Harry Jaffa on Woody Hayes

Congratulations to Ohio State on winning the national championship last night (though for the record I detest the entire BCS derangement of college football of the last decade).

I’m reminded that Harry Jaffa taught at Ohio State in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and was friendly with Hayes.  He told this story upon Hayes’s passing:

In 1956 Ohio State was placed on a one-year probation because of Woody’s having given money to some of his players. I took my two boys to a pre-season warm-up with Woody at the Faculty Club that fall. In the course of the evening we asked him for his explanation of the episode. I have never seen that explanation in the press, and I give it here for what it is worth. This, mind you, was in the mid-fifties, long before the anti-discrimination laws of the following decade. Woody said that he got summer jobs for many of his players, but that it was often the case that the black athletes received less for the same work than the white athletes. When that happened, he said, he made up the difference out of his own pocket. He was proud of having done so, he said, and if need be he would do it again. Many I know who read this will regard it with cynicism. I can only say that I believed Woody then and still do. However brutally he may have treated them sometimes on the practice field, Woody’s devotion to his players — whatever their race, creed, or color — was legendary. One story may stand for many others. One of his proteges had been admitted to Harvard Medical School, and was half way through his first semester. He had found the going rough, as so many first-year medical students do. And he was on the point of dropping out. Woody heard about it and took the next plane out of Columbus for Cambridge. And he did not leave Cambridge until he had the young man’s promise to stay in school — the young man who is now no longer younger, but a very successful and distinguished member of the medical profession.

Farewell, Woody. Whatever his faults, we may say of him, as Antony said of Brutus, “This was a man.”

Meanwhile, this, which might help explain the outcome last night:

Oregon helmets copy

Responses