Flashback: A Comparison of Woody Hayes and John McKay

Molly GraySenior Analyst ISeptember 9, 2008

Jim Tressel is arguably the most revered head coach after the Woody Hayes era at Ohio State. And despite his rocky first season of 6-6, the same can be said about Pete Carroll following John McKay at Southern California. Seeing these two Titans clash this week will undoubtedly resemble the storied rivalry between Hayes and McKay in the 60’s and 70’s.

Unsurprisingly, the rivalry was instigated and thrived off of our beloved, yet short-tempered Hayes. It all began before McKay was even coaching at the 1955 Rose Bowl. OSU was set to play USC when it started pouring rain.

The game continued on, however, Hayes was livid in typical fashion that the Coliseum did not have a tarp for the field and that they allowed the bands to perform at half time, turning the field into essentially a mud pit. The Buckeyes demolished the Trojans with a score of 20-7, but the chip had formed on Woody’s shoulder.

In the next two decades, the two teams met in the Rose Bowl four times with Woody Hayes and John McKay at the reigns. McKay disliked Hayes’ argumentative and unreasonable personality, and Woody—well, Woody just disliked McKay.

The Buckeyes beat So Cal in their next meeting for the national championship at the conclusion of the 1968 season with a score of 27-16.

Overconfident, Hayes snubbed McKay at the Rose Bowl committee luncheon, walking out, as McKay was about to start his speech to the media. McKay must have felt some satisfaction as his team annihilated the Buckeyes 42-17 the following day, earning them the national title.

The very next season, the two met again in Pasadena and Hayes prevailed 42-21 over the McKay and his Trojans. The Buckeyes were led by Rose Bowl Hall of Famer and two-time Heisman winner Archie Griffin.

In 1975, they met for their third straight Rose Bowl, in what has been called one of the greatest games in college football history. McKay’s own son, J.K. McKay, was on the receiving end of the game-winning 38-yard TD pass late in the fourth quarter, to overcome the Buckeyes 18-17.



Yrs. Coached

Conf. Champs

Bowl Record

National Titles


28 at OSU

13 Big Ten

5-6 at OSU

3 (54, and out-right 57, 68)


16 at USC

9 Pac-10


4 (62, 67, 72, 74)