Jason Priestas's picture
February 14, 2012 at 2:51a


Appearing on his weekly television show during the 1955 season, Woody Hayes was discussing the troubles he had keeping players in school because football kept them too busy to hold meaningful jobs. Hayes then admitted that he often loaned small amounts of money to players that needed help. Oops.

Shortly thereafter, Sports Illustrated ran The Ohio State Story: Win or Else, highlighting the pressure Hayes faced in Columbus and the nature of Ohio State football as a "vast profit-making amusement enterprise with amateur dressing".

Robert Shaplen's exposé featured the "football tail is wagging the college dog" quote from a concerned professor and the requisite story of a star player flunking out, despite the assistance of four tutors. Thankfully, there were no stories of rigged charity raffles, but the piece did not paint Ohio State football in good light. Primarily because of this passage:

Once signed, a recruit can count on some financial help from Hayes if he is "in need." Woody insists that he never forks up for a luxury—another narrow line—but it's certainly also true that he makes sure he won't lose any valuable men by financial default.

Much like 2011, Buckeye fans took to 1955's Twitter to back their coach, but Ohio State had a problem.

Big Ten commissioner Kenneth "Tug" Wilson paid a visit to Columbus as part of a three-month investigation and Hayes admitted to lending about $400 a year to players in need of assistance. Wilson also discovered a "serious irregularity" in the off-campus work program provided to athletes.

The trouble was that in numerous instances the athletes seemed to have collected their wages in advance, without anybody notably concerned if they ever performed the work for which they had been paid. 

Sound familiar?

Unlike Jim Tressel, Hayes told the truth and escaped with his job, though his team received a one-year probationary sentence from the Western Conference, meaning they would be ineligible for the Rose Bowl should they win the conference in 1956.

Under this cloud, the Buckeyes would go on to start the 1956 season 6-1 with comfortable wins over Nebraska, Stanford and Wisconsin1, rising to #7 and setting up a showdown at #6 Iowa. The Hawkeyes, led by tackle Alex Karras scored the game's only touchdown in the 2nd half and emerged with a hard-fought 6-0 victory, locking up the school's first-ever postseason bowl and snapping Ohio State's 17-game conference winning streak.

The following week, the Buckeyes lost to Michigan 19-0 to finish the season 6-3, ranked 15th in the AP poll.

In 1957, the team's first post-probation season, Ohio State avenged the previous season's loss to Iowa, thumped Michigan 31-14 in Ann Arbor and wrapped things up with a 10-7 win over the Oregon Ducks in the Rose Bowl, securing the school's 3rd national championship.

This fall, we kick off 1956 all over again.

  • 1 The lone loss during this stretch was a 7-6 heartbreaker to Rip Engle's Penn State squad. In other news, Ohio State's out-of-conference schedule used to read: Nebraska, Stanford and Penn State.

Comments Show All Comments

TLB's picture

And that is where the hate from SI began.  Although it may have wavered a bit thru the  years, they are still largely anti Buckeye.

flipbuckeye's picture

Awesome. Shouldn't this be a "story" vs a blog post?

BED's picture

As usual, Flip is correct.

The Ohio State University, College of Arts & Sciences, Class of 2006
The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, Class of 2009

Jason Priestas's picture

Ha. Trying to reward our premium members. You know, the guys that check the sidebar.

hodge's picture

Great little piece, I'll raise my glass and toast our brethren of the past--it seems we share much in common!

Denny's picture

Aside from the fact that we have a new coach rather than an incumbent, I'd say your assessment is pretty on-point, Jason.

Now if only we could get rid of that damned Elvis Presley.


BoFuquel's picture

I was there kids, and I might believe we could repeat that wonderful time ,if we had Tress, but I ain't sold on this SEC-UFM guy.GO BUCKS! 

I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

VestedInterest's picture

Roots bofuquel...roots

Poison nuts's picture

Roots indeed...

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

BuckeyeChief's picture

You also have the time Woody paid the black players of the team out of his pocket because the white players on the team were getting paid more for the same job.

"2014 National Champions...deal with it!!!"

Joe Beale's picture

I suppose I should be ticked that Jason is pre-empting my flashback post for next year's Nebraska game, but then again probably no one will remember this post in October.  Nicely done.

Jason Priestas's picture

Joe, I just gave your entire flashback series for 2012 a theme, but I'm sure you already were heading in that direction.

Oh well, at least I tucked it in blog posts, so only 10% of the visitors will see it.

741's picture

Sweet, so we've been cheaters since way back.

TheMinnesotaBuckeye's picture

The funniest bogus job I've ever read about was basketball player Connie Hawkins when he was at Iowa. His job was to make sure that seaweed wasn't growing on the football field.


ArTbkward's picture

They say history repeats itself.

For fun I looked up 1956, that year:

We were 11 years removed from the end of WW2 (for reference, 9/11 was 11 years ago this year)  Around the World in 80 Days won Best Picture, Norma Jean legally became Marilyn, the Yankees beat the Brooklyn Dodgers in the World Series, the Giants won the NFL Championship Game and Elvis entered the music charts for the first time.  Alaska and Hawaii did not help re-elect Eisenhower because they weren't states yet.

I love these historical pieces, regardless of author.

We should strive to keep thy name, of fair repute and spotless fame...

(Also, I'm not a dude)

thaPriNcE614's picture

ditto, i love history my favorite subject