Gator Bowl: Scene of the Crime 30 Years Later

Posted on December 29, 2008. Filed under: College Football | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

What Really Caused OSU Football Coach Woody Hayes to Lose Control in ’78 Gator Bowl

 

By Will Cummings
my Hit News.com

 

  This year’s 2009 Gator Bowl between the Clemson Tigers and Nebraska Cornhuskers will mark 30 years since the bowl game experienced the most disturbing incident in college sports history:

 

The December 29th , 1978 Gator Bowl wherein legendary Ohio State University coach Wayne “Woody” Hayes violently assaulted Clemson cornerback Charlie Bauman in front of a national television audience.

 

Below see YouTube Video of  ’78 Gator Bowl incident:

 

    To the national television audience Woody Hayes’ physical attack upon the Clemson player was—seemingly–the result of Hayes’ frustration over Bauman having ended any hope of a Buckeye comeback victory with his late fourth quarter game-clinching interception of OSU quarterback Art Schlichter’s errant throw. After all, Woody Hayes had fashioned the outward persona of the cantankerous old coach with a flare for public displays of childlike verbal and physical temper tantrums.

 

   So to many who witnessed Hayes’ assault on Bauman it was simply the act of a fiery and bitter old ball coach who had finally lost all sense and sensibility.

 

   But not so fast my friends! There may be more than just the interception that led Coach Hayes to go after the Clemson player in such a vicious and relentless fashion. The following will shed light on what really prompted Hayes to cross the line of no return:  

 

   But before I go on, in fairness and to give some perspective and to set the stage, I must inform the reader that I was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio and my father, Bill Cummings Jr., was a member of Woody’s first national championship team in 1954. In addition, there were many occasions during my childhood where I was around Woody in some shape form or fashion including my senior year in high school when I was recruited by Woody and members of his staff.

 

   Finally, the core of what I am about to divulge here is the result of my proximity and relationship to the OSU football program and its players during this incident.

 

   Approximately a week before the Buckeyes left town for the Gator Bowl, my father and I met with Coach Hayes at the Buckeye football training complex to discuss my transfer to OSU from Kansas State University.

 

   Sadly, about a couple of weeks later, my dad and I were both together at home watching the game on television when Woody hit the Clemson player–I will never forget the dismay and bewilderment in my father’s face and demeanor.

 

   To say the least, it took a very, very long time for the Buckeye faithful to fully dig out from underneath the funk of that incident.

 

  Yet despite the debacle and Hayes’ subsequent firing, I still finalized my transfer to OSU. Shortly afterwards, during a winter conditioning workout, it was revealed to me that the Gator Bowl fracas was the result of much more than met the eyes.

 

   Curious to know what Woody was thinking when he hit that kid, I brought up the subject with a group of guys gathered around a weight lifting bench. Several of the players present were also at the game and were actually along the sidelines where the incident occurred. These players alleged—emphatically–that the player who intercepted the ball yelled out:

 

“How do you like that you old f____er.”

 

And that is what provoked Hayes to cross the proverbial line in the sand.

 

   Now I am not condoning in any manner what coach Hayes did that day, but I understand it in a much better light. Moreover, the Coach Hayes I knew was not the caricature that he became know for by so many people.  

 

“Don’t Pay Attention to That Man You See On the Screen.”

   Woody Hayes’ 1978 Gator Bowl incident has caused many to spurn the man’s achievements and contributions to the sport. But to those of us who have had the privilege to know him know that he is deserving of many honorable accolades.

 

   The Woody I knew was highly admired and respected by his former players. That’s because Woody Hayes set the bar high and demanded excellence from his players and staff, but most importantly he and his wife, Anne, cared for each Buckeye football player like they were their own sons. Most admirably, Woody and Anne continued their care and support for former players and their families long after their playing days were over. There was nothing they wouldn’t do to help those in need or to support a cause of one of their former players.

 

Fittingly, the last time I saw Coach Hayes and his wife in person was at my father’s funeral in 1985 where Hayes gave a moving eulogy.

 

   The Woody I knew was highly admired and respected by his former players. That’s because Woody Hayes set the bar high and demanded excellence from his players and staff, but most impotantly he and his wife, Anne, cared for each Buckeye foofball player like they were their own sons. Most admirably, Woody and Anne continued their care and support for former players  and their families long after their playing days were over. There was nothing they wouldn’t do to help those in need or to support a cause of one of their former players.

 

   The Woody I knew also explains why–as far as I know– he never mentioned that the reason for his actions were related to what Bauman allegedly said.

 

    Coach Hayes’ was a noted pioneer and innovator who always sought to improve the game. However,  in my opinion his most important but least mentioned legacy is the role that he played in advancing the acceptance and recognition of black players, trainers, coaches and administrators in college football. 

 

   Unfortunately, Hayes’ name is rarely mentioned as being one of the catalyst and stalwarts of progressive coaches and administrators who advanced the cause of black participation and recognition in all levels of college football. That’s because Hayes didn’t talk about it—he just did it!

 

   Hayes was among a handful of coaches in the country who recruited and played significant numbers of black players during the 1950’s. OSU’s great offensive and defensive lineman Jim Parker was the first black Outland Trophy winner in 1956 (he came close to winning the Heisman that year.) Cornelius Greene (’72-’75) was OSU’s first black starting quarterback and among the nations first black quarterbacks at a major university. The move was so controversial at the time that Greene, Hayes and the University received death threats and hate mail.  Archie Griffin–still the only two-time Heisman Trophy winner–became one of the first black athletic directors at major program. OSU, under Hayes, employed the first black head football athletic trainer, Billy Hill (1971-1995). And there were a countless number of things that Hayes did behind the scenes to advance the cause of racial equality in all walks of life.

 

   Coach Hayes was much more than a great coach–he was a great human being, perhaps one of the finest I have ever met.  There is so much more I could tell you about the man.  He was certainly one of a kind.

 

   In my book for all of Hayes’ football accomplishments and the way that he nurtured and supported his players and set an example of how to advance the cause of racial equality within the sport:

Coach Woody Hayes is the greatest college football coach the game has known. And it just partly explains why to this day Woody Hayes is so beloved by so many Buckeye fans in spite of that infamous moment at the ’78 Gator Bowl.”  

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4 Responses to “Gator Bowl: Scene of the Crime 30 Years Later”

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In short, he lost his temper because a kid fired up from a game-clinching interception yelled out “How do you like that you old f____er.” The author then spends 10 paragraphs trying to excuse Woody through what Woody has done over the course of his career, and what a great guy he is.

Lame.

good article, read lots of stuff about woody, everything adds up to him being one hell of a coach

[…] strive to get 3 yards on every play they run. The “Three Yards and a Cloud of Dust” Woody Hayes philosophy sure doesn’t seem to describe Howells football, but that’s the way Belina and […]

[…] strive to get 3 yards on every play they run. The “Three Yards and a Cloud of Dust” Woody Hayes philosophy sure doesn’t seem to describe Howells football, but that’s the way Belina and […]


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