Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press has written an outstanding book about the competition and complicated relationship between Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler. So much has been written about these two that you might think there aren’t too many more tales to tell about these titans of college football but this book manages to entertain.
This book is unique in that Rosenberg takes time to place the men in the context of their times. Their experiences on the football season are told in parallel with massive cultural changes engulfing the nation during the late 1960s and early 1970s. And there is plenty of football as 10 year conflict between the two coaches plays out.
There are disappointing revelations about each program. Drug use was rampant on both teams and Woody Hayes had a penchant for tantrums that sometimes resulted in physical abuse well before the incident that ends his career.
Woody comes off as a tragically flawed figure who reveled in his role as teacher, author, and builder of men even as he was unable to control his own temper. Bo loved playing the media even though he trained as a broadcaster prior to his coaching career.
As a Michigan fan I learned more about Woody Hayes than Bo Schembechler while reading this book. His rise and eventual fall was earily reminscent of another infamous coach, Bobby Knight. In both cases, taleanted coaches evolved into bullies because people in their respective institutions refused to reign in their meglomania until it was too late.
It was particularly sad to read how Woody Hayes had lost the respect and became a figure of ridicule among his later teams.
I recommend this book for fans on both sides of UM/Ohio State rivalry. Even people who aren’t rabid sports fans would enjoy it as a character study of two men who believed that the discipline of football was a tool to prepare their players for life just as the culture around them glorified individualism
Podcast with Author Michael Rosenberg