With Cincinnati playing at Ohio State this week, I thought it would be a good time to explore the relationship between Ohio’s biggest university and its greatest big city (wink).
I found this is not something easily attacked with the time constraints of regular game-week coverage, but I had interesting conversations with a couple of radio talk show hosts I feel are definitely worth sharing. I also came away thinking maybe the perceived rift between Cincinnati (the university and/or the region as a whole) and Ohio State is mostly in my head. Or just online. Or a little bit of both? Let's dive in:
"I don't love painting with a broad brush, but I think UC fans like poking the bear and watching the Ohio State fans react," said Mo Egger, who hosts sports talk shows on ESPN1530, WLW and ESPN Radio and contributes to UC football and basketball broadcasts. "In my experience as a UC fan, but also just doing what I do for a living, I never hear unprovoked Ohio State fans talk about UC. I hear provoked Ohio State fans talk about UC, but honestly, it's usually like in 2009 when the school started selling 'Buckeye State' t-shirts (with the "UC" highlighted to imply the Bearcats were taking over the state). Well, you know that stirred Ohio State fans.
"I've never really gathered that Ohio State fans in Cincinnati hold any real disregard for UC. I've had a lot of Ohio State fans, and certainly more so over the last two-plus years because of Luke Fickell, say to me, 'I root for the Bearcats and want them to do well, but I'm an Ohio State fan.' 'I've never really gathered that Ohio State fans here pay that much attention to UC and, frankly, why would they?"
What's the Columbus perspective? Tim Hall of 97.1 The Fan is quite magnanimous when it comes to fans of the Bearcats — or any other school in the state for that matter. He lumped UC football in with teams like Dayton, Xavier and UC basketball. They have all been successful over the years, and he likes seeing them succeed when they aren't playing Ohio State. With the Bearcats becoming a fairly consistent FBS team — but still residing outside the Power 5 conferences —the state as a whole has another program to be proud of.
"I look at this as more of Cincinnati is not playing football on the level of Ohio State football," Hall said. "Like that's just the fact of the matter, so when these two teams play, yes, I want Ohio State to win, but don't even have that, 'Oh, I want to make sure they roll them, I want to go for three because you can't go for two' mentality. I would say I don't even have that for this game.
"Like it's a little bit for me personally, a little bit nicer," he added with a laugh. "Because I want Cincinnati to do well. I want them to win every other game. Same goes for the basketball program, too."
From when he was hired: "Neither football nor life offer many guarantees, but Luke Fickell and UC seem like a great match" https://t.co/whUFfMj5S6
OK, so one football season notwithstanding 10 years ago, maybe there's more of a live-and-let-live vibe between the fan bases of the schools, particularly when they aren't playing each other. Bearcats basketball rubbed some Ohio State fans the wrong way in the '90s under Bob Huggins, but that was decades ago, and everyone involved with either program has moved on. What about the city as a whole and Ohio State? As someone who grew up about equidistant from Columbus and Cincinnati rooting for the Bengals and Reds, that interests me more — not the least of which because I just want all my people to get along!
My perception is the city and OSU keep each other at arm's length, sort of like kids at a middle school dance (do they still do those?). They might be touching, but just barely. Madison, Greene, Fayette, Clinton and Warren Counties provide enough room the chaperones don't have much to worry about, right?
"Look there is no shortage of people who love Ohio State in this town. None," Egger said. However, there is more competition for sports fans than there is in the northeast part of the state, at least when it comes to college as UC plays at a higher level than the MAC. (The same can be said of UC and Xavier basketball.)
"I'll hear people that snicker at this, but we have major Division I college football that's not Ohio State," Egger noted. "So plus pro sports, It's just lower on the list. Now, on the radio, when Ohio State topics have come up — Jim Tressel, Urban Meyer, whenever UC and Ohio State have crossed paths, whether it's games in basketball, or football — we certainly hear from Ohio State fans, so they're there, they're here. It's just they have to share the market, and they have a chunk of the pie. Whereas everywhere else, (Ohio State fans) own the pie, you know? I mean it's not even the regional schools, which obviously is Kentucky and you can throw Louisville into the mix, but Notre Dame has a passionate following here by the large chunk of of Catholics, and we're the gateway to the south so you'll find folks who just like the SEC programs.
"It's not like if you drive down I-71 and you pass Washington Court House that suddenly the Ohio State thing dries up, but whatever that pie looks like in places like Toledo and Dayton and Zanesville and other parts of the state, it just looks different here because of the other entities."
And so what is the upshot of that? Here's where my time moderating Ohio State premium message boards for a decade or so colors my perception. There almost all discussions spring from recruiting, and Ohio State has not pulled as many recruits from Cincinnati as the Columbus and Cleveland areas since Jim Tressel became coach of the Buckeyes in 2001 (I looked up the numbers). That's actually more on Tressel and Urban Meyer, though, than the region. They chose where to allocate resources and ultimately offered far fewer players from Southwest Ohio than they did in the middle of the state and the northeast. And when they did go after Cincinnati-area kids, they tended to be almost exclusively high-end prospects, meaning they had more competition and the success rate is inevitably going to be lower. That creates some bitterness in at least one segment of Ohio State fans, and for what it's worth reduces the connection between the program and the region as there are not as many people cheering for hometown kids in scarlet and gray in Southwest Ohio as there are around Cleveland, Akron, etc. (Ryan Day's first full-year Ohio State class has a huge Cincinnati presence, but we'll see what happens in coming years.)
To me some feelings of wariness that arose from all that also migrated to Twitter, which is essentially like another message board but with no moderation, less sanity and greater reach. But then again: With Twitter, sometimes you find what you're looking for so I could be all wrong here. Maybe it's just a vocal minority of Ohio State fans who look down on Cincinnati. It's apparently not something that has filtered through to the radio hosts, who also have only a subset of fans (radio show callers) to judge but one that is also unique.
"I guess what I've got to say to you is I have not spent a lot of time gauging what Ohio State fans… I haven't done a whole lot of research into it," Hall said. "If Buckeye fans as a whole really despise Cincy, don't like it. I don't think it makes a whole lot of sense. I'm certainly not in that camp. Not at all."
So, is there really any rift between Ohio State and the Queen City? Maybe it's all in my head — or mostly there and online — but I would love to know what you think. As always, the email box is open, and you can find me on Twitter and Facebook.
If you've hung around this long, you might actually be interested in my thoughts on some other topics, right? Well here are a couple for you to chew heading into the first weekend of the NFL for 2019 and with baseball season winding down.
Trevor Bauer remains overrated, but for how long? His reputation as a potential ace can only withstand so many terrible starts I have to think. Maybe his refusal to sign long-term contracts will turn out to save the Reds from exacerbating the mistake of trading for him in the first place.
Also imagine where the Reds would be if Raisel Iglesias weren't having a terrible year? Probably no better than third place, but you'd feel a lot better about the season overall, right? They would be right on expectations after their active offseason, not contending but much better. Ultimately Iglesias and 1-8 start (which he contributed to) are going to end up being the albatrosses of the 2019 Reds, but I do believe they are in good position to take another step this winter. Especially if Bauer actually started pitching as well as people think he can, something he has not done for about 3/4 of his career.
The '90s Cavs throwbacks are an exception to the rule the last generation of uniforms was almost always better than the current one.
Yep, we’re bringing it back … “classic” is new again 😎
Yeah, I'm not a fan of the Zac Taylor hire, but this is a rare quote that caught my eye in a positive way: "At the end of the day, a player like me, I want to do nothing but take care of him," Joe Mixon said. "And that's the ultimate goal -- getting him wins. It makes me want to go harder for a guy that does the things he does for us."
What will Taylor's first season end up looking like? I agree with much of Paul Dehner Jr.'s preview at The Athletic, but I'm not as optimistic. I'm thinking more like four or five wins, and honestly that's only because they are getting pretty much all the worst teams in the league. I could see them getting to a seven wins, especially if the Browns are not playing for anything in Week 17 and they get another fluke win somewhere else.
"Marcus Musings" is a semi-regular feature here at the blog. While most of our other coverage is concentrated on news and analysis, this is a place to share opinions on various stories permeating the sports world and (hopefully) have some fun. Have your own thoughts? Send them along to firstname.lastname@example.org or find us on Twitter or Facebook.
About the Author
Marcus Hartman has been a digital sports columnist and reporter at Cox's Ohio newspapers the Dayton Daily News, Springfield News-Sun and Journal-News since 2016.