On December 30, 1978, Ohio State University (OSU) makes the decision to fire its 65-year-old football coach, Woody Hayes, one day after Hayes punched a player on the opposing team near the end of the Gator Bowl.
Born in Clifton, Ohio, in 1913, Hayes played college football at Denison University before serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II, rising to the rank of lieutenant commander. He returned to his alma mater as a coach upon his discharge in 1946. After three seasons with Denison and two with the Redskins of Miami University of Ohio, Hayes took the head coaching position at OSU in 1951. In his 28 seasons with the Buckeyes, Hayes compiled an overall record of 238-72-10, including 13 Big Ten titles, four national championships, and four appearances in the Rose Bowl. His 238 wins placed him ninth on the all-time list of top NCAA Division I coaching victories (as of 2007), and he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1983.
Despite his prodigious coaching ability, Hayes (who died in 1987) is also remembered for his volatile temper and violent outbursts, which sometimes threatened to overshadow his teams’ performance on the field. The most egregious example came on December 29, 1978, during the Buckeyes’ 15-17 loss to the Clemson Tigers in the Gator Bowl. With OSU down by two points in the closing seconds of the game, Clemson linebacker Charlie Bauman intercepted a pass and was knocked out of bounds on the Buckeyes’ sidelines. As Bauman was getting up, Hayes punched him in the throat, after which he was restrained by several OSU players. On December 30, an embarrassed OSU administration fired Hayes, who would never coach again.