Coach Woody Hayes, irate after Charlie Bauman, Clemson’s middle guard, intercepted an Ohio State pass tonight in the final two minutes of Clemson’s 17-15 Gator Bowl victory, went after Bauman after he was run out of bounds on the Ohio State sideline. Hayes grabbed Bauman and touched off a brief benchemptying melee.

It was not clear whether Hayes had landed any punches, but Bauman said after the game, “I was hit, I don’t know by who.” When asked again a few minutes later, Bauman said, “I’m not saying anything.” Jonathan Brooks, a Clemson defensive end, said: “A lot of players said Woody hit him. It looked like he did. I was in the middle of a whole bunch of people trying to get out of there.” It took officials several minutes to clear the field. Hayes received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The Buckeye coach did not appear at a press conference after the game, sending George Hill, his defensive coordinator, in his place. Hill said: “I didn’t see it. I was there, but still couldn’t see. Whatever it was was certainly unfortunate.”

Bauman’s interception spoiled a dazzling performance by Ohio State’s freshman quarterback, Art Schlichter, who completed 16 of 20 passes for 205 yards. The triumph by Clemson made Danny Ford, who took over when Coach Charley Pell accepted the head coaching job at the University of Florida after the regular season, a success in his first game as head coach. The loss was the fourth Bowl defeat in the last five years for the Buckeyes. Ford refused to criticize Hayes. “I’ve got an idea what happened,” he said, “but I’m not saying. I think my players conducted themselves on the field with class.”

Obed Ariri’s 47-yard field goal and Cliff Austin’s 1-yard touchdown plunge had given Clemson a 17-9 third-quarter lead, and Schlichter had scored on a 2-yard run to cut Clemson’s lead to 17-15. But Clemson’s Jim Stuckey and Eddie Geathers dropped Schlichter on a 2-point conversion try with 8:11 left in the game, and the Tigers’ defense later held off an Ohio State rally and finally ignited Hayes’s temper. Steve Fuller completed 9 of 20 passes for Clemson, although he fumbled three times – the last one setting up Ohio State’s ill-fated final drive at midfield.

Woody Hayes’s punch was the most shocking episode of a coach or manager attacking a player in American sports history. He was dismissed the next day after 28 years as the Ohio State coach. Hayes, 65, led the Buckeyes to three national championships (1954, ’57 and ’68) and four undefeated seasons.