Tuesday, December 04, 2001

'Well, I'll Be a Son of a Bitch!'

Let’s pretend that Woody Hayes, who died March 12, 1987, somehow showed up again in December, 2001.

Naturally, when a guy has been gone for more than 14 years, he has some questions.

The first thing the legendary Ohio State football coach asks is, “Did we beat that team up north?’’

The second thing he asks is, “What’s our record?’’

The third thing he asks is, “Who’s playing in the Rose Bowl?’’

When you tell Woody the answer to the first question is, yes, Ohio State beat Michigan, his face lights up with that approving, grandfatherly smile and he says, “Good, I still hate that team up north.’’

That’s how it went with Woody. Michigan was always just “that team up north.’’

When you tell him the answer to the second question is 7-4, Woody frowns and says, “What happened? Didn’t we recruit very well? Was our senior class a bad one?’’

Hey, don’t forget. Woody didn’t take kindly to any Ohio State team losing—his or somebody else’s.

Now for the third question.

When you answer that one with “Miami and probably Tennessee,’’ Woody roars, “Well, I’ll be a son of a bitch! Give me an explanation before I throw a damn water bottle at you. How come there’s no Big Ten team in the Rose Bowl?’’

“Calm down, Woody,’’ you say. “The reason there’s no Big Ten team going to Pasadena is because of the Bowl Championship Series. The national championship is being decided in the Rose Bowl this season.’’

By this time, Woody isn’t just throwing water bottles around the room. He’s throwing telephones, clipboards, assistant coaches, pulling guards, nickel backs and even a linebacker from Clemson.

“The Bowl Championship WHAT?’’ he asks. “The Big Ten has had a team in the Rose Bowl every year since 1947, and I think it’s bullshit that there won’t be one in it this time.’’

“Well, Woody, you might consider it a raw deal for the Big Ten, but there are lots of lousy things in football these days,’’ you counter. “Some coaches let guys play who don’t even go to class. Don’t get mad, but I hear it even happened at Ohio State in the 2000 season. Then they fired the coach.

“And you know what else, Woody? They fired Terry Allen, the coach at Kansas, when he still had three games left on his schedule this year. Know what else, Woody? The Iowa crowd booed whenever the coach put his quarterback into the game against Michigan. That’s how bad things are in the college game now.’’

“Did all the booing help Iowa beat that team from up north?’’ Woody asks.
“No, Michigan won,’’ you answer.

“Well, I’ll be a son of a bitch!’’ Woody says.

Woody – stubborn guy that he is and was – still can’t be reasoned with about the fact that no Big Ten team, or no Pac-10 Conference team for that matter, will be in the 2002 Rose Bowl game.

“You can take Miami and Tennessee and tell ‘em to get their asses back to the Orange Bowl or the Tangerine Bowl where they belong!’’ he fumes. “The Rose Bowl is for the Big Ten and the Pac-10. Call Wayne Duke and get this straightened out.’’

“Woody, Wayne Duke is no longer commissioner of the Big Ten,’’ you say. “Even if he was, Duke couldn’t fix this problem.’’

Then call Bo Schembechler!’’ Woody says.

“Bo can’t help, either,’’ you say. “He’s retired from that school up north.’’

Well, I’ll be a son of a bitch!’’ Woody says. “I was hoping Bo was the guy who lost to Ohio State.’’


As much as some Iowa State and Iowa football fans would like to see their teams matched against one another in a bowl game, it’s never likely to happen.

The reason? Television.

Iowa State against Iowa in a rematch of their late-November regular-season finale at Ames might seem attractive to people in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Oskaloosa and Hawarden, but it sounds like a real turkey to the TV networks.

Can you imagine trying to sell an Iowa State-Iowa game on the tube between Christmas and New Year’s to people in New York, Miami and Los Angeles? What you’d have is what breaks the hearts (and the bank accounts) of TV executives whose jobs rely on the ratings.

Hey, you didn’t forget, did you, that college football is in the entertainment business?

If Iowa State and Iowa didn’t already play during the regular season, there might be a reason to send them against each other in a bowl, but no TV people want a game matching schools from the Big 12 and Big Ten Conferences representing a small-population state when they can get schools from larger states that can produce much better ratings.


Speaking of the bowls, the best team playing in them is Colorado, which has no chance of competing for the national championship in the Rose Bowl because of regular-season losses to Fresno State and Texas.

The Buffaloes’ victory over Texas in the Big 12 championship game was a made-for-prime-time-TV dandy that probably will get Coach Gary Barnett an interview for the Notre Dame job. Even if he doesn’t have an interview scheduled, he’ll say he does.


Also speaking of the bowls, Iowa’s appearance in the Alamo Bowl will give offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe a chance to quiet the Hawkeye fans who have been all over him for his questionable play-calling against Iowa State and other teams this season.

Iowa followers have been pouring criticism regularly on O’Keefe on the Internet sites, but O’Keefe’s supporters point out that the Hawkeyes led the Big Ten in scoring, third-down conversions and red zone efficiency. However, fans continue to be frustrated by the team’s close losses this season and in 2000 – the last seven by a total of 36 points.


It won’t surprise me to see new orders from the management at KXNO, one of several all-sports radio stations in Des Moines. Sometime soon, announcers can expect to see this message on the bulletin board: “Don’t bother bringing your lunch to work.’’

Job security at KXNO is about as stable as it is in the football offices at Notre Dame.

Ferentz and Notre Dame -- Speaking of Notre Dame, Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz has been mentioned as a “longshot’’ candidate for the Fighting Irish coaching job. The reason? Because Kevin White, Notre Dame’s athletic director, hired Ferentz for the Maine football job when he was the AD there.

“Wouldn’t it be something if the Iowa job opened again?’’ one reader asks. “Bob Bowlsby (Iowa’s athletic director) would really be under the gun, but I don’t think he’d hire by committee this time.’’

Delays caused by the hiring “by committee’’ is one of the reasons critics say Iowa lost its chance to land Bob Stoops after Hayden Fry retired.

Of course, there are the usual names on the list of prospective candidates for the Notre Dame job – guys like Stoops, Jon Gruden of the Oakland Raiders, Tom Coughlin of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Mike Bellotti of Oregon, Tyrone Willingham of Stanford and Barry Alvarez of Wisconsin.

Whenever there’s a big job opening, you can figure all or most of those names will be mentioned as possibilities, whether they’re looking for new challenges or not.

What are the chances of Ferentz winding up in South Bend? Slim and none. But count on it that he wouldn’t turn down an interview for the job if he got a telephone call from the right guy at Notre Dame.

The same with Gruden, Stoops and the rest. Even though they say, “I’m happy where I am,’’ every coach listens whenever the phone rings. They’re like everyone else. They want to be wanted.


Back to Woody Hayes for a minute.

Despite anything guys like Steve Spurrier, Frank Solich, Stoops and others have done in coaching on a national scale in recent years, Hayes remains someone who can still stir emotional football talk long after his death.

I was in Pasadena, preparing to cover the Rose Bowl, when Hayes, then 65, was fired by Ohio State after he punched Clemson linebacker Charlie Bauman late in the Gator Bowl on Dec. 29, 1978. When news of the sad incident reached Pasadena, it overshadowed anything Shcembechler said or did while getting ready for the Rose Bowl game.

Woody’s firing in a lesser bowl was an even bigger deal than Bo getting ready for one of the biggest games of his career.

Hayes took eight of his Ohio State teams to the Rose Bowl, and had a 4-4 record there. He had a 205-61-10 record while coaching the Buckeyes from 1951-78. History is full of Woody stories. One of my favorites was when he and an Ohio State assistant coach were driving through Michigan on a recruiting trip, and the assistant noticed that they were running low on gas.

He thought he should fill up at a station, but Hayes ordered him to keep driving. Woody said he wouldn’t spend “a damn nickel’’ on anything in Michigan even if they had to push the car across the state line.

Woody’s temper tantrums were well known. He once threw a movie projector at Bill Mallory, then one of his assistants and later the head coach at Indiana. When Ohio State played a game at Iowa, Woody charged that Hawkeye officials deliberately let the grass grow high on the field to slow down his faster players.

So, as the story goes, he decided to get even. Woody – or someone from his staff – stole two heaters that Iowa had behind its bench on the cold day.

Maybe some of the stories were embellished, maybe not. But they were all part of the man.

[There was a time – after Forest Evashevski and before Hayden Fry – when it was not considered an official Rose Bowl unless Woody Hayes coached in it. White short-sleeved shirt, red necktie, baseball cap, red-hot temper….all were among Woody’s trademarks on the sideline. To comment on Hayes or anything else in this column, e-mail Ron Maly at malyr@juno.com]

Vol. 1, No. 9
Dec. 4, 2001