For slapping a hospitalized G.I. who didn't measure up to his idea of courage, Gen. George S. patton was publicly embarrassed by the U.S. Army. One of the general's worshipers, Wayne Woodrow Hayes, has been drummed out of the Ohio State football coach's job after his own moment of indiscretion.Hayes fell upon a Clemson player, fists flying, when the young man made a terrific play that beat Ohio State.

The Ohio State athletic director, Hugh Hindman, said Hayes' firing was the toughest decision he'd ever made. It should have been the easiest, Hayes preached discipline but practiced tantrums. Any university that hopes to teach lasting values would have been ashamed of a professor who, when his students failed,fell upon them in a fistfight of frustration.

Yet Ohio State tolerated Woody Hayes through years of shameful behaviour. Only Muhammad Ali, and perhaps Bill Martin,threw more punches in the last decade than Hayes. He aimed at a photographer during the 1975 Rose Bowl, at a TV cameraman in the '77 Michigan game, and at a student reporter in the '77 Oklahoma game. He once punched his own fullback and last January even hit a goal post in the Superdome.

The cataloging goes on. He tore to pieces the official sideline markers in another Michigan game. Early this season, he stormed off a TV talk show when a reporter asked what the coach thought about a poll showing 56 per cent of the respondents believed he should retire.

"People are fickle," Hayes said. "Nobody in the Big Ten has won as many games as I have. And if you're one of those 56 percent, I dont't give a damn." Then, moving toward the reporter and working his hands as if fighting an urge to grab the man, Hayes said, "You can go straight to hell. If you were bigger and stronger, I'd like to take you on."

A common thread weaves these moment into the whole fabric of a man's failure. Hayes always lashed out when he was losing, when his omnipotence was questioned. Charm he has, and he can be warm and witty. Without his intelligence and creativity, Ohio State and college football would have been poorer.

But the world will put up with a man's foolishness only so long. If Ohio State chose to let pass the earlier indiscretions-one of the perquisites of eccentric genius-the university could not abide this childish, even irrational, foolishness forever. At 65, Hayes had run out of time to grow up.

Churchill said, "Success is never final, failure is never fatal." Intercollegiate athletics often seems without value. Hypocrisy reigns as surely today as it 50 years when the University of Chicago quit the game in disgust at what it had become: a commercial circus with hired hands posing as students. If the college games have a redeeming value it is that they teach well the truth of Churchill's memorable line.

That was Hayes' real transgression. He taught Ohio State to win, but not to lose. By his example, the Ohio State players learned that defeat is reason to assail authorities. Assult and battery, Hayes taught, is the proper responcse to hard times.

Some people in Columbus believe Hayes no longer can control himself. A magazine editor said Hayes reminded him of Richard Nixon in the final days of the Watergate White House.

"Every characteristic, every mannerism was exaggerated," the editor said. "What nobody around here will say is that Hayes needs help. These are no longer isolated incidents."

Jimmy crum, a local TV sportscaster and longtime friend of Hayes, said, "I thought all season long that he was more uptight than ever, even with people who knew him best. On a scale of 1 to 10, if his bad behavior in the past has been a 6, this year it's a 7 or 8."

Crum said he had chided the coach for the tantrum on the talk show. "You let a 24-year old guy get your goat,' I told him," Crum said. "And Woody said, 'yes, I did, goddamn it, and it makes me mad to know I did.'"

But Hayes couldn't rein in the fierce temper that Crum first saw in 1963. The sportscaster went into the Ohio State locker room that year after a defeat by Iowa. With both fists Hayes was beating himself around the face and eyes, a large ring on his left hand was slashing his face.

"I had to pull his arms away to get him to stop,' Crum said.

The sports editor of the Columbus Dispatch Paul Hornung, is the single newspaper man who in Hayes' 28 years here has gained the coach's confidence. Hayes called Hornung at 8 o'clock this morning to anounce his "resignation." He has taked to no other reporter.

The Dispatch ran the story across this afternoon's front page in huge type: WOODY HAYES RESIGNS.

Hayes was fired, "relieved" of coaching duties, as Athletic Director Hindman put it.

"You don't know who got in the first lick," Hornung said. "It was probably one of those things like, 'you can't fire me because I quit.'"

Hornung said the Clemson punchout was "the result of frustrations. . . . Woody would like to have won one more national championship and then retire. But he lost that one to UCLA (23-10 in the 1976 Rose Bowl, ruining an undefeated season)."

And now, three seasons later, Ohio State winds up with a 7-4-1 record, a far cry from any national championship. Whispers around the Big Ten say Hayes is losing his skills, that this might have been his last season no matter what.

The Hayes firing dominated the local media. Calls on a morning radio talk show ran heavily in Haye's favor. But Crum, the TV man, said calls to his station were 100 percent in favor of the firing.

"I loved the man," Crum said of Hayes. "But the university had no choice."

"That Rose Bowl game," Hornung was saying of the UCLA loss, "was the one where Woody walked across the field before the final gun in front of 80 million viewers to congratulate the UCLA coach. If they'd wanted to, they could have called a penalty. I guess they just felt sorry for Woody then."

And now. CAPTION: Picture 1,2,3, Ohio State Coach Woody Hayes, left, takes a swing at Clemson linebacker Charlie bauman (58) after interception. AP photos; Picture 4, Ohio State player Ken Fritz, left, is recipient of his coach's wrath after the guard tried to restrain Woody Hayes. UPI; Picture 5, Woody Hayes throws telephone to ground in incident in game with Michigan State. Seconds later he took a swing at a television cameraman, an action for which he went on probation in 1977. AP