James Patrick Tressel vs. Wayne Woodrow Hayes

It’s the off season and that means it’s the perfect time to ponder some ponderables. For instance, who’s regime at Ohio State was (is) better, Jim Tressel’s or Woody Hayes’?

Ohio State football personified.

Before we start, I want to make it clear that Woody Hayes is Ohio State football and he always will be. I am not challenging that. What I would like to compare is which period of Ohio State football was “better”, the Jim Tressel era or the Woody Hayes era.

Another thing to get out of the way right now is that obviously the Jim Tressel era isn’t over yet. That only makes the issue more interesting as far as I’m concerned because it opens up the additional question: what does Jim Tressel need to do over his final seasons to surpass Woody Hayes?

And there is little question that Tressel is entering his final seasons.

The contender.

Tressel recently signed a contract extension through the 2014 season. There is much speculation that it could be the last contract extension he signs (there was speculation that he would retire when his initial contract expired in 2012 too, so take it for what it’s worth).

Even if Tressel does extend again, he has said he doesn’t see himself coaching as long as a Paterno or a Bowden, so I will say very roughly that he retires within the next ten years.

That leaves us with two questions: how do the two coaches compare now? and what does Tressel need to do over the final years of his regime to clearly separate himself from the Godfather of Ohio State football.

Let’s break it down. Ding! Ding! Ding!

Overall Record

Woody Hayes: 205-61-10 (.76087)

Jim Tressel: 94-21 (.81739)

Overall record is an obvious place to start.

Right off the bat it is clear that Tressel just can’t compete with Hayes in terms of years coached or number of victories.

The Shoe has been good to both coaches... or have the coaches been good to The Shoe?

Woody’s 28 years at the helm and 205 victories are both the most in Ohio State history, and it isn’t even close.

Tressel isn’t going to touch either one of those numbers.

On the other hand, Tressel’s winning percentage is higher.

In fact, Tressel’s winning percentage is the best of any coach in Ohio State history that lasted more than two seasons (Carroll C. Widdoes went 16-2 from 1944-1945).

Two more years of 10 (or more) win seasons and Tressel’s moves into 2nd place for total number of victories (passing up Cooper at 111).

Where does that leave us?

The winning percentage angle is an advantage for Tressel, and it doesn’t look like the 10 win seasons are going to be ending anytime soon.

Tressel will have the second most wins and the second longest tenure in the history of Ohio State football whenever he decides to hang up the whistle.

That by itself doesn’t mean much since he will be second behind Woody. But combined with the higher winning percentage and I think it creates a compelling argument. Is that enough to put Tressel over the top? We will see.

For now, 28 years, 205 victories. It is hard to see those number ever being broken or even approached.

Woody Hayes is the king of tenure and victories at Ohio State, and he always will be.

Tressel will most likely be the king of winning percentage and second in tenure and victories.

Which one is more impressive?

I will wait until the Tressel era is over before I come down with a final judgment on that one.

Big Ten Record

Woody Hayes: 152-37-7 (.80423)

Jim Tressel: 59-13 (.81944)

Once again this turns into a story of quality versus quantity, but in this case the quality is about the same.


Tressel and Hayes both share about the same winning percentage, but Woody did it for a lot longer than Tressel has, so you gotta give the edge to Woody here, right?

Then again, they didn’t call it the Big 2 when Woody coached for nothing. Similarly, Tressel takes some heat for dominating a “down” conference.

Regardless, both coaches owned the Big Ten.

Record Vs. Michigan

Woody Hayes: 16-11-1

Jim Tressel: 8-1

Clearly Tressel has the edge here.

While no one could match Woody’s hatred of that school up north or the intensity of the rivalry during the Ten Year War, Tressel has done a better job racking up rivalry wins.

Chalk one up for the vest.

Big Ten Championships

Woody Hayes: 13

Jim Tressel: 6

At face value it looks like Woody has this one locked up with over twice as many Big Ten Championships as Tressel.

Upon closer examination, however, you will see that Tressel’s 6 titles in 9 seasons is a bit more impressive than Woody’s 13 titles in 28 season… at least from a purely statistical perspective.

It would be shocking if Tressel didn’t earn a few more of these before his time is over in Columbus, so I am going to give Tressel the slight edge here.

Bowl Record

Woody Hayes: 5-6

Jim Tressel: 5-4

You can’t really compare the two coaches in this area because of the restrictions on bowl game attendance that Woody faced which aren’t there today.

At the same time, it is clear that Woody struggled a bit in bowl games.

The last few years haven’t been so kind to Tressel either, but he still has a shot to turn that around (2010 Rose Bowl was a nice start).

I will call this one a wash for now, with the distinct possibility that Tressel can separate himself in the coming years.

National Championships

Woody Hayes: 3 (5)

Jim Tressel: 1

With a few more of these Tressel's resume would be tough to beat.

This is the major area that Woody is clearly better than Tressel as far as I’m concerned.

At the same time, it is also the area that Tressel can make up the most ground over the next few seasons.

Woody had championship seasons in 1954, 1957 and 1968 with two more kinda championship seasons that the school claims in 1961 and 1970.

To this point, Tressel has 2002 and several misses in 2006 and 2007.

While another national championship (or three) before Tressel retires will make this discussion worth having again, for now you have to conclude that with an untouchable number of wins, years coached, and an impressive 5 national championships, Woody Hayes is still the best coach in Ohio State football history.

If the last years of the Tressel era go as well as I am hoping they will, the story may change.

With a superb record against Michigan and an unbelievable run of Big Ten championships, another national title or two may make up for the fact that Woody coached for nearly twice as long as Tressel and racked up a lot more wins in the process.

It should be fun to watch.