Although he will always be associated with Ohio State football, Coach Hayes had originally intended to become a lawyer before joining the Ohio State family. His path eventually led away from law and towards football, however. Hayes was an associate professor at Ohio State and during the off-season could be found teaching on the campus. If he couldn’t be in the classroom, though, he’d create his own and was known for conducting impromptu English lessons during practice.
Although Woody hated to lose a football game, his greatest fear was that his players would lose off the field. “I don’t guess there is anything that I believe in more than this university and the value of the education that a boy receives here,’ said Hayes. ‘If I can convince my kids of what a degree means to them, then I don’t have to worry about them quitting school.
Woody was as proud of his players’ high graduation rate as he was of their success on the football field. He emphasized the importance of education and kept close tabs on his team’s grades. The Buckeye coach once proudly boasted that “Of the 27 freshmen who came here on football scholarships in the fall of 1959, 24 will be around this fall. Normally you can expect 40% of the students entering a big university to graduate. On the Ohio State football squad we graduate 70–80%. How can anyone condemn college football when they see a figure like that?”
Now we think you’re a 110-percenter, son. You come with us, dig in your heels and prove you’re the best
Hayes’s colleagues noticed his dedication to education. “While talk of education sounds hypocritical on the lips of some coaches, no one can question Hayes’ sincerity on the subject. I’ve never heard him talk about how many all-Americas he’s had, or how many undefeated teams,’ said one Big Ten coach, ‘but he’ll drive you crazy telling you about all his boys who have become doctors and lawyers and dentists and engineers.”
Early on, Woody acquired a love for military history, and in 1974, University of Southern California President Dr. John Hubbard invited Hayes to lecture his class on World War II in after his team had been beaten by the exuberant Buckeyes in the Rose Bowl. Inevitably, Hayes was as much at home on the field as he was at the University’s Faculty Club, where he led discussions ranging from the American Revolution to Walt Disney. In public talks, Woody peppered his speeches with references to George Patton, Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, and William Shakespeare. Woody Hayes was an erudite man, as well as a superb teacher and coach.
(Information about and specific comments made by Woody Hayes and others were drawn from the following sources: Woody Hayes: The Man & His Dynasty, edited by Mike Bynum; I Remember Woody: Recollections of The Man They Called Coach Hayes, by Steve Greenberg and Dale Ratermann; and Woody Hayes and the 100-Yard War by Jerry Brondfield.)