Joe Black Hayes
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- Middle Tennessee State University lost a legend Monday with the passing of former coach and professor Joe Black Hayes, who was 98 years old.
No one could sum up his life more than current MTSU track coach Dean Hayes, who has worked at the university for 49 years.
“He was a perfect person in terms of helping people,” he said. “All around, he was just a good guy, and give him credit for that. We can all hope we could do as many things as he did.”
Hayes, a native of Murfreesboro, came to MTSU as an assistant football coach under former legendary coach Charles “Bubber” Murphy. He was a line coach and defensive coordinator during a time when MTSU won seven Ohio Valley Conference titles, as well as four championships in the Volunteer State Athletic Association.
Hayes founded MTSU’s first wrestling team in 1950, and he also started MTSU’s track and field program in 1955.
“He really did the track one because football players in the spring didn’t lift weights or anything back then,” Dean Hayes noted. “Nobody really lifted weights back then. (Track) gave the guys something else to do. A lot of football players went out for track, and that’s really how it got started.
“That’s was one of his good things. He also started a wrestling program. He was actually inducted into the Tennessee Wrestling Hall of Fame about five years ago. I was able to go, and it was a really nice ceremony.”
Dean Hayes said Joe Black Hayes was a huge contributor to the MTSU football program because of his close ties with the University of Tennessee, where he played.
“He was an assistant coach, but back then all the football players for the most part were locals,” he said. “The general (Robert Neyaland at UT) and coach Murphy were tight back then. A lot of the players would play at UT in the fall, and a lot of them would end up coming here, laying out a semester and playing the next fall here without having to sit out.
“He played back on the UT team in 1937 or 38 that went undefeated and only gave up one touchdown. He knew everybody, and because of that, a lot of coaches sent kids to coach Murphy. “Coach Hayes was a daddy to all of them, and they liked him.”
Hayes graduated from the University of Tennessee and spent time as a coach at UT-Martin and Cumberland University before arriving at MTSU. His two sons, Larry (1967-68) and Rodney (1965-68), were both lettermen for the Blue Raider football team. In 1997, Hayes was inducted into the Blue Raider Hall of Fame.
After retiring as a coach, Hayes remained at the university in the physical education department where he taught first aid and safety. He also was heavily involved in local politics as a county commissioner.
“He was very influential,” Dean Hayes aid. “When he retired from coaching he was still teaching here. When I came here he was in charge of first aid for the university, and at the same time he was really big into the Red Cross.
“He became involved with politics as a commissioner, and again, he just knew so many people politically, from coaching, to his service to the Red Cross.
“He lived a really good life and did a lot of things. He was a funny character. Anymore with the way athletics is, I don’t know if there is place for these characters anymore. They were the lore of athletics. If you had him for a coach, you remember all the great things he did. That’s what he was.”
Visitation for Joe Balck Hayes will be today from 4-8 p.m. at Woodfin Memorial Chapel. His funeral will be held at 11 a.m. on Friday at First Baptist Church in Murfreesboro.