Rose Bowl history: 50 years ago, a black eye vs. USC for Ohio State coach Woody Hayes

Coach Woody Hayes and Pasadena always had an uneasy relationship.

It wasn’t that he hated coming here — his Ohio State Buckeyes played in eight Rose Bowls, winning four of them.

But all the fun and pageantry of the Tournament of Roses festivities just wasn’t anything Hayes wanted his players to participate in while in Pasadena. In fact, on some trips here, he actually sequestered them far from Colorado Boulevard in a Sierra Madre monastery.

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And as it turned out, 50 years ago, USC’s Trojans were anything but welcoming hosts to the Buckeyes. In that 1973 Rose Bowl, Hayes’ team was unceremoniously knocked around, 42-17, by USC, that season’s national champions.

The afternoon for Hayes turned bad well before kickoff when he spied Los Angeles Times photographer Art Rogers shooting a picture of him huddling with his coaching staff. He told Rogers to stop and then shoved the camera into his face. Rogers reported the incident to police, but Hayes was never cited.

Things improved some for the Buckeyes as they held the favored Trojans to a 7-7 halftime deadlock. From that point on, though, little went right for the visitors.

USC was led by four second-half touchdowns by the power running of Sam “Bam” Cunningham, who ran roughshod over the Buckeyes for the remainder of the game. Cunningham, who needed only 11 carries for his scoring onslaught, was named the game’s MVP.

The 42 points was the most ever allowed by a Hayes Ohio State team. And making things worse, the game was observed by 106,869 spectators, the largest Rose Bowl crowd ever.

Things continued poorly for Hayes, legendary for his anger after losses. That day, he ordered the locker room locked but that unfortunately left nine of his players waiting outside unable to get in.

“Thank the Lord this is my last game for him,” said All-American linebacker Randy Gradishar, as he waited outside the barricaded locker room. “He makes it so hard on everybody when he loses.”

After a few minutes of pounding on the door, the nine players finally were let in.

After a long delay, Hayes later spoke to the press, but when someone asked about the incident with the photographer, he walked away.

The next year, Hayes returned to the Rose Bowl and soundly defeated USC. The team’s only blemish that year was a 10-10 tie with Michigan. Ohio State would make four consecutive Rose Bowl appearances from 1973 to 1976.

That last appearance saw Hayes’ undefeated Buckeyes arrive hoping to secure the national championship by overwhelming UCLA, a 15 1/2-point underdog.

After the Bruins shocked Ohio State, winning 23-10, an enraged Hayes refused to speak to anyone. He just piled his team into buses and drove off, never to be seen at the Rose Bowl again.

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