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War As They Knew It: Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, and America in a Time of Unrest

War As They Knew It: Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, and America in a Time of Unrest

2.6 25
by Michael Rosenberg

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The Vietnam War . . .

Nixon . . .

Kent State . . .

The late 1960s and early 1970s were a time of total turmoil in America-the country was being torn apart by a war most people didn't support, young men were being taken away by the draft, and racial tensions were high. Nowhere was this turmoil more evident than on college campuses, the epicenters


The Vietnam War . . .

Nixon . . .

Kent State . . .

The late 1960s and early 1970s were a time of total turmoil in America-the country was being torn apart by a war most people didn't support, young men were being taken away by the draft, and racial tensions were high. Nowhere was this turmoil more evident than on college campuses, the epicenters of the protest movement.

The uncertain times presented a challenge to two of the greatest football coaches of all time. Woody Hayes, the legendary archconservative coach of Ohio State, feared for the future of America. His protégé and rival, Bo Schembechler of the University of Michigan, didn't want to be bothered by these "distractions." Hayes worshipped General George S. Patton and was friends with President Richard Nixon. Schembechler befriended President Gerald Ford, a former captain and team MVP for the Wolverines.

In this enthralling book, Michael Rosenberg dramatically weaves the campus unrest and political upheaval into the story of Hayes and Schembechler. Their rivalry began with Schembechler arriving in protest-heavy Ann Arbor, Michigan, at the height of the Vietnam War. It ended with Hayes wondering what had happened to his country. War As They Knew It is a sobering and fascinating look at two iconic coaches and a different generation.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

The yearly battle between Ohio State and the University of Michigan is one of the most intensely fought rivalries in college football, and one of its greatest eras began in 1969, when Bo Schembechler arrived in Michigan as the team's new head coach. Schembechler had been a former protégé of Woody Hayes, the legendary coach of Ohio State-who was so intimidating that one player used to be terrified that Hayes would kick him in the testicles during practice, despite never having seen him do it to another player. Rosenberg, a sportswriter for the Detroit Free Press, tracks how the two coaches pushed their players to greatness over the next nine years (until Hayes was fired after punching an opposing player in the middle of a game) while trying to adjust to the social upheavals of the 1970s. His attempts to bring the radical student underground into the story are an intermittent distraction-the most powerful drama is out on the football field and in the locker room when every year Schembechler and Hayes went head-to-head. The story has its strong moments, including one of history's most notorious missed field goals, but it's the dual portrait of the old-school coaching legends that's the real attraction. (Sept. 10)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

In college football from the late Sixties through the Seventies, the intense rivalry between Michigan coach Bo Schembechler and his mentor, Woody Hayes, the militaristic coach of Ohio State, made for great theater during a time of vast change on American campuses. This exploration of the beginning of Schembechler's legend and the close of Hayes's contentious reign treats both men fairly and seeks to place sensationalized actions and statements in their proper context. Rosenberg (Detroit Free Press) delivers a probing, sensitive, and insightful assessment of the two legendary coaches and of college football in general during a volatile era. Of interest to both public and academic libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ5/15/08.]

—John Maxymuk
Kirkus Reviews
Detroit Free Press sportswriter Rosenberg views a tumultuous era in American history through the lens of the greatest rivalry in college football. During the late 1960s and early '70s, as the country experienced upheaval both at home and abroad, a different sort of battle was taking place on the football fields of the Midwest. As Rosenberg demonstrates, the Ohio State Buckeyes and Michigan Wolverines were the two most successful college-football programs during that time, and their success was driven by their respective larger-than-life coaches, Ohio State's Woody Hayes and Michigan's Bo Schembechler. Hayes was a legendary disciplinarian and staunch conservative who believed in the sanctity of the game and traditional American values (Rosenberg's title is adapted from the 1947 memoir by General George Patton, whom Hayes idolized), and he demanded diligence and obedience from his players. Schembechler learned the ways of the "Old Man," as Hayes was often known, while playing for him at Miami University (Ohio) and working as a graduate assistant at OSU when Hayes took over in 1951. The Ohio State coach had already won three national championships before Schembechler became head coach of the Wolverines in 1969, but neither coach would win a title during the next decade of their intense rivalry. Rosenberg brings each man to vibrant life, exploring their tireless dedication to the sport and their players, as well as their relationship to their schools, their country and each other (the two remained lifelong friends). The author draws a colorful portrait of the bitter rivalry between the two Big Ten powerhouses, and he mirrors their on-field clashes with sharp glimpses of the turmoil occurringon both campuses as student demonstrations increased and the country fell deeper into the Vietnam quagmire. Rosenberg should also be commended for resurrecting the accomplishments of former Michigan athletic director Don Canham, whose aggressive marketing efforts helped the Wolverines set nearly every attendance record since 1975 (since that time, Michigan has sold more than 100,000 tickets for every home game). An enjoyable, high-energy combination of cultural and sports history, and a must-read for all Wolverines and Buckeyes. Agent: Greg Dinkin/Venture Literary

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War As They Knew It

Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, and America in a Time of Unrest

By Michael Rosenberg
Grand Central Publishing
Copyright © 2008

Michael Rosenberg
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-446-58013-7

Chapter One What Kind of Game?

It was time for Woody Hayes to adjust. Halftime, late October 1967: Hayes's Ohio State Buckeyes trailed Illinois. Hayes stood at the locker room chalkboard, like any other football coach, to perform the most basic football-coach task: diagramming a play. And Hayes tried, he really did, but then he caught a glimpse of his fullback, Jim Otis, who had fumbled twice in the first half, and suddenly Hayes wanted to smack Otis.

Did it matter that Otis was one of Hayes's favorite players? Or that Otis's father roomed with Hayes for two years at Denison University? Or that Hayes had known Otis for years-and that Otis had spent his whole life preparing to play fullback for Woody at Ohio State?

Hell yes. Of course it mattered. With such close ties to Woody Hayes, Otis knew goddamn well not to fumble.

Hayes turned and rammed through the first two rows of players, then attacked with such force that Otis's Coke popped up in the air. And as he pounded away, Hayes screamed that Otis would never play for Ohio State again.

The Buckeyes had seen the flash of Hayes's temper many times. Normally, there was a way to prepare for it: make him stand on your right side. Hayes was left-handed; when he stood on your right side, he had to take a step back to throw that left-fisted punch, and you had a chance to get out of the way.

But Otis, wedged into the third row, had nowhere to go, and at that moment, so much seemed to be ending. The season was lost- Ohio State's record was about to fall to 2-3. There were rumblings that if Hayes lost the big season finale at Michigan, he would be fired. Otis, a sophomore, thought his career was finished (and in fact, he would be benched for the rest of that Illinois game and the two after that).

Had a picture been taken at that moment-an image frozen and passed around the nation, designed to provoke an instant reaction- most people would have reached quick, obvious conclusions: Hayes and Otis would never speak again; the coach would lose the respect of his players; and the Woody Hayes era at Ohio State would probably end. Every conclusion would have made sense-and every one would have been wrong.

Jim Otis never considered leaving Hayes's program; his love for the coach only grew stronger over time. As for the other players, Hayes sometimes angered them, but he never lost them. His influence on them was overwhelming.

The sheer size of a football team limits individual interactions between the head coach and each player, but Hayes was so powerful in those moments that many Buckeyes would say he was like a second father to them. He insisted that they graduate, and when they did, he coaxed many of them to go to law school. Some players considered him so morally incorruptible that long after they left Ohio State, they feared disappointing him.

Hayes told his players that their closest friends in the world would always be their Ohio State teammates. That was true, but when those friends got together, they inevitably started talking about Hayes so much that they started to sound like him. Hayes had such a profound effect on his players that years after he died, they would often speak of him in the present tense: "Woody has two rules: no drugs and no haters," they would say. Or: "He is the best teacher. When he goes to the board in a classroom, he is magnificent."

And on the topic of endings: the Buckeyes would win their final four games of 1967, saving Hayes's job. From there, they would put together one of the most dominant stretches in football history. And their excellence would trigger the greatest decade in the most storied rivalry in college football.

Nothing ended in that cramped locker room at Ohio Stadium.

This was actually one of the great beginnings in the history of sports.

But the Buckeyes could not possibly know that at the time. They just knew the Old Man was pissed off again. And that somebody ought to detach him from Jim Otis.

One of Woody's assistant coaches, Hugh Hindman, pulled him off.

Bo Schembechler was lost in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

It was a snowy night in late December 1968, and Schembechler and his staff had piled into two cars in Oxford, Ohio, and headed north. They had left Miami University in Ohio for the University of Michigan, if only they could find it. Except for Schembechler and his defensive coordinator, Jim Young, none of the coaches had ever been to Ann Arbor. Now they were lost.

Where to go? Schembechler couldn't ask for directions to the school's football facility, because there wasn't one; the Wolverines had a dingy locker room tucked into a corner on the second floor of Yost Fieldhouse. The locker room had few toilets and poor ventilation; the resulting smell was so foul, players wanted to run out as soon as they could. But that was risky: the stairs outside the locker room were built for small men in loafers, not football players in cleats. When the players got downstairs, they had to go outside, through a parking lot, over a set of train tracks (or over couplings if there was a train stopped on the tracks), through another parking lot, and finally into Michigan Stadium, where they could begin practice.

Schembechler could have asked for directions to the national convention of Students for a Democratic Society, which was being held in Ann Arbor that week. SDS had been founded a few years earlier by Michigan alumnus Alan Haber and Michigan Daily editor Tom Hayden, and it had become the most powerful student organization in the country. As the Vietnam War became more unpopular, SDS grew in size and influence, and now it was about to crumble under its own weight, leaving splinter groups that favored more violent methods. (Haber had left Ann Arbor and SDS because there were too many factions pulling the organization in different directions.) But Schembechler, a thirty-nine-year-old footballaholic with a military buzz cut and very little interest in politics, surely didn't know about the convention.

If he got closer to campus, Schembechler could have listened for the strains of "2 + 2 = ?," one of the first anti-Vietnam rock 'n' roll songs. Written by Ann Arbor native Bob Seger, it outsold the Beatles in local stores; it would be rereleased in the autumn of 1969, as Seger's song gained resonance by the week.

But Schembechler was unlikely to listen to rock 'n' roll, or a protest song, and especially a rock 'n' roll protest song. Dissent did not sit well with the coach. (His new players would discover that quickly.)

Schembechler and his assistant coaches pulled over to a pay phone, called somebody from the athletic department, and finally found the campus. The university was on break, and because of a fuel shortage there was no heat in the campus buildings. The coaches had to meet Michigan athletic director Don Canham in the Pin Room of the Colonial Lanes bowling alley. Colonial Lanes was owned by Canham's friend Bob Ufer, who was broadcasting Michigan games on tiny WPAG in Ann Arbor.

After first making overtures to Penn State coach Joe Paterno, Canham had hired Schembechler for a salary of $21,000, only $1,000 more than the coach had made at lower-tier Miami. Schembechler's assistants planned to discuss their contracts in the Pin Room at Colonial Lanes, but that was a problem, because there were no contracts. Canham told the coaches they probably had five years to build a consistent winner. If the coaches failed, Canham said, they would all be fired-Canham included.

As Schembechler and his staff settled into Ann Arbor, Woody Hayes and Ohio State wrapped up the 1968 national championship by beating Southern California in the Rose Bowl. It was the fourth time Hayes had won at least a share of the national championship-among modern-day coaches, only Alabama's Bear Bryant had comparable credentials. Hayes celebrated by staying up until 6 a.m. editing the game film, then catching a flight to his favorite vacation spot: Vietnam.

This was Hayes's fourth trip to Vietnam. He spent most of his time showing Rose Bowl film to U.S. troops (they were eager to see Southern California star O. J. Simpson) and taking messages to relay to the troops' families when he returned home. Though much of the United States had grown disenchanted with the war, Hayes described it as his "best" trip. The national championship surely contributed to his mood. The 1968 team was considered Hayes's finest, but that distinction wasn't supposed to last very long; the 1968 Buckeyes started eighteen sophomores, so the 1969 team was expected to be even better.

Everything was looking up for Woody Hayes in January of 1969. Three weeks after he left for Vietnam, his old friend Richard Nixon would be inaugurated as president of the United States. The Ohio State Marching Band would perform at the inauguration. Nixon had opened the new year by watching Hayes's Buckeyes beat USC. (Anne Hayes, the coach's wife, had watched the Rose Bowl with a special guest: Tom Brownfield, a marine pilot who was recovering from burns suffered in Vietnam.)

Hayes and Nixon had met in 1957, when Nixon was vice president and the nation's most prominent football fan. Nixon later said that when he met Hayes for the first time, he wanted to talk about football and Hayes wanted to talk about foreign policy ... so naturally, Nixon said, they talked about foreign policy. In conversation and on the football field, Hayes went right where he wanted to go. He now had a direct line into the White House, and calls would be made in both directions.

Ostensibly, Hayes was just another celebrity on a Bob Hope- esque tour of Vietnam. But the coach saw his trips as tours of duty. He ate in mess halls with troops. He insisted on boarding choppers to dangerous areas, against the advice of military personnel. He asked troops for their parents' phone numbers, and when he got home, he called dozens of parents to pass along messages from their children.

On this Vietnam trip, Hayes met Colonel George Patton III, whose father, the famous general, was one of Hayes's biggest heroes. The colonel was stunned at how much Hayes knew about his dad, but nobody who knew Woody Hayes would have been surprised. Two shelves of his tiny office at Ohio State were filled with Patton books. Hayes knew military history well enough to teach it-which he often did, to anybody who would listen.

Hayes rarely spoke of his own service in the Navy in World War II, though he privately (and proudly) told friends he was the only enlisted man to rise to the command of two ships. It's unclear whether he was actually the only man who achieved that, or how he could even confirm it. In any event, he did not dwell on the point. Hayes was far more inclined to speak of career military men-or even make them part of his program.

In 1967, when Jim Otis finally emerged from his fumble-induced benching to run for 149 yards against Iowa, he gave the game ball to Marine Corps general Lewis Walt, a friend of Hayes and one of the chief U.S. commanders in Vietnam. Walt also spoke to the Buckeyes at halftime of the 1968 Purdue game; with the score tied 0-0 and the national championship in jeopardy, Hayes turned his locker room over to a Marine general.

Why not? To Hayes, military conflict was not just a passion he pursued outside of football. It was as much a part of his coaching as blocking sleds. For years, when an Ohio State quarterback wanted to change a play at the line of scrimmage, he barked "Patton!" (if the Buckeyes were advancing on the ground) or "LeMay!" (if, like Air Force general Curtis LeMay, they preferred to annihilate their opponent through the air).

Hayes said the first safety blitz was not designed by Amos Alonzo Stagg or Pop Warner; it came from English admiral Lord Howard, who split the Spanish Armada in 1588, confusing the Spanish and securing victory. Germany lost World War II because it was caught in a double-team block from the Allies on the west and the Russians on the east. When the weather was nasty, Hayes held practice outdoors, telling his team, "If you're going to fight in the North Atlantic, you have to train in the North Atlantic." To emphasize the point, he wore a T-shirt at every practice, no matter how cold it was.

Hayes was infatuated with successful plans of attack, and though his teams were known more for stifling defenses, he was an offensive coach. He barely spent any time with the Buckeyes' defense. Hayes and his offensive assistants met in the Biggs Facility on the Ohio State campus, while the defensive coaches worked over in the school's basketball venue, St. John Arena. Hayes gave his defensive coaches only a few directives, and chief among those was that when the opposing offense had the ball near a hash mark (i.e., close to a sideline), the Ohio State strong safety would be on the wide side of the field. That way, the offense would either run into the strong safety-one of the best athletes on the team-or be trapped, like a retreating army, against the sideline, which Hayes referred to simply as "the alps."

Bo Schembechler quickly figured out the lay of the land in Ann Arbor, which was not the same thing as understanding the landscape. George Mans tried to help. Mans was one of two coaches whom Schembechler had retained from the previous coaching staff, and he knew that in early 1969, the distance from Oxford, Ohio, to Ann Arbor was much greater than it appeared on a map.

Although Mans didn't use these words, the reality was that if the University of Michigan had not already had a football program in that winter of 1969, nobody would have dared start one.

The sport was built on rigidity, a single authoritarian leader, repression of personal desires in favor of the team, and brute force. The campus favored experimentation, individual expression, free love, and peace. The university was a buffet of causes-racial harmony, sexual freedom, nuclear nonproliferation, Marxism, gay rights-and everybody seemed to pick at least one. The stunning part was the completeness of it all; Ann Arbor seemed like one city in which the Establishment's power was limited.

In March of 1965, a group of faculty announced they would can- cel classes for a day to protest U.S. involvement in Vietnam. They eventually backed down and decided on a different approach: they would hold an extra class at night at Angell Hall, one of the main academic buildings on campus. Approximately three thousand students showed up for what became known as a "teach-in," the first of its kind. It would be copied by faculties around the country, and it put Ann Arbor at the forefront of the antiwar movement. By 1969, university president Robben Fleming had publicly stated his opposition to U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

When students protested, Fleming would plead with police: Let them protest. He even helped. In 1968, students had taken over the school's Administration Building, demanding higher black student enrollment. Fleming, figuring that he had plenty to do outside his office that day, simply let them stay there; every once in a while he would drop by and ask, "How are you coming?" The students left with the impression that their demands would be addressed.

The power of Students for a Democratic Society was diminishing, but only because more radical groups were gaining prominence. In March 1969, two months after Schembechler arrived, a faction of SDS called the Jesse James Gang locked itself in a room with a military recruiter to prevent interviews from taking place. Fleming refused to call the police. The Gang and the recruiter remained in the room for five hours. (The students were disciplined under the campus judiciary system.)

A year earlier, Black Panther Party founder Huey Newton told an interviewer that if white people wanted to help, they could form a White Panther Party. Ann Arbor residents Lawrence "Pun" Plamondon and John Sinclair took Newton's advice and created the White Panther Party. The party pushed a program of "rock 'n' roll, dope, and fucking in the streets," and one of its stated goals was "the end of money." Sinclair and Plamondon promised a "total assault on the culture."

Adding to the sense that everything was under siege, a serial killer had been terrorizing the Ann Arbor area, strangling and sexually assaulting young women; between 1967 and 1969, seven were killed and left nude or seminude where they could be easily discovered. The killings, known as the Michigan Murders, ended with the arrest of a twenty-one-year-old Eastern Michigan University student, John Norman Collins. Even the new Briarwood Mall on the outskirts of town contributed to the feeling that the town was slipping away from the townspeople, who feared downtown businesses would lose customers to the mall.

Because the counterculture movement was not just political but cultural, it seemed even greater than it was. Long hair, tie-dyed T-shirts, and bell-bottom pants were in style, even for political agnostics. Not everybody was a hippie, but to people of the previous generation, everybody appeared to be a hippie. The school's central campus was filled with "longhairs." When a longhair was arrested, the local sheriff, Doug Harvey, was known to have the young man's hair cut off.


Excerpted from War As They Knew It by Michael Rosenberg Copyright © 2008 by Michael Rosenberg. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

MICHAEL ROSENBERG is a sports columnist for the Detroit Free Press as well as a featured columnist at foxsports.com, making him one of the best-read sports writers in the country. Rosenberg's work appears in the 2005 edition of Best American Sports Writing and he has received numerous awards for his work.

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War As They Knew It: Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, and America in a Time of Unrest 2.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
CE_Bledsoe More than 1 year ago
...could have been so much better. Much better books out there on the subject.
Go_Blue More than 1 year ago
This book was written by a novice hack. Don't waste your time. I've seen better journalism on bathroom walls. I refused this book as a Christmas present.
BlockM More than 1 year ago
The topic was good, but the execution was poor. Might be the worst Michigan book I have ever read. Very little creativity and the story never seemed to pick up steam. Half way through I was ready for it to end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
With such a wealth of possible information-two legends, the most unsettled time in modern American history, the greatest rivalry in college sports-this book falls flat on all counts. Bo's Life Lessons is vastly superior, as is the 100 yard war
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BB23 More than 1 year ago
Great book and not just about the games but of the time around the games. It's 4 stars if your and OSU/UM fan but I still think it's very good if you don't have an interest in either school (probably 3 stars for you).
HelpingHand More than 1 year ago
This author clearly doesn't understand the passion, respect, and absolute dedication required of everyone who is invested in this rivalry. It's an embarassment to the great legacy of Woody & Bo and does a disservice to two great institutions. There are many choices on this subject...I would look elsewhere.
WereWatchingYou More than 1 year ago
Mmmm.... Poor writing. This author should stick to fiction, it is what he is known for.
MGOBLUE More than 1 year ago
I will agree with the other reviews in that if you are looking for more detailed accounts of this rivalry, this is NOT the book to get. I had heard from anonymous souces that Michael Rosenberg was a gifted writer. Turns out, you can't trust anonymous sources after all...
CollegeFootballFanatic More than 1 year ago
There are several excellent books that cover this exciting period in the history of two of the most storied football programs. This isn't one of them. Superficial, not worth the money. "The Ten Year War" and several others, including the HBO special on the UM-OSU rivalry, are much more enjoyable to read.
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Stain55 More than 1 year ago
A solid look at rivalry between Bo and Woody and the Wolverines and Buckeyes. Touches on the political and military overtones happening in the country at the time and how it shaped the two men. Worth reading if you are a fan of either team or want to know more on college football of the 70's.
Rahinsky-Reader More than 1 year ago
An enjoyable read that explores two icons and a turbulant era in a well written book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
intellectually dishonest man...i could not read this book, i was tired of having to research the validity of his research
Guest More than 1 year ago
We all know the stories about Bo and Woody but Rosenberg does an amazing job of tying the two together and providing insight into the minds of the two men. An easy read and a wonderfully written book everyone will enjoy (my wife, who isn't even a sports fan, is already half-way through).