art Schlichter to seal the game for the Tigers. After running out of bounds with the ball to the Ohio State sideline, Bauman triumphantly raised his hands to the predominantly pro-Clemson crowd in attendance in Jacksonville. An irate Woody Hayes lost control of his emotions and swung at Bauman underneath his facemask in a manner so precise it unfortunately demonstrated experience with the practice. A brief melee followed, with Hayes even shoving his own players, like Ken Fritz.

Caught on national television, and noticed immediately by Keith Jackson and Ara Parseghian, it proved to the be the last straw for Woody Hayes' tenure at Ohio State. After refusing to apologize for his actions, the legendary coach at Ohio State for 28 years was fired.

With that in mind, "the punch" may have actually meant more for Clemson than it did for Ohio State.

That is not to discount how crushing it was for Ohio State. Randy Gradishar, Woody Hayes' best ever linebacker, recounted the horror he felt in watching the game live with friend and teammate Tom Jackson, a former Louisville Cardinal, Cleveland native, and Ohio State sympathizer.

Randy Gradishar watched the 1978 Gator Bowl in a Pittsburgh hotel room with Denver Bronco teammate Tom Jackson.

Gradishar was an All-American at Ohio State in the 1970s and one of Hayes' favorite players.

When Hayes lunged at Bauman, Gradishar looked at Jackson.

"I said to Tommy, 'Woody's gone, Woody's done, that's the last straw,' " Gradishar said. "I felt real bad, not for me, but for Woody and the legacy he built, to go out that way...."

The incident may have resonated stronger with Woody Hayes' former players than it did for Ohio State fans. Much of Gradishar's comments that followed, elaborating on the 1978 Gator Bowl, bemoaned how difficult it was for Hayes to leave the program the way he did and how difficult it was for Gradishar to see Hayes years after that infamous incident.

Gradishar seems to echo Tom Skladany's saying of Hayes that his players were afraid of him as freshmen, hated him as a sophomore, liked him as a junior, and loved him as a senior. Much of the anguish regarding the 1978 Gator Bowl may fall on Hayes' former players who may be in attendance for the 2014 rematch between both programs. They saw both Hayes' madness and the method that underpinned it and supported them.

For general Ohio State fans, and certainly the younger ones, I'm unconvinced how much this incident either defined their Ohio State fandom in the 1970s, or how much it may shape their understanding of Ohio State's football legacy now. Though what follows is strictly anecdotal, no Ohio State fan I've met or know personally who came of age with Ohio State football during the "Ten Year War" mentions the 1978 Gator Bowl as the lowest moment of their fandom.

Games and events that typically get the blood boiling include the 1969 game against Michigan, in which Woody Hayes' self-professed best team ever was upset in Ann Arbor and denied a Rose Bowl bid. The 1975 Rose Bowl loss to USC came in a critical scenario where a win against the Trojans could've secured a national championship for the Buckeyes  after an Alabama loss to Notre Dame in the 1975 Orange Bowl. Neal Colzie's monumental error of judgment may have proved fatal.

Further, the 1976 Rose Bowl is one that formally cost players like Brian Baschnagel, Cornelius Greene, Archie Griffin, and Ken Kuhn a national championship in a four-year career that featured only two regular season losses. Perhaps the understated low moment of the decade was the infamous game against Oklahoma in 1977. For what it's worth, my dad (Class of 1978) quipped to me that leaving Ohio Stadium after this game was the closest he came to a homicide, which is saying something, given his rough upbringing. He still begrudges Oklahoma and Barry Switzer to this day. He's not the only Buckeye fan I know who feels that way about that game either.

From an Ohio State fan's perspective, did the 1978 Gator Bowl actualize what was already a fait accompli? Looking back ten years, Woody Hayes' 1968 renaissance came at a time when Ohio State fans had already questioned Hayes' credentials. If the 1968 season did not happen, Hayes may not have made it to 1970. Hayes' tenure in Columbus was far from unblemished. The 1976 season, in which the no. 2 Buckeyes lost at home to Missouri in Week 3, and were later blanked at home by Michigan, 22-0, may have signaled that Hayes' second wind had been exhausted even in a season that featured injuries to key players like Rod Gerald and Pete Johnson.

The 1976 season was followed by a 1977 season in which Ohio State lost to Oklahoma, lost at Michigan, and was so decisively demolished in the Sugar Bowl by Alabama so as to demonstrate that the Ohio State football program was falling behind the national powers, like Alabama and Michigan.

The 1978 season may have sealed Woody Hayes' fate well before the Gator Bowl. Older Ohio State fans may remember that Hayes was in an intense recruiting battle with Bo Schembechler and Joe Paterno for the services of Art Schlichter, arguably the highest rated Ohio State quarterback prospect ever before Terrelle Pryor in 2008. Much has been said of the recruitment of Schlichter and how it was handled by the coaches involved, as well as Schlichter's father. One of the promises Schlichter and his father were wanting regarded playing time. Schlichter felt he should start as a true freshman. Schembechler balked because of what he had in Rick Leach. Paterno cooled because of the commodity he had in Chuck Fusina.

Hayes had a two-year starting quarterback in Rod Gerald returning as a senior. Nevertheless, Hayes said "sure" and Schlichter signed with Ohio State. In an infamous moment, Woody Hayes sent both Schlichter and Gerald in the huddle to start the team's first offensive drive of the season at home against Penn State. Amid considerable anticipation, fans in attendance learned that Gerald was moved to wide receiver and Schlichter had got his wish to start at quarterback.

It proved disastrous. Ohio State was shut out, 19-0, in its last home-opening loss to date. Ohio State later tied Southern Methodist and lost at Purdue and in Ohio Stadium to Michigan to miss on its first conference championship since 1971. Hence, Ohio State went to the Gator Bowl to play Clemson in lieu of a higher profile game like the Orange Bowl or Sugar Bowl.

From this perspective, what was important about "the punch" that would not have manifested sooner rather than later? Hayes, 65 at the time, may have been in the twilight of his career. Punching Charlie Bauman underneath Bauman's facemask may have actualized what Ohio State fans would have been wanting in just a few years' time.

When "the punch" invariably enters into the conversation, both in pre-game and during the telecast of the 2014 Orange Bowl itself, it will be mentioned as a significant blow for Ohio State football. After all, it led to the dismissal of an iconic 28-year head coach with four national championships. However, Hayes remained at the university in an academic and administrative role. Ohio State football said goodbye to Woody Hayes (at least, on the field). The Ohio State University did not.

You will probably not hear what "the punch" meant for Clemson football. It meant much more for Clemson in the broad scheme of things than it did for Ohio State.

Danny Ford, who is probably dipping in this photo.

For those unaware, this is the first game that Danny Ford coached for the Clemson Tigers. The Clemson coach for the season was Charley Pell, who left Clemson at the end of the regular season for a job with the Florida Gators, then a college football backwater. Ford, a Bear Bryant protégé from Alabama, was promoted from offensive line coach to full time head coach for his debut against Woody Hayes in the Gator Bowl. Though Clemson was favored in this contest, he brought home the win. He started his tenure with Clemson on the right foot.

It turns out he needed it too. What followed in 1979 and 1980 were not the best seasons for Clemson football. Clemson finished the 1979 season with an 8-4 record, losing to Baylor in the Peach Bowl. The 1980 season proved to be an even bigger disaster. Clemson narrowly lost in Athens to the eventual national champion Georgia Bulldogs. However, it picked up four conference losses to programs like Duke, North Carolina State, North Carolina, and Maryland. Though it was only his second year as a head coach, Ford found himself on the hot seat entering the season finale in Clemson against South Carolina. His youth (he was only 32 at the time) made it a serious discussion.

Under pressure, Clemson came out firing against the no. 19 Gamecocks, which was led by eventual Heisman winner, George Rogers. Clemson won handily, 27-6, putting to rest any questions of Ford's job security. While the victory against the favored Gamecocks may have saved Ford's job, his opening salvo in the Gator Bowl may have made it at least an open question. Failing the ability to beat a fairly limp Ohio State team in a contest in which it is favored, and get its legendary head coach fired, would the win against South Carolina have mattered as much? Would he have already been fired? Clemson finished the season without a bowl game.

Nonetheless, Ford returned to the sidelines in Clemson and made history the following season. Beginning the season unranked, Clemson won its first two contests against Wofford and Tulane before hosting the defending national champion Georgia Bulldogs. Clemson defeated the no. 4 Bulldogs 13-3, shutting down the vaunted rushing attack led by Herschel Walker. Clemson won its next eight games, including a convincing 29-13 win over South Carolina in Williams-Brice Stadium.

Undefeated and ranked no. 4 in the country, Clemson was invited to the Orange Bowl to play the no. 1 Nebraska Cornhuskers. Clemson won 22-15, securing both the Associated Press and United Press International national championship selections. It is, to date, Clemson's only national championship and a significant source of pride among Tiger fans, no matter how dated it may seem now.

Though Danny Ford never won a national championship again, he used the 1981 season to solidify Clemson as one of the best college football programs of the 1980s. Clemson won four ACC championships in the next eight seasons. It won at least nine games in five of those eight seasons. Bowl wins include Citrus Bowl victories over programs like Penn State and Oklahoma. If not for the Miami Hurricanes being the program of the 1980s, Clemson's excellence during this time among peers like Oklahoma and Penn State (which it defeated in bowl games) may be better understood nationally. Clemson fans certainly understand it this way.

Though Ford's accolades during this period rest on his own merits (as well as gains achieved through numerous recruiting violations, which played a role in his eventual resignation in January 1990), "the punch" is where it started. Ohio State fans may bemoan, and college football pundits may remember, Charlie Bauman getting punched by Woody Hayes as the end of an era for Ohio State football. More importantly, it was the start of an era at Clemson and one that is still fondly remembered by Clemson fans to this day. Clemson fans are still chasing the 1980s and Danny Ford's shadow looms large in Death Valley.

Both fan bases will get to revisit "the punch" in the weeks leading to kickoff in Miami. We should not be surprised that the smiles in recollection of the 1978 Gator Bowl will come from the Clemson fans, but do know their smiles are more than schadenfreude. It meant more for their program than it did for Ohio State.


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wyatt's picture

Surprising we haven't played Clemson since the Woody Hayes incident. 

Barnsey69's picture

Never knew alot of that, very interesting (I love history), thank you for sharing.

Thank the Maker that I was born in Ohio, cradle of coaches, US Presidents, confederate-stomping Generals, and home of The Ohio State University Football Buckeyes- 2014 UNDISPUTED National Champions!

iball's picture

I will be in attendance for the Orange Bowl this year and i plan to punch every Clemson fan I see directly in the throat strictly as a way to honor the 1978 meeting.
I do not expect anyone to object to my actions.

“There’s one thing I have learned through all my adventures and conquests - it’s that some people are just wired for success. I had no choice when it came to being great - I just am great.” – Kenny Powers

ABrown07's picture

I will not be in attendance but please know I will be cheering you on from the comfort of my couch...

I don't like nice people. I like tough, honest people.

-Woody Hayes

Buckeye Chuck's picture

Caught on national television, and noticed immediately by Keith Jackson and Ara Parseghian, it proved to the be the last straw for Woody Hayes' tenure at Ohio State.

My memory is a little different: that Jackson saw the subsequent melee on the sidelines, but hadn't seen what set it off and never called attention to the punch -- which was strange, since in real time it was obvious what had happened; you couldn't really mistake Woody for anyone else. Jackson took some heat from viewers and media critics who assumed he was covering up for Woody, which he has always denied.

The most "loud mouth, disrespect" poster on 11W.

TatumRuled's picture

I was watching the YouTube video of it earlier, and both Keith and Ara seemed to be at a total loss of what triggered the fight.

"Hell, Woody didn't recruit me; he recruited my mother!" -Jack Tatum                       

Hasbro's picture

"Punching Charlie Bauman underneath Bauman's facemask may have actualized what Ohio State fans would have been wanting in just a few years' time."
I was only 14 at the time, but I remember feeling a sense of relief that Woody's time would come to an end. I feel terrible saying that, but his legacy was unraveling and I was happy that it came to a quick, cold end, as opposed to a long, painful process.

ShowThemOhiosHere's picture

So the Clemson guy that uppercut that guy from NC State learned that maneuver from watching the Gator Bowl, then?  I figured he watched a lot of Kane WWE matches.

Class of 2010.

Blackbeards Delight's picture

Ohioans have long been known for handling disputes with the uppercut. Known as the Bourbon of punches, this a few of the best. Warren G Harding (read 1,000,000 Presidential Power Parlay), Woody (see reconstructed jaw of Charlie Bauman), Buster Douglas (turned Mike Tyson into a cannibal), and the greatest of all uppercuts. The pride of Ohio, Cleveland's very own former RTA bus driver, turned mixed martial artist, the peoples champ, Artis Hughes!

"Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve 23yr, it's what's for breakfast"

- Me


Hovenaut's picture

Some good insight on Woody's final years. Much too young at the time to really remember, looking back I just recall most of my older relatives spoke of Woody and his teams from the late 60's into the mid 70's.
Nobody spoke of his last three teams, and definitely not of the '78 Gator Bowl or the punch - I knew it had happened, as I learned how and why Woody was dismissed, but I suppose my family was just in shock and denial over it.....wanting to remember Woody for the good times I guess.  
Didn't know of the recruiting battle over Schlichter, my how things may have been different in a variety of accounts had he went elsewhere.
I do remember Clemson winning in '81, and honestly not knowing anything about them other than UVA (living in Virginia by that time) had like a 30 some odd year losing streak against them.
Pretty wild to see the Buckeyes and Tigers cross paths again after all this time.

45has2's picture

Like almost every other Buckeye coach and just as JT prophesized about himself, he didn't leave on his own terms. Woody hated to lose and released his frustrations on hats, watches, yard markers and finally.....an opposing player. It was Woody being Woody and probably inevitable. His Ohio Stadium return to dot the i was every bit as raucous as last season's return of JT. The Buckeye Faithful love a winner and will not tolerate a loser. How will UFM leave, old age home or paddy wagon?

"I don't like nice people. I like tough, honest people." -W.W. Hayes

Bucksfan's picture

It has only been 4 days into the matchup with Clemson, and I'm already like


KLF Buckeye's picture

This is why I love 11W. You just can't get stories like this anywhere else. Thanks VICO.

Buckeyeneer's picture

What's the over/under on how many times we hear media members refer to Ohio State "punching" their ticket to the Orange Bowl in the build up to the game?

"Because the rules won't let you go for three." - Woody Hayes

THE Ohio State University

TatumRuled's picture

It'll make a great drinking game.

"Hell, Woody didn't recruit me; he recruited my mother!" -Jack Tatum                       

doodah_man's picture

As one of the "Older" participants in 11W, let me add some additional perspective to this.
First, I truly felt the pain of the Penn State fans when Joe Pa was fired. Woody was hired on February 18, 1951. I was born December 18, 1951. I attended elementary school, middle school, high school, college, and was three years into an Air Force career when Woody was fired. Woody was the coach, period. None of this "pay you 3 million, what have you done for me lately, and you are gone in three years" BS we see now. Plus, you couldn't live in Columbus, OH without seeing the good things that Woody did. After Woody, it was like looking into an abyss.
Woody's behaviour was progressively getting more combative and the press played on that. It was like "what can we do to set Woody off" rather than reporting on his good deeds. Also, he alienated himself by coming down on the side of his friend Richard Nixon and, almost to the bitter end, the Viet Nam War. By the time of the Gator Bowl, I can assure you that just about everyone saw it coming.
Ok, here is the weird part. Take it for what it is worth. When I went through pilot training in 1979-1980, there was another student there named Mark Cromer. He was an ROTC student out of Clemson. We rarely talked about the Clemson/OSU mix-up. But, one time, during a down day, he said he had some inside info on Charlie Bauman. First, he said that he personally knew Charlie. He said that Charlie wasn't even aware that Woody threw the punch (adrenaline and all that, plus, he was a kid in football equipment). I might mention, Woody, as well as other coaches at that time were fond of taking a swing at a 6'6", fully padded player, and didn't think anything of it. Doesn't make it better. But, back to my story. When Woody called, he was flabbergasted. He really wasn't sure what the problem was. He said that Woody was contrite and soft spoken and that he really respected what he did (as far as the call). Like I said, take it for what it is worth marinated by 30 years of Jack Daniels and age. 

Jim "DooDah" Day

"If I were giving a young man advice as to how he might succeed in life, I would say to him, pick out a good father and mother, and begin life in Ohio.” --Wilbur Wright, 1910

SaudiBuckeye's picture

Among my "low point" football memories while attending tOSU during the latter part of the Ten Year War were those you highlighted: 1975 and 1976 Rose Bowl losses, the losses to Oklahoma and Alabama. However, I can't make up my mind which was worse.
Losing to a UCLA team that we had soundly beat earlier in the season and missing out on the NC was a heartbreaker.
And I faintly recall the Oklahoma game was not a clean one - yes Barry Switser's Sooners would never be considered for any fair play awards. But I clearly remember while sitting - correction standing - in C deck section 9 and watching a 50+ yd FG by a barefooted kicker as time expired. That was devastating as we were clearly the better team. After that game it seemed that the team was not the same for the rest of the season.

Todd-Not Boeckmann's picture

To show you how old I am, 1978 was my first season as a season ticket holder.  There were a couple of things that led to the decline of Ohio State football in those last couple years of Woody's reign. First there was a lot of infighting with the assistant coaches, especially Bill Young, who were jockeying for the inside position to replace "the old man".  Woody's health was also deteriorating significantly that last year. I was told by a player on that team, that he was in a virtual diabetic coma standing on the sidelines during the game.  There was speculation that he had a nervous breakdown on the sidelines from all the pressure which caused him to swing at Bauman.  
I disagree with the premise that Woody's job was in danger in 1978. Before Woody got there, Columbus was known as the graveyard of coaches. And as we've even seen already with a coach that has gone 24-1,there are always complainers.  The general consensus was that what he had earned going out on his own terms. And there was a lot of anger when he was not given the opportunity to resign but was fired instead. It was after-the-fact spinning that said he refused to resign. Hugh Hindman did not give him the opportunity to resign. Woody told me that himself.

On the wall guarding the North Coast from all Weasel invasions.

Poison nuts's picture

Woody told me that himself.


"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

Todd-Not Boeckmann's picture

Woody and Grandma Buckeye were tight.

On the wall guarding the North Coast from all Weasel invasions.

Todd-Not Boeckmann's picture

My father went to his grave in 2007 feeling that the Oklahoma game in 1977 was his low point as a fan.  What people may have forgotten about that Oklahoma game, was that in order to hit the game-winning field goal Oklahoma had to recover an onside kick.  Uwe  von Schaman executed the kick by kicking it hard right at a third string QB named Mike Strahine (Lakewood HS Athletic Hall of Fame).  The kick went right through his legs. Oklahoma recovered and kick the game-winning field goal. My father never forgave Mike Strahine.
My top 3 lowest points from that era:
1- November 22, 1969; a day that will live in infamy. That was the sign my mom, Grandma Buckeye, had hanging in our den. That was my first road trip as a kid. And my revelation on how important that game was.  We stopped for dinner at Miller's restaurant in Toledo on our way home. I had to use the bathroom which meant I had to walk through the bar. It was dark, the USC UCLA game was on TV, and every Ohio State fan at the bar was crying. A real revelation for this 12-year-old.  
2-January 1, 1976. 30 minutes of hell in the Rose Bowl courtesy of Wendell Tyler. Ohio State had demolished UCLA during the regular season. But Wendell ran wild in the second half, and cost Ohio State a national championship.  It was fairly common knowledge, that if Woody had won that national championship, he would've retired on top; and the punch would've never happened.
3-1974 in East Lansing Michigan. Levi Jackson goes 80 yards down the near sideline to upset Ohio State. Ohio State did score with champ Henson in the waning seconds, but the referees marked him down short and then all hell broke loose. Ohio State tried to run a play, there was a penalty which would've ended the game anyways but Archie scored on the play. The referees took a half hour to decide whether Ohio State scored or not. Proof that poor officiating in the Big Ten existed long before many of you were born. While they decided who won the game, 10,000 Michigan State students did a war dance around the officials in a huddle on the goal line. There was only one way for them to get out of there alive and they took it-ruling that Ohio State lost.

On the wall guarding the North Coast from all Weasel invasions.

BuckeyeMark's picture

Can remember running into the next room to tell my dad Woody hit a player.  He said "He'll be fired by morning."  And he was right.  Yet I've always thought the losses to scUM had a lot more to do with the dismissal then the punch.

bucksfan92's picture

I was 7 years old when "the punch" happened. It is probably my first clear memory of OSU football. My dad always had a bowl party and I remember very little of the ones before this one, and really only remember the punch from this game.  I remember someone there said "that's it Woody's gone".  I asked what he meant, and he said OSU will fire Woody for that.  I didn't understand that.  I mean he was Woody Hayes - he doesn't have a boss!! I remember being shocked when I woke up the next morning and hear he had really been fired.
I think Woody was hoping for one more National Title.  While I don't remember the 1976 Rose Bowl, it does seem like he would have retired on top had they won.  He knew he had a monster team coming back in 1979 - remember Earle Bruce's first year we came within 1 point, and a controversial USC score if I remember right, of winning that title.  Had Woody been able to get to 1979 and win that 1980 RB and the National Title, he certainly would have left on top.

Poison nuts's picture

I watched the 78 Gator Bowl with an incredibly nice elderly woman who would watch me while my mom worked. We lived in Westerville. I was 8. She started crying when it happened. I asked her what was wrong & she told me Woody Hayes was no longer going to be the coach at Ohio State & that it was a very sad time. Not my earliest memory of OSU football but one of the it was when I realized just how much he meant to people in Columbus & beyond.

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

Scott K's picture

i was also just a kid of 7, and remember clearly my mom and dad (season ticket holders since 66)  both saying Woody was done.

"There's a fine line between stupid, and....clever.  David St. Hubbins/Nigel Tufnel

TennesseeBuckeye's picture

I remember I was looking forward to the season with Rod Gerald starting didn't turn out that way. Art got the start and PSU killed us if I remember right 19-0. The only other thing I remember from the Gator Bowl were those damn Clemson cheerleaders, "Push em back, push em back way back. When Woody threw the punch, knew it was over.

I may not be able to outsmart too many people, but I can outwork 'em.
Woody Hayes