Updated post: In case you’d forgotten, today is the birthday of Wayne Woodrow Hayes. He would have been 101 years old.
Born in Clifton Ohio, Woody followed a stint in the US Navy by coaching at Denison (his alma mater) and Miami University before transforming Ohio State football as we currently know it.
Woody led the Buckeyes to 5 national titles and 13 Big Ten titles; his teams’ matchups against former assistant Bo Schembechler’s Wolverines during the Ten Year War also defined The Game for generations of midwestern sports fans. In fact, Woody’s decision to go for two because three was out of the question may have even been the impetus for current UM coach Brady Hoke’s inability to remember the full name of his school’s rival.
While his temper was his Achilles heel and led to his ultimate downfall, his peers and others elected him to the College Football Hall of Fame for both his on and off field dedication to the game and OSU students. From his service in the military, he learned the value of film study and was among the first to use this for game preparation. His dedication to the life of the mind was evident to his players and to the professors at various Big Ten institutions where he would sit in on classes prior to gameday. It is not coincidence that he has an endowed chair in his honor in National Security Studies at the University.
He often pointed to two moments as the highlight of his life; dotting the “I”, and addressing graduation:
We celebrate today the heart of the man who was the heart of the game at the heart of it all, first with some of his greatest reflections and quotes,
Coach Hayes died in March of 1987, my senior year in high school. I remember, as a part of all of the memorials written about him, the words of Bob Greene in the Chicago Tribune,
Woody had always been known for his fierce pursuit of victory. Now, though, he said, “You’re asking me if there is anything that is as important as winning. And I think the answer is yes. There’s something that’s even more important than winning.”
I asked him what that was.
“There are some lines by a great orator,” he said. “My dad used to quote him. He said it better than I ever could:
” ‘And in the night of death, hope sees a star, and listening love hears the rustle of a wing.’ ”
He was speaking softly.
“You see,” he said, “the important thing is not always to win. The important thing is always to hope.”
As Buckeye fans today celebrate the love of their lives (oh, and also their significant others and family members), they do so in a climate of excitement about the future of the program which builds on a little over two years of amazing on and off the field events.
So, today more than ever, St. Woody was right- “The important thing is always to hope.”