Woody Hayes Remains College Football's Most Complex Yet Underappreciated Subject

February 14, 2013 at 10:52a    by Vico    

My favorite excerpt:

So the story goes ... Hayes took his team to play Illinois in 1970. During the trip he asked them: "What would you be doing in Columbus on a Friday before game day?" Several Buckeyes answered they'd be in class. Woody agreed, so he instructed all of his players to split up and attend a lecture on Champaign's campus that Friday. Hayes took stars Jim Stillwagon and Rex Kern with him. They didn't know what type of class it was until they sat down at the front of the class. Hayes apologized to the chemistry professor for the disturbance then started taking notes. Midway into the lecture, the professor offered his theorem on the board. Hayes raised his hand and soon the professor called on him. "Sorry to bother you, but I think your theorem is off a little, professor." Stunned, the professor stood back and took another look at his work on the board. He then grabbed an eraser, removed a numeral from the theorem and replied, "Thank you, coach Hayes."



81Alum's picture

Speaks to the character of the man. Woody was special.

bedheadjc's picture

My father played for Woody in the 60's. Loved him to death. When Woody heard that my Dad's folks couldn't afford a formal coat, tie, and overcoat he brought my father some hand-me-downs. My father was recruited as a guard, but suffered from so many concussions in practice that they wouldn't let him continue. Woody adamantly kept him on scholarship. My Dad asked if there was anything he could do for the team; be an assistant or something. Woody said, "We need a kicker. Can you kick?". My father had never tried it. Woody gave him a bag of balls, kicking shoes,and a tee and sent him home for the summer. Dad ended up setting two Big Ten records and was the last straight-on kicker at OSU. At 6'2" 270. Dad loved Woody.
Also, his favorite Woody story was how he and the rest of the team were awed by Woody's strength. Hayes would get so mad in practice that he'd rip off his hat and tear the brim off in frustration, with plenty of yelling and grunts of effort. Dad found out during his second year that Woody had the equipment manager slit some of the stitching on the brim of his hats with a razorblade to make the stunt easier. :)

Bolt's picture

That's an awesome story with your father and coach Hayes!

BED's picture


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

Dougger's picture


I like football

JollyFatMan's picture

Amazing man who I wish I could have met. Go Bucks!

How firm thy friendship..

hodge's picture

Fantastic article, makes me sad that I was born two years after his passing.  What I would have given just to have heard him speak...

ab42beerman's picture

Great article.  Unfortunately, I know a few folks (not OSU fans) who immediately bring up "the punch" as well and have absolutely no clue what kind of a man he was.  Ignorance is still bliss to some people.

ATLBuckeye09's picture

I to know those people. I grew up in tsun. I know many like that and my response is always the same. I educate them on what he selflessly did for mankind and then I remind them withouth Woody scUM NEVER HAS BO! It shuts them down!

Because they wouldn't let me go for 3!
Woody Hayes 1913-1987

Devin1024's picture

I have read so many stories like those in this article and I love every one of them!  What a great bit of writing for a great man on his birthday!

jfunk's picture

Not crying... It's just dusty in here.

Scotch: It may be too early to drink it, yes; but people it is never to early to think about it.

Doc's picture

Pigeon holing Woody Hayes as just a football coach is an insult to mankind.  Woody was a special human being.  These stories about him today make me even prouder to be a Buckeye(if that is at all possible).

I'm hiding baby and I'm dreaming
I'm riding down your moonlight mile

Maestro's picture

Nice read.  What a man.

vacuuming sucks

Buckeyeneer's picture

Fantastic read. I want to go buy a Woody Hayes book now. What do you guys recommend?

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

THE Ohio State University

Maestro's picture

War As They Knew It by Michael Rosenberg is one of my favorites.

vacuuming sucks

Buckeye Chuck's picture

I'm not sure it's possible to go wrong with any book where Woody is the subject. Whatever you thought of him--and I'm probably more ambivalent than the average Buckeye--the man was undeniably fascinating. It's a measure of how many "legends" about him are actually true that the turtle story was ever taken at face value.

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

fansince1968's picture

"1968: The Year That Saved Ohio State Football"  by David Hyde is great also.

45has2's picture

One of my favorite Woody lines was a response to faculty that though football was too important on campus. "I can do your job, but you can't do mine."

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

fitter776's picture

Excellent story. Loved Coach Hayes and Buckey football. Was at the Shoe the day Woody was honored by dotting the i. The stadium rocked.


cajunbuckeye's picture

Woody possessed the strength of character and moral fiber that one only sees in very few men today. He believed it, lived it, and passed it on to those that were fortunate enough to call him Coach or friend. Thank you, Woody; for blessing so many with your passion for not only football, but life as well.

An angry fan...rooting for an angry team...led by angry coaches

allbucksallthetime's picture

One of the greatest attributes about Coach Hayes that few seem to know about outside the great state of Ohio was how selfless a man he was.  Though times were certainly different when he was active on the sidelines, imagine a coach in this day and age giving himself so willingly to others in need and NOT either wanting the PR benefits of it or an increase in pay. 
Coach Hayes represented what's best about Buckeye football.  I was hooked on Buckeye football as a boy, listening to Buckeye games on the radio on Saturdays with my father.  Coach Hayes was larger than life.  Those times, and that era, will always be special to me.  
My favorite sports quote ever came from Coach Hayes.  "Because we couldn't go for three."  My disdain for scUM grew exponentially the next year when OSU was not able to repeat as champions.  As always, Go Bucks! 

CowCat's picture

My dad (OSU math professor) met Woody at the counter of the donut shop on high street.  Woody was there preparing to write a book drawing analogies between football and points in military history.
They chatted for a while.  Our family being from Russia (not an easy topic prior to 1991), the discussion turned to the battle of Stalingrad, which Woody likened to the goal line stand.  My dad was eternally impressed by how gracious, humble, knowledgeable, intelligent and down-to-earth Woody was.
In my case, Woody spoke at my high school (Upper Arlington) in a wheelchair, not long before he died.  His condition didn't matter.  He had the whole auditorium on its feet, optimistic, cheering, ready to do great things in life.
RIP Coach Hayes. We owe a lot to you.

"We get paid to score touchdowns, not kick field goals"
-- Urban Meyer

Buckeyeneer's picture

Nice. I can't even remember who spoke at my graduation in high school. Or at OSU for that matter.

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

THE Ohio State University

CowCat's picture

I'm in the same boat as you -- I can't remember the speakers at either of my graduations. 
But I will always remember Woody speaking to my high school (not graduation).  He was one of those rare spirits that you will ever see in your lifetime.  Every kid there knew it.
If you measure objectively a coaches record, national championships, longevity, winning record, development of players, education of players,  national presence,  impact on a school's bottom line, personal conduct, care for acedemics, care for people, selflessness ...
Combining those criteria I think Woody Hayes was the best coach in college football history.   He performed at that level ...  for that long ... and did that much.   Paterno and Bowden don't hold a candle to Woody.

"We get paid to score touchdowns, not kick field goals"
-- Urban Meyer

buckeyestu's picture

What a great story, woody was an awesome human being, makes me a bit sad i never got to meet him.

73buckeye's picture

A really good Yahoo article about a great man on and off the field. Also read the comments after the article. Most were complimentary of Woody, but a few guys just couldn't help themselves from being a..holes (must be a permanent condition with some). I'll never understand what causes  people like this to think anyone else cares about their opinion.