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Woody Hayes's contributions to the game of football do not stop with winning games and boring spectators on a Saturday afternoon. He has been one of the leaders in the study of injury prevention, developing something of a mania on this subject, just as on most others in which he gets involved. Ohio State takes a preseason electroencephalogram of each player, for comparison if a head injury should occur later. "This is sometimes the difference between spotting something dangerous and ignoring it until it is too late," he says. His players undergo a series of neck exercises that play havoc with collar sizes but increase resistance to head blows to a marked degree. In the spring practice of 1962 not one Ohio State football player was even dazed from a blow on the head, and they do not play patty-cake in an Ohio State scrimmage even in the spring.
If Ohio State were not such a rich market for equipment manufacturers, their salesmen would never go near the place. Hayes drives them wild with demands for better helmets, better pads, better uniforms. For two years his boys have been wearing a plastic helmet cushioned on the outside, to protect others, as well as on the inside. "Of course this outside padding isn't doing us much good," he grumbles. "Everyone should use it."
The Buckeyes frequently change uniforms halfway through a hot early-season game or practice to avoid a form of heat prostration known as water-blanket suffocation. Hayes has even plotted the area of greatest incidence of knee injuries—it is an arc 20 yards laterally from the point where the ball is positioned to start play—and says this is another reason why his teams run inside the ends most of the time. "You don't get hurt," he says, "when you run straight ahead." Even when an Ohio State halfback gets loose, he is instructed not to hug the sidelines but to stay at least a yard inside the field. When penned in, the runner has room to ride with, and better absorb, a hard side tackle.
No Ohio State football player ever drops out of school because of lack of funds, either, if Woody Hayes can help it. The 1956 probation came about because Hayes was helping some destitute athletes out of his own pocket, a well-intentioned practice that happened to be at variance with the conference rules. "We've got to do something to help those kids," Hayes roared. "One of those boys came to me and said he had only one pair of pants. 'Can't you get a loan?' I asked him. 'I tried,' he said, 'They told me it would take four months.' Hell, a pair of pants can get to be awfully dirty in four months. Sure I gave him the money." Hayes roared so loud, in fact, that the Big Ten authorized conference schools to set up loan funds that now furnish needed financial assistance almost immediately.
Money apparently means nothing to Hayes. His salary is $20,000 a year, and on at least two occasions he has turned down raises, requesting that the money be split up among his coaching staff. Once he refused a new Cadillac after a winning season. He lives in a pleasant two-story house in a quiet residential section five minutes away from the campus by Chevrolet; it is the same house into which he moved upon arriving in Columbus more than 11 years ago. The drive needs a new surface, but Hayes figures that he will do it himself, with the help of Steve, his 16-year-old son, who would rather play baseball or go swimming or bowl than play football or pave driveways. Hayes's wife, Anne, plays bridge and belongs to things; she also answers the telephone and placates the furious fans who call and ask why in the name of Robert Taft doesn't Ohio State throw a pass once in a while. "I love 'em," Anne Hayes says. "You can't blame people for getting mad, but you can't let them stay that way. Sometimes I ask them to come on over and have a cup of coffee and we'll talk this all out. It breaks them up."
There is nothing unusual about a coach being dedicated to his job—it would be highly unusual if he weren't—and still successful, these days, but Hayes spends more time at football than most. In fact he spends all of his time at football. "He doesn't play cards, he doesn't play golf, he doesn't fish," said one assistant, thinking hard. "He doesn't smoke, he doesn't drink. You know, now that I think about it, he doesn't do anything at all." Actually Hayes plays handball once in a while, trying to stay under 230, and although he knows little about golf, he will drive halfway across the country to follow Jack Nicklaus around a big tournament. "The boy grew up just around the corner," Hayes says. "You listen to Woody," a friend says, "and you'd think he taught Nicklaus all he knows about the game."
Most of Hayes's time away from the practice field, his office and home is spent at football clinics, where he is in constant demand. He reads a great deal—history, economics, current events—and is a nonstop talker on all these subjects. Forest Evashevski once walked up to Hayes to congratulate him after a game. "I wanted to tell him what a great game Ohio played," says Evashevski, "but I made the mistake of asking him what time it was. I never got another word in; he spent 30 minutes telling me about his new watch."
Last spring an Ohio State alumnus named Ed Garman invited Hayes to make the annual Memorial Day address at Oakwood Cemetery in Cuyahoga Falls, a rather unusual request for a football coach. Hayes couldn't get there fast enough. "It was the biggest crowd in history," says Garman, "and for 35 minutes they didn't move a muscle while Woody talked to them, without notes, about what this country means to all of us. They were spellbound. Later he thanked me for the chance."
But the greatest speech that Woody Hayes ever made was delivered before an Ohio State alumni group last fall at the Hollenden Hotel in Cleveland. Arriving from the airport. Hayes was met in the hotel lobby by reporters. "The Ohio State Faculty Council has just voted 28 to 25 against letting the team go to the Rose Bowl," he was told. Hayes dropped his bag and walked out. For two hours he paced the streets alone, thinking what this meant to his players, who had been working for the championship and trip for four years, thinking what the decision meant to the Ohio State fans, to the school, to himself. When he finally arrived at the speaker's platform, he was remarkably composed, for Woody Hayes.