Glen Mason and the Cult of Woody

I had the chance to watch most of Ohio State’s 76-0 win and as you can probably imagine, with the game out of hand, the Big Ten Network announcers had plenty of air time to fill. With Glen Mason, former OSU player and assistant coach under Woody Hayes doing color commentary, the reunion of the 1973 Rose Bowl champion OSU team, and an upcoming BTN documentary on the 1973 OSU-Michigan tie game, there was plenty of talk about Woody and the history of those teams.

Now, before I get into the Woody talk during the broadcast, I have to share my own history with coach Hayes. I grew up in NYC, not really a hot bed of college football, and during the 70s college football for me was Notre Dame, who I followed as every Irish Catholic kid did, and a bunch of teams that were not Notre Dame. Ohio State really didn’t register with me at all. I have a vague memory or two of seeing OSU games on the TV, but nothing more than that. The first time I paid any attention at all to OSU was during my Christmas break from school in 1978. There was a game on the TV, my dad was watching it, between two teams I barely knew anything about. Since it was the holiday break, as the game wound down later in the evening, I was still up, and was stunned to see some “crazy old man” punch a kid from the other team. I quickly learned that man was Woody Hayes, the coach of Ohio State. I also learned the next day that he had been fired.

Flash forward 8 years. By the time 1986 rolls around, I had moved to Columbus, Ohio and was starting my freshman year at Ohio State. Woody passed away while I was a student there, and there were memorials and statements made about the greatness of Woody. Up until this point, he had always been that “crazy old man”, and as I watch the memorials and television coverage of his death, I learn about just how respected he was among the Ohio State family, and all of the great things he did for the football program, and the men who played for him. I also learned that this is the same guy who tore apart a down marker, had his team knock down the Michigan banner before the Wolverines came onto the field, went for two with a large lead against Michigan because he “couldn’t go for 3”, and had one of the worst tempers I had ever seen on a sideline.

So, you can see, while I am an OSU fan, I have never lived in the Woody reality distortion field. He’s always been a bit of a mixed bag as far as I was concerned. Which is why it was so galling to hear Mason talk about Woody in such glowing terms, without mentioning some of those things, and to even laugh off video of the team trying to tear down the banner before that 1973 game. I also find it hypocritical of OSU fans to talk about “class” and the lack of it at other schools. We root for a school that has built up a cult of personality around a coach who did some extremely classless things, and which has recently went out and hired a coach who we previously considered to be one of those classless SEC coaches. As a fellow OSU fan, I find it embarrassing when Buckeye fans start down that route. Throwing rocks, glass houses, and all of that.

Lets just admit, that when it comes to big time NCAA football, we could all do well to remember he words of Michael Corleone, “We are all part of the same hypocrisy, Senator.”