By Dr. Ken
As a high school sophomore I was already solidly embedded in after school and weekend work. With an uncle who was a chef and a father who was an ironworker who earned extra income by managing and/or providing security at a local night club with a reputation for wild goings-on, I had hard, physically-demanding work after school and on weekends when football or track didn't conflict. I made a union wage wielding the torch and welding rods on my father's truck but even as an under-sized high school senior, and despite being legally underage, I bounced on occasion at the club, and primarily worked as a cook at the side of my uncle. I got to know quite a few of the regular patrons, at times assisting them to their vehicles or home if they were not in condition to otherwise get there themselves. One of the regular patrons approached me one day to tell me that he was aware I was giving consideration to going to college and hoping for a football scholarship that would allow that, and he had some advice for me. "Ohio University, great school, my kid goes there." I obviously didn't get it and must have looked perplexed because he repeated, "Ohio University, its in Ohio, my kid plays ball there, you'd like it." I didn't know his son, a baseball player of some local reputation and explained that I was planning to go into the Navy after graduation unless someone offered me a scholarship. What I didn't say was that I also wasn't sure exactly where Ohio was but whenever the gentlemen would see me, he would let me know that Ohio University was worth looking at. 

On one of the school vacations, his son came into the club with him and we had a lengthy talk about Ohio, the athletic teams, and school. I told him that most of the football programs that had expressed an interest in me had backed off after either meeting me in person or finding out that I was less than 5'6" and only 145 pounds. He told me "They play great ball out there but there are a few small, fast guys like you, think about it, I love it out there" and it turned out that another fellow from the neighborhood was going out there to play ball. His final comment was, "Its exactly what you think a college should look like and be like, something that you'd see on television." Since everything I knew about college came from television's Father Knows Best program where "Betty" attended "State U", I really didn't know "exactly what one would think a college should look like and be like". I gave Ohio University no further thought except when the score would turn up in the Sunday N.Y. Times or on the halftime show of ABC's college game of the week. After finalizing the decision to go to Cincinnati late in my senior year of high school, Ohio was just another team on the schedule that we would face as freshman. Once at Cincinnati, Ohio's march to the 1960 Small College National Championship was still fresh enough that many of our players knew quite a bit about the program and talked highly of it during the week prior to the game with them. Bill Hess had become their coach in 1958, succeeding the under rated Carroll Widdoes. Widdoes had earned a measure of fame by following Paul Brown to Ohio State from Massillon to again serve as his assistant at this next level. When Brown entered the service during WW II, Widdoes took over the Ohio State team that was forced to compete as a "civilian team", one made up completely of young men too young to enter the military or who had been rejected for physical reasons. He took this rag-tag bunch to the number-two ranking in the country and produced the year's Heisman winner in Les Horvath. As the coach at Ohio University, Widdoes stayed from '49 through 1957 and until his final two seasons, put competitive teams on the field.

Bill Hess had been an assistant of Woody Hayes at Ohio State for seven-years and immediately did well, racing to the National title with his 10-0 squad in 1960. The championship of both the Mid America Conference and the nation came down to a slugfest between unbeaten Ohio and undefeated Bowling Green with the Bobcats besting their in-state rivals 14-7. It seemed that Hess had competitive teams up for the conference title each season. When we went to Athens to play their frosh team, one of the comments that had been made almost two years earlier in the bar area of the nightclub came to mind. The entire town seemed as if it was painted a lush green with a lot of white picket fences and churches. The university seemed to be made of old brick buildings and more green lawn, more than I had seen anywhere else in the NY City area or in Cincinnati. If nothing else, this truly did appear to be what a college campus should be like. I was hooked. I became a fan of the Bobcats, in part because they played tremendously hard, almost furiously the entire game. The frosh team also wore the great MacGregor externally padded helmets, a white shell with a wide dark green padded strip down the center, the same helmets we had worn in high school. A popular helmet choice between 1960 and 1963, the externally padded helmets were already being phased out by 1964 and '65 due to the increase in neck-related injuries that the external padding and its increased surface area and texture produced. The dark green-on-white helmet however, really made for a great looking head piece and the Ohio helmet designs would remain innovative and different through the sixties.
Our varsity did not play them until 1968 when they had one of their best teams ever, a 10-0 contingent that beat UC 60-48 in an offensive showing that produced 1175 total yards, sixty-seven first downs, and a major brawl that caused the refs to call the game with about fifteen seconds left on the clock. That '68 team, and the start of a home-and-home schedule with them that lasted for a number of seasons, was one of their best, led by QB Cleve Bryant who was the MAC Player Of The Year, receiver Todd Snyder who later played with the Falcons for a few years, and running back Dave LeVeck who put up 850 rushing yards. Prior to that I kept track of center and linebacker Don "Skip" Hoovler who hit a ton and who was the leader of their defense that led them to the 1963 MAC crown. They had a tradition of fine running backs, quite a few of them short, stocky players that earned my attention. One of our guys from Ashtabula, Ohio told us that Bobcats fullback Wash Lyons had led their high school team to an undefeated season in '62 and he was one of the best, if under rated backs, in the Midwest. Lyons later went back to coach at his alma mater. As our coaches said, "We have a Boykin on the team" and it meant nothing to me until it was explained that there were any number of Boykin brothers and cousins playing college football all over Ohio and at all levels, a tradition in a tremendously gifted family and Ohio University had both Dave, one of those short, strong fullbacks at 5'9", 200-pounds and Randy over the course of the few years I was in Ohio. Dave Conley took over the rushing chores in '66 and he too seemed to be truly gifted. Hess proved to be a coach with great ability, because when the bottom fell out and the team went 0-10 in 1965, he immediately had them rebound to 5-5 over the next two seasons, and then culminated the comeback with that 10-0 year in '68, the only loss coming against Richmond in the Tangerine Bowl. Hess retired in 1977 with a 107-92-4 record, four conference crowns and a Small College National Championship. From 1985 to '89, his former QB Cleve Bryant would return, after being running backs coach of the Patriots, to be the Bobcats head coach.
Hess had great helmet designs through the sixties. He began the decade with a white helmet with one-inch hunter or forest green center stripe with identifying numerals on each side of the shell. The externally padded helmet was a great look but in '66, he used a white helmet with two hunter green stripes flanking the white center ridge of the Riddell helmets, with a green "O" on each side. This was followed by a similar striping arrangement but the O had been exchanged for an outline of the State Of Ohio with "OU" within it. The jerseys made a great accompaniment to the helmets, dark green with white numerals and knit on the sleeves with OHIO in large white lettering across the back. The uniforms, the style of play, the wonderful surroundings, and what turned out to be the almost "usual" high level of coaching always seen at the Ohio colleges made Ohio University a highly respected and tough opponent and one that has remained memorable.