Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Wayne Woodrow Hayes: 1954 National Champion Coach

The new Columbus Bicentennial Blog co-conspirator (??) Christine Hayes is probably too young recall the November 7th issue of Sports Illustrated in 1955. The "19th Hole" had letters from readers responding to the October 24th issue, which featured Hopalong Cassady on the cover and a long story about how Woody Hayes led the Buckeyes to a national championship in his fourth season.

One letter was from Christine's father;
A good article—well observed and alive with good reporting.
Your research was penetrating—yet you were selective in a kind way. 

Columbus Citizen, Columbus, Ohio
Mr. Hayes, cousin of Ohio State Coach Hayes, writes a general column in the Citizen—ED.

"Respectfully submitted,
Robert Stevenson, Columbus

Filling six web pages, the Sport Illustrated article begins;

“Big Brother to everybody when he's on top, but candidate of candidates for the salt mines when he's not, a 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 at the constant beck and call of all the quarterback organizations in Ohio, to whom he must make full accountings.

The coach's postgame confessions of sins are regularly delivered in a manner reminiscent of a defendant at a Soviet trial. "I was wrong there," he will say, hanging his head abjectly. "I shouldn'ta done that." The fact that he may have been right, or that the point in question is at least debatable, makes no difference. The boys in the back room want blood.

The man on trial this week (for losing 20-14 to Duke) 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 man Buckeye, but Hayes gets no points for mere enthusiasm. Each week of the season brings on a public reincarnation of himself, in the image of hero or villain.

If, as usual, there are nine games to the schedule, he lives nine unpredictable, breath-taking, spine-tingling lives. Depending on how much of a winning edge he has at the end of November, the reincarnations can be terminated in one tremendous, popularly applied, postseason kick-after-lack-of-touchdowns—OUT!

Robert Shapien, Sports Illustrated

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