To Wayne Woodrow Hayes, football was never just a game any more than World War II was a game. He never really forgave the world for making him a football coach instead of a field marshal. Woody always hankered to capture Paris, or destroy Cathage or cross the Alps on elephant. When he couldn't, he settle for beating Michigan.
He despised the forward pass as a sign of weakness. He had no use for money, social position or grace. He drove a truck to and from work, lived in the most ordinary of Midwest Gothic houses. His idols were German admirals, the two-gun generals, cavalry men. He thought the Marine Corps should run the country.
He was a loner. He never went to movies that didn't have bombing runs in them. He felt any problem in the world could be solved by a right to the mouth. He bullied his players, officials, professors and the press with equal skill and enthusiasm. He outlasted athletic directors who despised him. The governor of the state was afraid of him.
He was incapable of putting football in perspective. It was an obsession with him. He could be a charming man to have breakfast with an discuss the Peloponnesian war or the campaigns of Caesar. But, on Saturday afternoon, he was Attila the Hun.
Foootball coasches live by a code that would make the Prussian officers corps look permissive. "Winning is the only thing" is their Golden Rule, their First Commandment. everything else comes seond -- the university, the student body, the faculty, the outside world. When your whole life revolves around one Saturday afternoon in November and what some 20-year-old kid does with a football, then something's gotta give. Woody even finked on Michigan State when they beat him t a player he coveted.
The first time I ever laid eyes on Woody Hayes was in the locker room after his defeat of Southern California in the rain in the 1955 Rose Bowl. He promptly assailed the bowl committee for permitting the bands to march on the field, criticized the officials for ineptness and allowed as how the USC team he just beat would be hard put to finish sixth in his conference, the Big 10.
I hotfooted over to SC Coach Jess Hill to give him the good news. The headlines the next morning were suitably explosive, and Woody Hayes thus expanded his war with Michigan and Iowa and Illinois to include California. He always came out here to California after that like Custer passing through smoke signals.
The next time I saw Woody was in the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1959. USC had just beaten him, 17-0, and a big SC tackle, Dan Ricca, whom Woody had tried to recruit, was taunting him from the corridor. Woody turned around and decked a cuple of nearby newsmen, A1 Bine and Dick Schafer. Woody was consistent. Graceless in victory and graceless in defeat.
Woody couldn't deal with the fact that he had lost the hang of beating Michigan and had been relegated recently to some crummy second-rate bowl year after year. A lot of people think they watched the disintegration of a man when he slugged a Clemson player on national TV in something called the Gator Bowl the other night. But Woody has slugged enemy players before. Lots of times. He was called on the carpet for belting an Iowa player who recovered an Ohio State fumble once, and once he decked oneof his won assistant coaches when something went wrong out on the field. But these incidents wre winessed by 80,000 people, not 40 million.
Disgraceful as his action was, it was scarcely more reprehensible than the actions of the ABC announcers in ignoring it. The most significant football happening of the year was blithely overlooked in the booth. If that's photojournalism, well, I'm glad they're not covering the White House.
So Woody has been stripped of his command, and his epaulets torn off. He is officially a disgrace to the uniform. Still, Woody would consider himself in good company. His idols, Gens. MacArthur and Patton, were similarly removed by higher authority. One wonders if Woody will get to state his case before both houses of Cosngress, or whether George Scott gets the role in the movie. Woody probably cosnsiders it just another indication of how soft the country's become generally, just what you'd expect, with a Dmocrat in the White House.