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 especially Ohio State University (OSU) where he was head football coach for 28 of his 74 years years of life. Though he died more than two decades ago on March 12, 1987, Coach Hayes is still fondly remembered each fall during college football season and especially in early November when arch-rivals the Ohio State Buckeyes and the The University of Michigan Wolverines battle it out on the iron grate.
During his tenure as football coach with the Buckeyes from 1951 to 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 games he went an impressive 205-61-10.
Despite a historic record of success and admiration, the 1983 College Football Hall of Fame inductee is sadly best remembered by some casual fans for the incident that led to his untimely firing. In the 1978 Gator Bowl held on December 29, 1978, 65-year-old Hayes punched an opposing Clemson University Tigers football player in the face.
The final moments of icon Woody Hayes’ famed coaching career occurred with OSU trailing Clemson by a score of 17-15 with just over two minutes left in the fourth quarter. Ohio State was leading on offense by the go-ahead when an incorrect pass by Art Schlichter (Ohio State quarterback) was intercepted by a Clemson defensive back named Charlie Bauman.
After the interception, Bauman was forced out of bounds on what used to be the Buckeyes sideline next to Woody Hayes. As the Clemson player leapt to his feet after being tackled sideline, 65-year-old Hayes punched the Clemson player through his mask. The following day (December 30, 1978) USO fired Woody Hayes for his unacceptable actions.
Long before Hayes was relieved of his coaching duties at Ohio State on such a low note in late 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 also in a fraternity (Sigma Chi). About five months before the infamous bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Hayes joined the United States Navy and eventually became a lieutenant commander during World War II. After World War II Hayes spent three seasons coaching at his alma mater before transferring to nearby University of Miami (Ohio) for the 1949 and 1950 seasons. The rest of his coaching career would be his long 28-year stint. seasons with Ohio State from 1951 to 1978. Coach Woody Hayes died less than a decade after coaching his last football game.