On March 17, 1987, Woody Hayes' funeral was held at First
Community Church in Columbus. At a table on the altar was a single candle, a Woody hat, a US Navy flag, and a single
rose in a vase. At the conclusion of the service, Carmen Ohio was sung. The eulogy was delivered by Richard Nixon, without notes. The following excerpts appear in Woody Hayes: A Reflection by Paul Hornung.
I vividly recall the time I first met
Woody Hayes 30 years ago. It was right after the Ohio State-Iowa football game
in 1957. It was a great game. Iowa
led 13-10 in the middle of the fourth quarter. Ohio
State had the ball on their own 35-yard line.
A big sophomore fullback, Bob White, carried the ball 11 straight times through the same hole inside left tackle. It was three yards in a cloud of Hawkeyes. He
finally scored. Ohio State
won 17-13. It was Woody Hayes' second national championship.
Afterwards, at a victory reception, John Bricker introduced me to Woody. I
wanted to talk about football. Woody wanted to take about foreign policy. You know Woody--we talked about foreign policy.
For 30 years thereafter, I was privileged to know the real Woody Hayes--the man behind the media myth. Instead of a know-nothing Neanderthal, I found a Renaissance man with a consuming interest in history and
a profound understanding of the forces that move the world. Instead of a cold,
ruthless tyrant on the football field, I found a warm-hearted softie--very appropriately born on Valentine's Day--who spoke
of his affection for "his boys", as he called them, and for his family.
I am sure Woody wouldn't mind if I shared with you a letter he wrote to me shortly after Mrs. Nixon suffered a stroke
ten years ago: "You and I are about the two luckiest men in the world from the standpoint of our marriages with your Pat and
my Anne. I know you will agree that neither of us could have done better and
neither of us deserves to do so well."
I saw another Ohio State game
on New Year's Day in 1969. The Buckeyes were playing USC, Mrs. Nixon's alma mater,
in the Rose Bowl. O.J. Simpson electrified the crowd in the first quarter when he made one of his patented cutbacks after
going over left tackle and then sprinted 80 yards for a touchdown. But the Buckeyes
came roaring back in the second half and crushed the Trojans 27-16. It was Woody's
third national championship.
He could have quit the, with three national championships and seven Big Ten championships. He had to know that it was a risk to stay on. It is a rule
of life that if you take no risks, you will suffer no defeats. But if you take
no risks, you will win no victories. Woody did not believe in playing it safe. He played to win.
In the next nine years, he won some great victories, including a record six straight Big Ten championships from 1972
to 1977. He also suffered some shattering defeats. The incident at the Gator Bowl in 1978 would have destroyed an ordinary man. But Woody was not an ordinary man. Winston Churchill once
said, "Success is never final. Failure is never fatal." Woody lived by that maxim. He was never satisfied with success;
he was never discouraged by failure.
The last nine years of his life were probably his best. He made scores
of inspirational speeches all over the country. He gave all of the honorariums
from those speeches to the Woody Hayes Cancer Fund at Ohio State
University. He raised tens of thousands
of dollars for crippled children in his annual birthday and Valentine's Day phonathons.
He gave pregame pep talks to his beloved Ohio State
team, now coached by one of his boys, Earle Bruce. He basked in the warm glow
of tributes that were showered upon him by those who played under him and others that had come to know him, love him, and
Last year, the National Association of College and High School coaches capped his career by honoring him with the Amos
Alonzo Stagg Award. They honored him as an outstanding coach, but even more importantly,
they honored him as a great humanitarian.
Two thousand years ago, the poet Sophocles wrote, "One must wait until the evening to see how splendid the day has
been." We can all be thankful today that in the evening of his life, Woody Hayes
could look back and see that the day had indeed been splendid.
On March 18, 1987,
a public memorial service was held at Ohio Stadium with over 10,000 people in attendance.
OSU Coach Earle Bruce spoke at this memorial:
Coach Hayes cared for me.
He cared for you. He cared for Ohio
State University and the football program. His heart was as big or bigger than his chest.
When I reflect on what's happened, it's kind of difficult to say that you to the people who have done so much for you. I'd like to say thanks to Coach Hayes for caring for his players, caring whether they
got an education or not, whether they graduated or not.
I came here at a time when if you got injured you lost your scholarship. And
if you were low down on the team structure you were probably gone. But he cared
for people at the top and bottom of the roster.
Thanks for the great dedication you gave to all of the assistant coaches, and for the hard-work ethic you demanded
out of every one of us as we approached the game of football. You demanded the
best effort and got nothing less.
Thanks for the integrity you gave us in every endeavor. Thank goodness
I worked for him, because he set such a high standard for the game of football he loved so much. He felt cheaters never won
in the end, and he held the game of football in high esteem.
He truly was one of a kind in his integrity and ability to help people. Nothing was ever too big or too small. Whatever time of day it might have been, he'd give you the helping hand you needed
to get you through.
Thanks for showing me that loyalty and love prevail over bitterness and hate.
Thanks for the pay-ahead principle. You can never pay Coach Hayes back
for all he's done for you. It would take forever.
He's the best football coach in America.
I guess we're all faced with things today, to face up to what's happened. I
love you, Woody Hayes; football loves you, Ohio loves you, the University loves
you. You'll be missed at the Friday Senior Tackle. You'll be missed when things
are tough. We'll miss your helping hand, encouragement, the idea to run "robust"
and get the job done.