Monday, February 4, 2013

WOODY HAYES: THE NO. 4 GREATEST FOOTBALL COACH OF ALL-TIME

Woody Hayes
(This is a piece of a five-part series I wrote for the Bryan Publishing Company. The rest of the series can be found at Bryantimes.com)

Continuing with my series on the top five football coaches of all-time, my No. 4 greatest mentor comes from the college ranks, and is known throughout the country simply as ... Woody!

— Note: my rankings' criteria consists of championships won, longevity of success, innovation and legendary status.

No. 4 Wayne Woodrow "Woody" Hayes, Ohio State (1951-1978)

CHAMPIONSHIPS: Hayes won five national championships and 13 Big Ten titles during his 28-year tenure at Ohio State. He led the Buckeyes to four Rose Bowl wins, as well as a victory in the Orange Bowl.

Also, being that the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry is basically a championship of sorts in that part of the country, Hayes was victorious 16 times against the Wolverines, opposed to 11 losses and a tie.

Hayes also won a Mid-American Conference championship in 1950 as head coach of Miami University, and an Ohio Athletic Conference title in 1947 at Denison.

LONGEVITY OF SUCCESS: Hayes coached for 33 seasons in college football, and won at an amazing 75-percent clip. He posted six unbeaten seasons in four different decades — with Denison in 1947, 1948, and Ohio State in 1954, 1961, 1968, 1973.

In 28 seasons as head coach at Ohio State, the Buckeyes won 80-percent of their Big Ten games, including six unbeaten campaigns in conference.

Hayes' most impressive years of his career came in a 10-year stretch between 1968 and 1977, where he compiled a record of 91-16-2, with nine Big Ten titles and a national championship.

INNOVATION: This aspect is what prevents Hayes from being higher on the list.

Hayes was more perfectionist than innovator. While he never changed the way we played the game from an X's and O's standpoint, he was a master of his craft. "Three yards and a cloud of dust" was Hayes' mantra, and he did it like no other.

His rugged style of coaching wasn't flashy or cutting edge, but it did amass five national titles, 13 Big Ten crowns and three Heisman Trophies — all by Buckeye tailbacks. Hayes didn't invent running the football ... but he surely perfected it.

Woody Hayes also made the Ohio State-Michigan football rivalry the best in all of sports, and turned the Big Ten into a national super conference. 

LEGENDARY STATUS: Woody Hayes is one of the most recognizable coaches and people of all-time. As I previously stated, you can go anywhere in the country and say the word "Woody," and folks will immediately know for whom which you are referring. 

Hayes' popularity extended beyond football. Presidents, senators, movie stars and entertainers alike, all displayed admiration for the Buckeyes' head coach. Even former President Nixon gave the eulogy at Hayes' funeral in 1987.

"Afterwards, at a victory reception, (former Ohio governor and senator) John Bricker introduced me to Woody," Nixon said during the eulogy. "I wanted to talk about football. Woody wanted to take about foreign policy. You know Woody ... we talked about foreign policy."

Also, Woody Hayes' coaching tree is one of the most bountiful in history, consisting of Bo Schembechler, Lou Holtz, Ara Parseghian and Earle Bruce, just to name a few.

With his trademark black rimmed glasses and black hat with a red block-O, Woody Hayes will forever be a legend of college football, a god in the state of Ohio, and one of the greatest football coaches to have ever lived.

My top five football coaches of all-time:
No. 1 — Tuesday, Feb. 5
No. 2 — Bear Bryant, Alabama
No. 3 — Vince Lombardi, Green Bay Packers
No. 4 — Woody Hayes, Ohio State
No. 5 — Tom Landry, Dallas Cowboys