L’Envoi to Woody Hayes

The Claremont Institute, January 3, 2003.


History will record that Woody Hayes (who died March 12, 1987) and I began our careers at Ohio State the same year, 1951. No one in the press has taken note of this fact, and history is always slow about such things, so I will climb down from my pedestal that the world may be aware of this famous juxtaposition. I write of him as one who was a friend, albeit one who, unlike Woody, has always avoided controversy. I left Ohio State after 13 years—in 1964—to the warmer and greener pastures of southern California, but Woody enjoyed another decade of great achievement in Ohio before ending his career with both a bang and a whimper. Alas, a national television audience watched him slug a Clemson player who had intercepted an Ohio State pass in the 1978 Gator Bowl, two minutes before the end of the game, which Ohio State lost, 17-15. And so ol’ Woody passed into the night, defeated in the end by the only one who could defeat him: himself.

Woody’s career, and its inglorious ending, somewhat resembled that of his hero: General Patton. Patton had become something of an anachronism at the time of his meaningless death in a jeep accident, shortly after the end of World War II. He was an anachronism because, at the very moment we grasped the hands of our Russian allies in victory, Patton declared that they had never been our friends, and were now our enemies. Of course, it was little more than a year later that President Truman declared much the same thing that Patton had declared, but when he died Patton was out of favor with all enlightened thinkers.

Claremont Institute