Sports Illustrated OCTOBER 24, 1955
THE HEAD FOOTBALL COACH AT OSU has been described as having, next to the presidency, the toughest job in the United States. Not only does he have to direct the fortunes of his squad, but he is also at the constant beck and call of all the armchair quarterback organizations in Ohio that sit in judgement of him.
The man on trial this season is an oddly wound-up individual named Wayne Woodrow (Woody) Hayes, who is both a charming and frightening product of what, in these years of postwar prosperity, is more of a bountiful big business and a mass hysteria than it ever was before. In many respects Hayes is the perfect man for the job. Beyond replaying the game cozily with the manifold quarterbacks in mufti, he is bumptiously tough and is far from a hypocrite. Hayes is completely, in fact devastatingly, aware that in the struggle for survival he must produce a winning team or lose his $15,000-a-year position and, even more important, his prestige as a big-time coach, which happens to be Woody's total raison d'�tre.
"I love football," Hayes says, with his slight lisp and almost with tears in his eyes. "I think it's the most wonderful game in the world, and I despise to lose. I've hated to lose ever since I was a kid and threw away the mallets when I lost at croquet."
This perhaps unadmirable trait has the unalterable approval of every Buckeye, but Hayes gets no points for mere enthusiasm.
So far, Hayes has hung on, but it's been close. He is now in his fifth season, and until last year he was more often a bumbling devil incarnate than a gridiron Galahad. But in 1954 he dismayed his most ardent detractors by producing an unbeaten team of national champions. For the moment, at least, all the angry and frustrated Walter Mittys in Ohio had to stay on the bench.
Actually, the wolves have been prowling at Hayes's doorstep from the moment he talked himself into the job his best friends warned him not to take. 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 about Woody getting a college education. As a pair of husky country boys, Hayes and brother Ike were naturally interested in more robust pursuits. 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 and played football as a tackle and baseball as an outfielder. After graduating, Hayes spent a year as assistant football coach at Mingo Junction High 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 about the game.