SI Vault
Robert Shaplen
October 24, 1955
Unlike the Ivy schools (SI, Oct. 17), the Buckeyes function as a public utility for the entertainment of 8 million fans. All they ask of coach and players is a victory every Saturday
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October 24, 1955

The Ohio State Story: Win Or Else

Unlike the Ivy schools (SI, Oct. 17), the Buckeyes function as a public utility for the entertainment of 8 million fans. All they ask of coach and players is a victory every Saturday

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Despite the Bobos and the Bowermasters, many gridmen do attend classes, and some of them, Hopalong Cassady included, get better than average marks. Hayes particularly seeks quarterbacks with straight-A averages so he at least won't have to worry about their flunking out. "Woody is refreshing in his frankness," Fullen adds, "but his conscience, like that of all the others involved in this mess, is caught in the compulsions of survival. 'Don't give me any of that character building business,' he's told me. 'I could build all the characters in the world and lose enough games, and I'd be out of here, but fast.' "

In recruiting, Hayes gets some help from his wife and some from the frank expenditure of the approximately $4,000 a year he earns doing a TV stint in Columbus. The Hayeses often entertain prospects in their home ( Big Ten rules forbid coaches to recruit outside). 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.

Hayes has all the respect in the world for the bona fide bird dogs in Ohio. His troubles spring from the fact that so many of them turn into wolves. Actually, the wolves were prowling at his doorstep the moment he talked himself into the job his best friends warned him not to take.

He came into a climate that was anything but congenial. A powerful alumni faction had demanded the return of Paul Brown, who had coached at OSU before going off to the Navy and subsequently becoming a pro coach—and if Brown wasn't available another big-time name coach was wanted. Hayes, these alumni contended, was pretty small potatoes when you looked at his record.

Who, indeed, was Hayes?

At least, he was unadulterated Ohio. Born in Clifton in 1913, he grew up in Newcomerstown, where his self-educated father was superintendent of schools. Both his parents were adamant, as far back as Woody can remember, about his getting a college education. As a pair of husky country boys, Hayes and brother Ike were naturally interested in more robust pursuits. Stemming from a line of tough mountaineer fighters, they carried on the tradition. One evening Superintendent Hayes went out to deliver a speech and found himself in an empty meeting hall. He was told about "the big fight" going on, and rushed over to discover that his competition was his two sons, putting on a bout under assumed names.

Woody went to Denison University in Granville, where he majored in English and history—he was a top-grade history student—and played varsity football as a tackle and varsity baseball as an outfielder. After graduating from Denison, Hayes spent a year as assistant football coach at Mingo Junction High School and then took a similar job at New Philadelphia. The head coach there was John Brickels, whom Hayes credits with teaching him more than anyone else about the game.

"Woody was always subject to temperamental outbursts," Brickels recalls. "Maybe it's because he was smart, quick and a perfectionist. I'd let him know what I wanted done and he'd do it, pronto. He lacked patience. I tried to tell him that when he corrected a kid he shouldn't make an enemy of the boy, but Woody had a hard time controlling himself and he drove the kids too hard. He'd swear a lot, and I also told him he was the last guy who should, that it didn't fit his personality, what with that little lisp of his. He kept improving, though, and when I left I recommended him for the top job."

Through 1938 and 1939 Hayes won 18, lost one and tied one at New Philadelphia. In 1940 he won only once though, and got into trouble with the superintendent over his harsh methods. At the end of the season he went into the Navy.

During the war Hayes commanded a patrol chaser and a destroyer escort. When he was discharged, as a lieutenant commander, he got the football coaching job at his alma mater, Denison, and after a poor first season his teams won 19 games in a row over two years.

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