Wayne Woodrow Hayes was born on the 14th of February 1913. I knew him in my lifetime as Coach Hayes. Heck that is what everyone called him. “COACH” I even call myself a Coach Hayes kid. A lot of you out there will totally get that. I was raised in his era, I learned what football was from him, well my Dad teaching but watching Coach and the boys every Saturday afternoon.I learned fast about that “TEAM UP NORTH” and how it was a dirty word in our house. I learned what team work and loyalty was all about. Coach was kinda set in his ways but he got the respect he deserved. In my opinion it was Coach Hayes that brought Ohio State in to the power house football program they are today.
In 1951 Woody was tapped to be the 19th coach of Ohio State. The next years would bring success not like anyone had ever dreamed of. It wasn’t until 1954 that the first of the successful years began with a perfect season of 10 and 0 with a trip to the Rose Bowl. Sure there were ups and downs in any program but Coach was able to keep proving himself. I was a glint in my parents eye and have learned a lot of history by what I have read doing research for this piece.
It was 1972 that I really began to get the whole idea of OSU,football and everything that goes with it. Learned the real true meaning of tradition. It was just a way of life I guess, only way I know how to describe it. Saturday afternoon was in front of the television or near the radio. It’s that way now, even with living in Australia, I am up at all hours to listen to the games and cheer the boys on. With living overseas its my real connection home, my connection to who I am. From 1972 to 1977 brought a series of things that would not be achieved by any other school. The biggest one involved the winning of the Heisman Trophy Twice in 1974 and 1975. OK….I hear you asking why is that so special, for one reason…….Archie Griffin is the ONLY Running Back in the history to win the award back to back. I can remember being in Junior High School and that announcement coming over the loud-speaker and a cheer going up.
Traditions continued along the way. Facing that school up north as Coach called it every November was the one game that became more pressure filled, more important each year. There was almost always the Big Ten title and a trip to one of the major bowl games riding on it. It was a normal season in 1978, a 6 and 2 season would be sending us off to the Gator Bowl. Coach Hayes was known for his temper getting the better of him at times, and in the bowl game against Clemson it did. In the fourth quarter, with the pass intercepted by the Clemson player….Coach Hayes temper got the better of him. We could NOT believe what we were watching unfold before us. There was going to be MAJOR fallout from all of this. The fall out was the end of an era. Coach Woody Hayes was NO LONGER Coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes.
OK…WHY did I just tell you all of that….So, I could really tell you about the night Coach Hayes passed away. March 12,1987 the evening news lead story of the day was about his death. Ohio was in mourning. It was a shock to everyone, we knew Coach wasn’t well but it was his time. OSU had made an announcement that was totally unexpected. They were opening up the horseshoe for those who wanted to come and pay their respects to the Coach. You have the very rare opportunity to actually step on the hollow turf of the shoe. I was NOT in any way shape or form going to pass up on being able to go where many were not allowed. I rugged up my 4month old daughter Kendria and headed out for what would be an experience I would not forget. I would have to explain to Kendria later when she would be old enough to understand her connection. Walking to the 50 yard line on that dark evening was eery. It was unusually quiet, you could feel the footy gods where there, the special surrounds gave me goose bumps. There were running a video on the big screen that night, reliving some of those really special moments in Coach’s life. I remember there was a block O hat, just like Woody always wore. Flowers, one single candle. I can’t even put into words all these years later, what it was like to be able to stand on the 50 yard line of a place I had seen on television, with so much tradition. I picked up Kendria from her stroller and turned her around so she could see where she was. I told her how special this place was, about the man on the screen who was a wonderful man who taught all of Ohio what it was like to be PROUD of where you were from. There was a news crew there that night, they were reporting on and off all evening about what was going on. They ask me if they could use Kendria in a shot and I told them sure. From what I remember the reporter talked about how people were coming to pay respects, all ages, those who understood and those who would learn in years to come who this man was and the tradition he created. They showed Kendria in my arms as they went to a commercial.
Finding a way to close this piece and hoping I have given Coach Hayes the respect he has earned from me, I find myself with tears in my eyes. Remembering a really good time growing up and learning about tradition, pride and respect. Kendria and I were part of something special that night in the shoe. The appropriate words I think have come to mind, the last few of lines from Carmen Ohio:
The Season Pass , The Years will Roll
Time and Change will surely Show
How Firm thy Friendship
- Ohio State football: On anniversary of his death, Woody fondly remembered (buckeyextra.com)
- Meyer Refuses to Use Word ‘Michigan’ (lostlettermen.com)