Publish date:

Under Review

Early in Beyond the Gridiron: The Life and Times of Woody Hayes (PBS, check local listings), Larry Romanoff, who coached under Hayes at Ohio State, says, "Woody was a great judge of who he could push and who he couldn't, who he could scream at and who he couldn't, who he could run up to and slap upside the helmet and who he couldn't." In addition to being a master button-pusher Hayes was old school, a staunch conservative (Richard Nixon spoke at his funeral) and a strict disciplinarian shaped by his time in the Navy in World War II. (Coaches have been using military imagery for years; few go so far as to have their quarterback say "Patton" to indicate a ground play and "LeMay"--for Air Force general Curtis LeMay--to indicate a pass.) His plain ol' three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust offense was almost an extension of his personality, and for years it worked, as he won five national titles in his 28 years. But as his offense and his straitlaced style became outdated, he became more temperamental. Ironically Hayes's career ended when he could no longer tell whose helmet he could slap and whose he couldn't: He was fired after punching a Clemson player in the 1978 Gator Bowl, ending one of the most complex and, as Gridiron shows, fascinating careers college football has seen. --M.B.