Scarred, Ohio State begins again. Done in by his own ugly temper, Woody Hayes is in exile. Earle Bruce now occupies the office in the St. John Arena that Hayes held like a fortress for 28 years, inviolable and forbidding. By contrast, Bruce opens the door willingly to the stream of people and problems that go with managing one of the nation's most successful ($5.5 million annual revenue) football factories. Access is something new at Ohio State. One day last week, as he prepared for the opening of spring practice, Bruce ushered in a visiting writer from New York just as one from Los Angeles exited, their paths momentarily clogging his threshold. Bruce said it had been that way every day he had been in town. America, presumably, will now discover Columbus.
The office itself is surprisingly small and plain, undecorated save for two wide-angle pictures of those Ohio State crowds of 83,112 attracted by Hayes' remarkable record (205-61-10). There has been no time to redecorate, says Bruce. He has been working without time off, "except for one day when I had the flu." He has been recruiting—21 signees from Ohio alone, a number of them highly coveted—and making speeches in such hotbeds of Buckeye loyalty as Marietta, Massillon and Zanesville. Bruce was a high school coach at Massillon, twice going undefeated there.
On this day the furnace was malfunctioning, and the office was stifling. Bruce obligingly opened a section of the window. He said he hadn't noticed how hot it was. As for how hot it might get, he said the Ohio State job was one "any coach in his right mind would want," and he did not think that following Hayes was "a negative thing." Comparisons, he said, were inevitable, but "they don't worry me."
The two men are not strangers. Although he was a member of the Buckeye football team (1949-51), Bruce never played for Hayes, because of injuries. He did coach as an assistant under Woody (1966-71) before going off to make his reputation in other places, most recently at Iowa State. Bruce is his predecessor's antithesis. If Woody Hayes was accurately characterized as a grizzly bear, Earle Bruce is a teddy—roundish and frayed looking, as if handled fondly but a lot. The despair of tailors, he is a dumpy 5'9", his shirttail perpetually protruding from his pants. But his eyes dance with fire, and friends say he can tell a joke even under pressure, also a new sensation.
Some of that fire Bruce obliquely credits to Hayes. Eleven years ago he was going to quit coaching because of Hayes, "go into the fast-food business, open a pizza parlor, anything." He says Woody was on him all the time that spring, more than on any of the other assistants. "It was my year to be picked on, I guess, and I hated it." He remembers the experience without rancor—smiling, in fact, in the retelling of it—and presents it neither as a tribute to Hayes nor a condemnation. Somehow, it serves as both, and is perhaps more revealing than Bruce intends.
It is now three months since the "Punch Bowl" in Jacksonville. The facts are well known. In a final paroxysm of frustration over a season of intercepted passes, Hayes hit a Clemson player who had just picked off a last-ditch Art Schlichter pass, assuring Ohio State's Gator Bowl defeat. Burying Caesar was a traumatic undertaking. And the undertaker, Ohio State Athletic Director Hugh Hindman, admits to receiving telephone calls and hate mail. Hayes, at the time, "threatened me," Hindman says, but did not follow through. They no longer speak.
Like Dempsey after Tunney, in disgrace and defeat Hayes has become more beloved than ever by his steadfast backers. Testimonials have been held in his honor; 450 former players and 50 coaches attended one in Columbus, and even his archrival, Bo Schembechler of Michigan, got up to do him honor at a banquet in Dayton. There is a move afoot to have the Ohio State stadium renamed in Hayes' honor.
Consistent with this and the many ironies of a grimly ironic case, Hayes' Elba is no more than a stone's throw away from his old office—in fact, two doors away in the ROTC building. Supplied by the university as a concession to his years of service, it is roomy, handsome and thickly carpeted. In its outer office is a secretary named Betty Garrett, who is also a free-lance writer. Hayes needs her to help "polish" the 600 pages he has written for a book relating football to history, and to help him conduct the business of being an exile in demand. His schedule is heavy with speaking engagements and he is to have a film made of his life.
On the same day that Bruce was entertaining visitors with his shirttail out, Hayes was looking tanned, fit and natty in a sport coat and tie coordinated in browns. Two visitors had been allowed through the buffer zone by Betty Garrett, and Hayes welcomed them warmly. He refused, however, to discuss the "transition." He said he was saving the story for his old and loyal friend Paul Hornung of The Columbus Dispatch.
It wasn't until Jan. 19, three weeks after the Gator Bowl, that Hayes came out of hiding to address a capacity crowd at the Columbus Chamber of Commerce. He then admitted, "I got what was coming to me," and he apologized. He encouraged his audience to support Bruce, "a great coach."