by Bruce Marshall, Goldsheet.com Editor

bowl season is upon us at TGS, with this year’s postseason activity both starting (December 20) and ending (January 13) a bit later than usual. Our game-by-game bowl coverage spans three issues, plus the national title game, and commences in next week's issue 17.

In the meantime, bowl season reminds us at TGS of a tale that no one could comprehend today, and certainly not fans of Ohio State, a football factory if there ever was one and back in the Final Four again this season. Indeed, it can be argued that no school in the country takes its pigskin participation any more seriously than in Columbus. But we at TGS were finishing up our fifth season of publishing when the Buckeyes shocked the college football world with a decision that even then seemed like some sort of gridiron version of hari-kari, and a bit of shocking history we believe modern football fans ought to be made aware.

Imagine, for a moment, a Big Ten school, on the cusp of winning the national championship, declining an invitation to the Rose Bowl? Then, imagine that school being...Ohio State?

More than a half-century ago, however, the college football landscape was different. Though passions ran just as deep as they do today at various gridiron outposts throughout the land, big television money was still years into the future, and “King Football” was selectively dictating policy only at certain locales.

Still, even in retrospect, the story of 1961 Ohio State seems almost unfathomable...especially considering the personalities involved. And of those, no more than the immortal Woody Hayes, who had won big earlier in his career with the Buckeyes but was hitting a bump in mid-career at Columbus. One of the earlier nadirs would come in 1959, our third season of publishing TGS, when OSU, with a QB named Tom Matte (he of NFL lore with the Colts), would dip to a 3-5-1 record. Receiving some unaccustomed heat from the locals, Woody felt inspired to make a promise at a booster luncheon:

“I guarantee [a championship] in two years,” said Woody. “If I don’t bring you a championship then, Ohio State is no place for Woody Hayes.”

But Hayes did have something up his sleeve with a group of promising frosh from the previous year that would fully flower over the next few seasons. (More on those Buckeye teams in a moment.) As usual, however, much of what transpired at Ohio State in the 50s, 60s, and 70s would invariably revolve around the volcanic Woody.

You think modern-day coaches like Nick Saban and Bill Belichick, or OSU current mentor Ryan Day, can intimidate? They are all mild compared to Woody. The Hayes intensity was all-encompassing. And it wasn’t limited to football. Hayes, the fan, could get worked up about other sports, too. Not even sportswriters would infuriate Hayes quite so much as an athlete who failed to play up to his ability. One such instance was at an Ohio State basketball game, during the playing career of Frank Howard, the Paul Bunyon-sized All-American hoopster who would eventually hit lots of MLB homers for the Dodgers and Washington Senators. Hayes, sitting with members of his football squad in the stands, had seen enough of Howard and others apparently loafing on the court for the Buckeyes. Woody “got madder and madder,” one of his players remembered, “until finally he jumped up and ordered us all out of the arena. ‘I’m not going to let you watch this,’ he said. He took us outside and lectured us for an hour and a half on always trying to do our best.”

As a spectator at old Cleveland Municipal Stadium for a game between the Indians and Yankees, Hayes would suffer through the one-handed fielding techniques of Indians first baseman Vic Power until he could stand it no more. “You’re showing off,” Hayes yelled from his box near the Indian dugout. “Why don’t you use both hands and help your team win?” Power was none too appreciative and challenged Woody to come on the field. But Hayes didn’t go back to watch the Tribe until Power was traded to Minnesota. “That guy makes me sick,” said Woody of Power. “What’s he got two hands for?”

During the 1950s, however, Woody’s relationship with OSU administrators became, shall we say, a bit contentious. After a rocky baptism when assuming the Buckeyes job in 1951, Woody would ride high for a while with winning teams. After the 1954 season, with an undefeated squad, a victory over Michigan, a defeat of USC in the Rose Bowl, and a share of the national title alongside Red Sanders’ UCLA, “We love you, Woody” banners could be seen all over Columbus.

But football was becoming too important, or so a faction of the OSU faculty believed, and an anti-gridiron cabal was forming alongside parts of the administration. Under the tight-fisted leadership of Governor Frank Lausche, Ohio had become one of the stingiest financiers of higher education in the country. Faculty members were leaving, graduate programs lost credibility, and the cry went out that there was money for football players but not for scholars.

Hayes had also inadvertently set off a land mine in 1956, when he divulged in a Sports Illustratedinterview that he gave extra money to players in need. Woody admitted to helping some destitute athletes out of his own pocket, a well-intentioned practice that happened to be at variance with the conference rules. “We’ve got to do something to help those kids,” Hayes roared. “One of those boys came to me and said he had only one pair of pants. ‘Can’t you get a loan?’ I asked him. ‘I tried,’ he said, ‘They told me it would take four months.’ Hell, a pair of pants can get to be awfully dirty in four months. Sure I gave him the money.”

This infraction of NCAA rules brought an outcry from the usually docile OSU faculty council. An investigation by Big Ten Commissioner Tug Wilson resulted in the Bucks being placed on probation for at least a year and barred the ‘56 football team from playing in the Rose Bowl. The NCAA followed with a ban on all Buckeye athletic teams from postseason competition.

Mobilizing internally against Hayes would be the influential Jack Fullen, longtime secretary of the OSU Alumni Association. Fullen had been supportive of Hayes earlier in Woody’s Columbus tenure, but they became bitter enemies. Specifically, Fullen was livid that his alma mater was receiving so much bad publicity because of the overemphasis on football, and continuously chastised Hayes and the football program, reminding anyone who would listen that “The football tail is wagging the college dog.” Fullen had also once proposed that the school give up all pretense at amateurism, hire a professional team and control it under a bureau of football. Hayes felt that Fullen had been trying to get him fired for years, which he understood well enough, as he was engaged in his own campaign to accomplish just that scenario against Fullen into the mid 60s.

The OSU faculty finally decided to take matters into its own hands. In the mid 50s, it set up a seven-person committee to investigate and make recommendations to the faculty council concerning the conduct of intercollegiate athletics at OSU. While the report was being completed, a couple of important events were taking place. The Big Ten, in the face of increasing abuses of the “jobs for athletes” at OSU and other member institutions, specifically Michigan State, adopted the principle of outright grant-in-aid to athletes, based on a uniform formula for determining financial need. (Hayes’ roaring on the subject was one reason the Big Ten adopted a new policy.) Meanwhile, OSU President Novice G. Fawcett took steps to guard against a repetition of Buckeye abuses in violation of conference and NCAA regulations.

The faculty council would emerge from this time period as the most-influential entity on the Columbus campus. Hard as it is to believe in 2019, in the late '50s, within faculty circles, the question of whether Ohio State should participate in any upcoming Rose Bowls had been festering for several years. Faculty members questioned the commercial aspects of big-time football. They were concerned that OSU football overshadowed the university’s reputation as a center of learning. On the periphery were students, including the football team, the OSU Board of Trustees, alumni, and frenzied Buckeye fans.

Further fanning the flames for the council was a visit to campus by a United States Senator, who would innocently blurt, “I don’t know much about Ohio State, but I do know you have a good football team here.” Reaction from much of the faculty was predictable...they boiled. “We’re upset over the fact that the image of Ohio State is that the school is merely an appendage to the football team,” said a faculty member. “When we go away for meetings, we’re kidded about this by people from other schools. We don’t dislike football, but the feeling is that things are out of proportion.”

The impact of the school’s revised policy, highlighted in the Fullington Report and implemented in 1957, was not readily apparent, as the Buckeyes were in the process of clinching the Big Ten championship. OSU would accept an invitation to play Oregon in the 1958 Rose Bowl. For beating the plucky Webfoots, 10-7, OSU would clear just short of $16,000 from its excursion to Pasadena.

By 1961, however, some of the dynamics had changed. Mainly, the Rose Bowl’s connection to the Big Ten, and a contract that would terminate after the January 1, 1960 game between Wisconsin and Washington. The old PCC had disbanded in the late '50s after a wave of scandals, replaced by the five-team Big Five (AAWU), but the Big Ten schools could not come to a majority vote to extend the Rose Bowl contract, instead splitting 5-5 on renewing the pact. To no one’s surprise, OSU was one of the five schools that voted “no” on extending the arrangement.

There was no formal agreement in place between the Big Ten and Rose Bowl for the 1960 season, but the Pasadena classic would nonetheless extend an invitation to conference champ and top-ranked Minnesota, which accepted and would play in its first Rose Bowl, where it would lose 17-7 to the same Washington team that had whipped Wisconsin 44-8 the year before.

Interestingly, Minnesota was one that was a “no” vote on continuing the Rose Bowl contract. As for OSU, though it also voted “no” to extend the pact in Pasadena, it nonetheless accepted the Big Ten’s share of bowl receipts from the Rose. (Hmmm!)

Thus, the stage was set for 1961, and another Hayes powerhouse that began the season ranked second in the polls. The ‘61 Buckeyes were among the best of the Hayes teams at Ohio State. The offense was led by a brilliant backfield comprised of quarterback Joe Sparma (who would go on to a career pitching in major league baseball), punishing 220-lb. FB Bob Ferguson, (who would finish second in the Heisman race to Syracuse’s Ernie Davis), and sophomore halfbacks Paul Warfield and Matt Snell, who would both go on to decorated pro careers and win Super Bowl rings (Warfield also entering the Canton HOF). The offensive line featured two eventual first-round picks in the 1962 NFL draft, Bob Vogel (Colts) and Daryl Sanders (Lions), and the defense was solid, if unspectacular. A guy named Bo Schembechler was also an assistant coach on the staff.

Keep in mind that Hayes’ Buckeyes, and several teams in the era, had yet to add a tenth game to their schedules. In fact, OSU didn’t add a tenth regular-season game until 1971, a year after several schools had added an 11th game. (Woody’s Bucks wouldn’t play an 11-game regular-season until 1974.) In 1961, fall practice didn’t even commence in Columbus until September 4, as the regular-season kickoff would have to wait until September 30 (really!).

Though the ‘61 Buckeyes would finish unbeaten, their start to the season was slow, as after a 7-7 tie vs. TCU that dropped OSU to 8th in the polls, the Bucks would have all sorts of problems with Bill Barnes’ UCLA and its updated version of the old single wing. The Bruins used Bobby Smith’s running and his field goal to forge an early 3-0 lead that held until the 4th Q when OSU finally broke through on TD runs by Warfield (13 yards) and Snell (33 yards) to finally put away Barnes’ bunch, 13-3. Remember this result as it relates to developments two months hence in 1961.

By November, however, the Buckeyes were still unbeaten, moving up in the polls, and passing everyone else in the Big Ten. A win in the penultimate week vs. Indiana, with second-ranked Texas having lost vs. that same pesky TCU on the same day, allowed OSU to move up to No. 2 in the polls behind Bear Bryant’s Alabama as the annual season-ending grudge match vs. Michigan beckoned at Ann Arbor.

The Buckeyes were in control of the game, up 21-6 at the half, with Warfield’s 69-yard TD run the highlight play, and still ahead 21-12 into the 4th Q when the offense would erupt and feature an 80-yard TD pass from Sparma to HB Bob Klein. Meanwhile, the punishing Ferguson would blast for 152 yards and 4 TDs, to that point the most-ever in an Ohio State-Michigan game.

But the enduring memory of that Wolverine-Buckeye clash came in the final 34 seconds, with the Bucks nursing a commanding 42-20 lead , and with the ball on their own 20-yard line. Rather than fall on the ball, however, Hayes ordered QB Sparma to throw deep, which he did, hitting Warfield for 70 yards down to the Michigan 10! On the game’s final play, Sparma would pass 10 yards to end Sam Tidmore for one final TD...but there would be one more play. Rather than kick a PAT with PK Dick Van Raaphorst to up the score to 49-20, Hayes opted to go for two to hit the 50-point mark, which Sparma accomplished with another pass for 2 points to Tidmore.Final score 50-20!

The ruthless side of Hayes mystique would grow from this blatant attempt to run up the score, but Woody hardly felt that any apologies to Michigan or Wolverine HC Bump Elliott (who just passed at age 94 this weekend) were necessary. “We were going for national recognition,” said Woody, reckoning that a bigger score, and hitting the magic 50, might help his cause in the polls and close the gap on top-ranked Bama. “Let’s not kid ourselves. It was a question of being the No. 1 team in the country (in place of idle Alabama) or No. 2. One or two more scores aren’t going to hurt Bump Elliott or Michigan,” Woody added.

Flush with victory over the hated Wolverines, more good news met the Buckeyes as they entered the locker room after the game, as Wisconsin had scored a 23-21 upset over Minnesota, giving the Bucks the outright Big Ten crown. Though the conference had still not come to a new agreement with the Rose Bowl, most considered it a mere formality that Pasadena would invite OSU to a rematch vs. UCLA on New Year’s Day. The Rose Bowl obliged....and here is where the fur started to fly.

The faculty council would have final say on the invitation. The Rose Bowl gave Buckeye AD Richard Larkins the customary three days to accept the bid. But an internal storm was brewing in Columbus that would shock the college football world.

The athletic council, led by AD Larkins, forwarded to the faculty council a motion, passed by a six-to-four vote, to accept the invitation to participate in the forthcoming Rose Bowl game. It would be up to the faculty council to confirm the Buckeyes’ participation against UCLA on January 1.

But when the faculty council gathered in the lounge of the faculty club to begin deliberations, they were totally unprepared for the scene that ensued. The lounge was packed with other faculty members, students, reporters, and news photographers. A battery of television cameras and a representative of a local radio station were in the back of the room. It is hard to believe in this day and age of 2019, but 58 years ago in Columbus, there was doubt as to whether the Buckeyes would accept the Rose Bowl bid!

The main arguments in favor of participation in the Rose Bowl were familiar. There was nothing wrong with having a winning football team, and participation in the Rose Bowl would enhance the reputation of the university in the eyes of those who support it. As for safeguards against commercialism, they were in place, and athletics did not overshadow the mission of the university.

Meanwhile, those opposed to the trip to California were uneasy about the public image OSU portrayed as an “athletic factory.” Academic disruptions were prominent in the 1958 Rose Bowl excursion. There was concern that Buckeye boosters were really in control of athletic policy. And favoritism toward football players would occur. The naysayers would also cite the Rose Bowl opponent, UCLA, already beaten by the Buckeyes during the regular season. There was not a voracious appetite for a rematch vs. a 3-loss Bruin team that OSU had earlier defeated.

Some faculty also felt that since classes would begin the day after the game (played on a Monday in '62), making the trip would be a slap in the face of the university’s educational mission. Others felt that the expense of transporting the team, boosters, officials, cheerleaders and band took valuable funds away from more important programs. Yet underneath the stated reasons for the vote lay the simmering dissatisfaction on the part of some faculty members with Hayes, and the football leviathan he had built at Ohio State.

After due discussion, President Fawcett called for the vote. There were fifty-three votes cast, with twenty-five yes-votes and twenty-eight no-votes! Unbelievably, Ohio State became the first Big Ten School to refuse a Rose Bowl bid!

(The Rose Bowl, not bound to the Big Ten for the ’62 game, would then briefly float a trial balloon toward Bear Bryant’s Alabama, but when word leaked that UCLA’s black players would not take the field against a segregated foe, the Crimson Tide quickly accepted a Sugar Bowl bid vs. Arkansas, another segregated team. These decisions opened the door for Murray Warmath’s Minnesota, which eagerly accepted the Pasadena bid to become the initial Big Ten team to play in two consecutive Rose Bowl games!)

When news of the vote hit, the OSU campus exploded. Thousands of students engaged in two days of protests and limited rioting, including an impromptu four-mile march to the Ohio Statehouse. Legislators railed. As for Woody, he did not hear the news until he arrived at the Hollenden Hotel in Cleveland to make a speech. When reporters told him he dropped his bag and walked out. For an hour and a half he roamed the Cleveland streets, trying to compose himself.

Back on the campus, the Ohio State students were making no such effort to count 10. They burned members of the faculty in effigy, snake-danced down the main street, surrounded the capitol building, broke windows, besieged and insulted their professors and generally raised the most hell that had been raised in Columbus since V-J day. One of the students, among those who briefly commandeered a Columbus street car in protest, was none other than a forward on the basketball team named Bob Knight.

Meanwhile, the local TV and radio stations, joined in the denunciation of the anti-Rose Bowl faculty members, some of them in violent terms. The Wolfe brothers, publishers of The Columbus Dispatch, in an act of dubious public service, printed a list of those professors voting against the trip to Pasadena, complete with addresses, salaries and amounts of money spent for the year on out-of-state travel at state expense. The result was that the offending professors were jeered, scowled at, browbeaten, telephoned day and night and greeted with messages in monosyllables on blackboards all over the campus.

All forms of exclamatory behavior broke out over this rejection. Pressure was put on the conservative University Board of Trustees to reverse the faculty council decision. President Fawcett called members of the board. The consensus of the board members determined that they lacked power to act on this matter without jeopardizing the university’s membership in the Big Ten Conference. John W. Bricker, former U.S. senator and chairman of the board, spoke out in opposition to the faculty council decision. Les Horvath, a former OSU Heisman Trophy winner, was quoted as saying, “The Ohio State faculty are a bunch of jerks.”

It was in this environment that Woody Hayes had one of his finest moments. As incensed as he was, he asked for quiet on campus, and publicly stated his obeisance to the faculty decision. In a move that must have crushed the competitive coach, Hayes defended the faculty’s decision:

“I don’t agree with those 28 ‘no’ votes, but I respect the integrity of the men who cast them, if not their intelligence,” said Hayes to a gathering of OSU alumni in Cleveland. “I would not want football to draw a line of cleavage in our university. Football is not worth that.”

Woody also made it plain that he was not going to quit over the action (as had been rumored). “We have had to learn to accept defeat under pressure and that may help us now,” he said, “although it is difficult to explain to the boys when, after 15 years, the Rose Bowl is jerked out from under them.”

The picture of Woody Hayes speaking moderately did not escape the notice of the diehards back in Columbus, who always had looked upon him as their General Patton. By the second day the public demonstrations began to dissipate. They came to an end when football co-captain Mike Ingram announced to the crowds through a police loudspeaker, “They’re not going to change their minds. We might as well face it. We’re not going to the Rose Bowl. Go home before somebody gets hurt.” There were a few boos, whereupon the husky Ingram pulled out his last stop. “The team did all the damn work!” he said. “If we can accept the decision, you certainly can. You college kids leave and let the police pick up the high school kids hanging around.” Telephone calls excepted, that was effectively the end of anarchy in Columbus.

Hayes paid a steep price for doing the right thing. Opposing coaches used the faculty’s vote against him in the recruiting process, and Ohio State descended into a period of relative mediocrity for much of the ‘60s, as some recruits stayed away from Columbus for fear of missing out on publicity and future Rose Bowl trips. It wasn’t until 1968 that Hayes’ program fully recovered from the ramifications of the infamous ‘61 faculty decision, but when it did, there sure was hell to pay. (More on those great Buckeye teams at a later date!)

But what about the feud between Hayes and Fullen, now in the open for all to see at the end of 1961? Hayes later pressed the attack, “I’m going to learn why...[Fullen] representing the university has so much power.” Fullen and Hayes would continue to exchange barbs, but Fullen was steadily losing ground in his quest for a semblance of sanity in the athletic department. Blocking the 1962 Rose Bowl bid had been an attempt to reassert academic priorities at OSU. That the faculty’s action succeeded for only a very brief period of time dramatically pointed out where the real power of the university resided.

In the spring of 1962, Jack Cole, a wealthy Dayton businessman, formed the Committee for the Advancement of OSU. “Advancement” was essentially defined as “to get rid of Fullen.” Four new positions were open on the alumni’s board of directors. Cole’s committee candidates won all four seats, further diminishing Fullen’s strength.

This panzer-like advance became complete in the fall of 1962. Newly-elected faculty council members, with inside support from the athletic department, voted 36-20 to accept the next Rose Bowl bid when invited. The revolt against the football machine was over. The anti-football faction of the faculty was again entombed; its partisans subdued.

Almost 60 years later, the events at Ohio State in late 1961 still seem almost unreal, especially in light of what football has become in the decades since. The frenzy and insanity of college football has escalated to unimaginable heights and is reflected no better than in Columbus. We can safely say that we will never again witness a football scenario such as the one involving the Buckeyes and their decision to reject the bid for the 1962 Rose Bowl.

In conclusion, we have to say that the faculty council indeed displayed courage regarding such a volatile issue. But it turned out to be a one-off, an aberration. King Football would soon dominate again at Ohio State and most other major schools across the land. We’ll let you decide on the merits of that outcome.

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