Woody Hayes, the hot-tempered football coach who built Ohio State into a perennial national power and then saw his career end in disgrace after he struck a Clemson player during the 1978 Gator Bowl game, died in his sleep Wednesday night at his home in the Columbus suburb of Upper Arlington, Ohio.
Mr. Hayes, who apparently suffered a heart attack, was 74 years old and had been in failing health for several years.
In a career that spanned 33 seasons, Wayne Woodrow Hayes won acclaim as one of the greatest tacticians in football history.
He was also one of the most successful. In his 28 seasons at Ohio State, his teams compiled a 205-61-10 record and were declared national champions by The Associated Press in 1954 and 1968, and by United Press International in 1957 and 1968. Mr. Hayes was named the top coach in the country in 1957 and 1975, and his total of 238 career victories has been eclipsed by only three major-college coaches, Paul (Bear) Bryant (323), Amos Alonzo Stagg (314) and Pop Warner (313), as well as by one small-college coach, Eddie Robinson of Grambling (336), who is still active. Started at Alma Mater
Mr. Hayes, who began his coaching career in 1946 at Denison University, his alma mater, compiled an overall record of 238-72-10, including 19-6 in three seasons at Denison and 14-5 in two at Miami of Ohio, his last stop before taking over at Ohio State in 1951.
Like Mr. Bryant, with whom he was frequently compared, Mr. Hayes was a coach who knew that football games were won during the recruiting season. And for all his reputation as an irascible, vindictive martinet, he had a soft, compelling side that came powerfully to the fore when he was sitting in a rural Ohio kitchen, charming the parents of a promising player.
''I like to go into a kid's home and talk to the kid's family and find out what they expect of their youngster -educationally, behaviorwise and that kind of thing,'' he once said.
The charm usually worked. Among the players attracted to Ohio State during the Hayes years were two Heisman Trophy winners, Howard (Hopalong) Cassady (1955) and Archie Griffin (1974 and 1975) and dozens of all-Americans. A Military Bent
A voracious reader who favored military histories and biographies of generals, Mr. Hayes sprinkled his speech with military terms and frequently quoted such personal heroes as George Patton. He also drew on his knowledge of battlefield tactics in designing an inspired ground attack that was often virtually unstoppable. Ohio State won or shared the Big Ten title 13 times, including a record six in a row from 1972 to 1977.
Although he was an admirer of the Air Force general Curtis LeMay and even named an Ohio State passing series after him, Mr. Hayes preferred the off-tackle ''Patton'' series. He seemed indifferent to the passing game, and as the forward pass became an increasingly potent weapon in college football, Buckeye teams, while they continued to win conference championships, seemed no longer quite as invincible.
For all his reading, Mr. Hayes, the son of a secondary school superintendent in Clifton, Ohio, sometimes seemed driven by an intellectual inferiority complex. ''I am not very smart,'' he once said, ''but I recognize that I am not very smart. So I outwork every S.O.B. that comes down the pike.'' Known for Tantrums
Throughout his career Mr. Hayes, a squat, square-jawed man with a fierce visage and an even fiercer temper, was known as much for his tantrums as for his victories. During practice he would beat his fists on the helmets and shoulder pads of players who displeased him and would occasionally become so frustated that he would fling his own watch and eyeglasses to the ground.