Secret weapon

Think Woody was tough? Anne Hayes was his equal and more.


Twice every February, Jeff Kaplan and Mark George phone each other. As they have for almost 15 years now, they take the time to sit down and swap story after story of the husband and wife who so influenced their lives.

Football dominates the conversation every Feb. 14—and rightfully so. Kaplan and George worked with Woody Hayes late in his reign as Ohio State’s football coach and became among his closest friends. What better way to mark the old man’s birthday?

But three days earlier, they also commemorate another birthday, this one belonging to the woman who was every bit as influential as the coach.

Anne Hayes was born Feb. 11, 1914, less than a year after her husband.

“She was a source of wisdom and insight to me that I didn’t have at the time,” said George, who as an undergraduate served as Woody Hayes’s personal manager from 1975 to 1978.

“I cherish that to this day. I feel so fortunate that a silly circumstance of becoming a manager that didn’t get paid a nickel for what you did ended up being the greatest job I ever had.”

Kaplan, Ohio State’s senior vice president of development, and George, who owns a business in Texas, echo what many knew for decades during Hayes’s tenure: Anne Hayes was never the woman “behind” the Ohio State football program. She was her husband’s equal.

It was like that in 1939 when the two met in Anne’s hometown of New Philadelphia, Ohio, and it continued long after Woody’s final game as
a Buckeye.

“When we were recruiting, she kind of took over,” recalled Bill Myles, a former associate athletic director at Ohio State and an assistant coach under Hayes. “She might interrupt and politely take over, but Woody really respected her. He couldn’t have done his job the way he wanted to
if it hadn’t have been for Anne.”

Steve Luke was an 18-year-old from Massillon when he met Anne and first experienced the culture she and Woody had created at Ohio State.

“I thought it was special,” said Luke, who played in the early 1970s. “As a young kid growing up in my situation, coming to Ohio State under this family unit was great. I realize now how much positive influence she had with Woody. She always made her presence felt.”