The colorful character known as Woody Hayes was born Wayne Woodrow Hayes in February of 1913 and made a lasting impact on the sport of college football and particularly Ohio State University (OSU) where he was the head football coach for 28 years of his 74 year life. Despite passing away over two decades ago on March 12, 1987 Coach Hayes is still fondly remembered every fall during college football season and especially in early November when arch rivals the Ohio State Buckeyes and University of Michigan Wolverines square off on the grid iron.
During his tenure as the football coach with the Buckeyes that spanned from 1951-1978 Coach Hayes won three national titles (1954, 1957, and 1968) and thirteen Big Ten Conference titles. Woody Hayes coached 276 college football games at Ohio State and during those contests he went an impressive 205-61-10.
Despite a storied record of success and admiration the 1983 inductee into the College Football Hall of Fame is unfortunately remembered best by some casual fans for the incident that resulted in his untimely dismissal. In the 1978 Gator Bowl that was held on December 29, 1978 the 65 year old Hayes punched an opposing Clemson University Tigers football player in the face.
The last moments of the famed coaching career of icon Woody Hayes occurred with OSU trailing Clemson by a score of 17-15 with a little more than two minutes left in the fourth quarter. Ohio State was driving on offense for the go ahead score when an errant Art Schlichter (Ohio State quarterback) pass was intercepted by a Clemson defender named Charlie Bauman.
After the interception Bauman was forced out of bounds on what happened to be the Buckeyes sideline near Woody Hayes. As the Clemson player bounded to his feet after being tackled on the sideline the 65 year old Hayes punched the Clemson player through his face mask. The following day (December 30, 1978) OSU fired Woody Hayes for his unacceptable actions.
Long before Hayes was relieved of his coaching duties at Ohio State on such a low note at the end of 1978 he was an accomplished high school athlete in the early 1930s and played college football at Denison University in Granville, Ohio where he was in even in a fraternity (Sigma Chi). Roughly five months before the infamous December 7, 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor Hayes joined the US Navy and eventually became a Lieutenant Commander during World War II. After WWII Hayes spent three seasons coaching at his alma mater before moving onto nearby University of Miami (Ohio) for the 1949 and 1950 seasons. The remainder of his coaching career would be his lengthy 28 season stint with Ohio State from 1951-1978. Coach Woody Hayes passed away less than a decade after coaching his last football game.