Wayne Woodrow "Woody" Hayes '35

Wayne Woodrow "Woody" Hayes entered the Chapter Eternal on March 12, 1987. A legendary college football coach and acknowledged military historian, Woody served as the head coach at his Alma Mater for three seasons (1946–1948), and at Miami (Ohio) University (1949–1950), before joining The Ohio State University in 1951 where, for 28 seasons, he led the Buckeyes to three national championships, 13 Big Ten Conference titles, 8 Rose Bowl appearances, and a record 205 wins, 61 losses and 10 ties. Over his full coaching career, Woody amassed a record 238 wins, 72 losses and 10 ties.

Born in Clifton, Ohio, Woody played center on the Newcomerstown High School football team. Also during this time, Woody and his brother, Ike, gained respect as amatuer boxers. At Denison, he played tackle under coach Tom Rogers and joined Sigma Chi Fraternity in what was to become the most decorated of any Mu Chapter pledge class—Class of '35. After graduating from Denison in 1935, he went on to serve as an assistant at two Ohio high schools: Mingo Junction (1935–1936) and New Philadelphia in 1937.

Woody enlisted in the United States Navy in July 1941, eventually rising to the rank of Lieutenant Commander during WWII. He commanded PC 1251 in the Palau Island invasion and the destroyer-escort USS Rinehart in both Atlantic and Pacific operations.

As World War II was winding down and Denison was pursuing plans to reinstate its football program (which had been suspended during the war), it contacted former head coach Rogers (also in the Navy) about rejoining the program as head coach. Rogers declined, but recommended that his former team captain, Hayes, be named the next head coach. Denison was able to locate and cable Hayes an offer, which he accepted, minutes before his Navy ship was to begin the passage through the Panama Canal—meaning Hayes would have been unreachable for an extended period of time.

Upon returning to Denison in 1946, Woody struggled during his first year, winning just two games, over Capital and the season finale against Wittenberg. However, that victory sparked a 19-game winning streak and two, undefeated seasons, a surge that propelled him into the head coaching position at Miami University. In just his second year with the Redskins, he led the 1950 squad to an appearance in the Salad Bowl, where they defeated Arizona State University.

During his 28 seasons as head coach of the OSU football program, Hayes's teams became powerhouses on a national stage. And, over the last decade of his coaching tenure at Ohio State, Woody's Buckeye squads helped set the standard for college football rivalries, facing off against the Michigan Wolverines coached by Bo Schembechler, a former player under and assistant coach to Hayes. During that stretch in the Michigan—OSU football rivalry, dubbed the "Ten-Year War," Hayes and Schembechler's teams won or shared the Big Ten Conference crown every season and usually each placed in the national rankings.

Hayes was a three-time winner of The College Football Coach of the Year Award, now known as the Paul "Bear" Bryant Award and was "the subject of more varied and colorful anecdotal material than any other coach past or present, including fabled Knute Rockne," according to biographer Jerry Brondfield. Among Woody's now-legendary quotes that provide insight into his character are:

  • "There is a force that makes us all brothers, no one goes his way alone, all that we send into the life of others comes back into our own."
  • "You can never really pay back. You can only pay forward."
  • "You win with people."

Hayes' basic coaching philosophy was that "nobody could win football games unless they regarded the game positively and would agree to pay the price that success demands of a team." His conservative style of football (especially on offense) was often described as "three yards and a cloud of dust"—in other words, a "crunching, frontal assault of muscle against muscle, bone upon bone, will against will." The basic, bread-and-butter play in Hayes' playbook was a fullback off-guard run or a tailback off tackle play. Hayes was often quoted as saying "only three things can happen when you pass (a completion, an incompletion, and an interception) and two of them are bad."

Despite this seeming willingness to avoid change, Woody became one of the first major college head coaches to recruit African-American players. While not the first to recruit African-Americans at Ohio State, he was the first to recruit and start African-Americans in large numbers there and to hire African-American assistant coaches.

Beyond his legendary exploits and achievementes in college football, Woody was equally accomplished, although largely unheralded, in academics. He would often use illustrations from historical events to make a point in his coaching and teaching. When first hired to be head coach at OSU, Woody was also made a "full professor of physical education", having earned an M.A. degree in educational administration from Ohio State in 1948. The classes that he taught on campus were usually full, and he was called "Professor Hayes" by students. Hayes also taught mandatory English and vocabulary classes to his freshman football players. One of his students was a basketball player named Bobby Knight, who later became a legendary basketball coach.

During his time at Ohio State, Hayes' relationships with faculty members were particularly good. Even those members of the faculty who believed that the role of intercollegiate athletics was growing out of control respected Hayes personally for his commitment to academics, the standards of integrity with which he ran his program, and the genuine enthusiasm he brought to his hobby as an amateur historian. Hayes often ate lunch or dinner at the university's faculty club, interacting with professors and administrators.

No one will dispute that Woody was a larger-than-life figure that commanded attention and respect whether on the gridiron, in the classroom, or at innumerable points of contact with ordinary people on whom he bestowed his genuine interest. This naturally extended to Sigma Chi. During the years when Mu Chapter held summer retreats in Granville, Woody often was in attendance, joining with Sig Brothers in the life of his Fraternity.

Woody and the former Anne Gross were married in 1942. Anne Hayes was a formidable and popular woman in her own right, who used to jokingly say at numerous sports banquets, "Divorce Woody? Never! But there were plenty of times I wanted to murder him!" The couple had one son, Steven, who went on to become a lawyer and judge.

Hayes' commitment to academics at Ohio State was evidenced by his request that donations from his family, friends, and supporters be made to the academic side of the university. Following his death and in keeping with his wishes, the Wayne Woodrow Hayes Chair in National Security Studies was established at Ohio State's Mershon Center for International Security Studies. In November 1987, the university dedicated the new Woody Hayes Athletic Center in his memory.

Over his life and career, Woody showed an unmatched level of leadership that brought honors and awards. In football, he was named AFCA Coach of the Year (1957), Sporting News College Football Coach of The Year (1968), Walter Camp Coach of the Year Award (1968), Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year (1975), Amos Alonzo Stagg Award (1986), Big Ten Coach of the Year (1973, 1975). He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1983. Denison and Sigma Chi recognitions include Denison Athletic Hall of Fame inductee, Denison Alumni Citation Awardee, and Sigma Chi's Significant Sig Award.

At Woody's funeral on March 17, 1987, former president Richard Nixon delivered the eulogy before a crowd of 1,400, acknowledging the friendship that had begun between the two during his second term as vice president. The following day, more than 15,000 people took part in a memorial service at Ohio Stadium on the OSU campus.

All honor to his name.

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