The Program

By Jason Priestas on February 28, 2007 at 7:00a
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The Program

Ohio State is the subject of the latest SI cover story: The Program: Big Wins, Big Money, Big Spirit. Although the issue isn't out yet, an O-Zone reader with Lexis-Nexis access offers a quick summary. In short, the feature looks at the key components of the machinery that is Ohio State athletics. Previous public scandals are touched on, but there doesn't appear to be any type of muckraking.

Anyone that's been within 45 miles of Columbus realizes just how big of a deal the Buckeyes are for a metro of 1.6 million. Think of the quintessential rah-rah college town and then imagine that town being larger than Indianapolis, Charlotte, Milwaukee, Nashville, New Orleans and Buffalo.

The Buckeyes have been the only ticket in such a big town for so long that you're going to get an athletics department with revenues and spending in the nine figures. The football team earned an incredible $28 million during the 2005-06 season, while the basketball program brought in $7.2 million itself during the same span. You can bet both of those figure to be up quite a bit this year (especially so on the hoops side).

I'm sure the article touches on this, but the man with the big plan was Andy Geiger. He certainly wasn't perfect, but some huge hires (Tressel, Matta, Foster, etc.) and his work upgrading the facilities are paying off (literally). The facilities and coaches help lure the recruits that win the games and the winning of games fires up the cash register. (If I were brighter and had a staff of economists, it would be interesting to study the economy in Columbus after a big loss compared to a period following a big win.)

There are ancillary benefits to the machine as well. The two bread-winners underwrite the 34 other varsity sports that don't earn money. The #2 and #3 spenders, Texas and Florida, only offer 20 varsity sports. The athletics department also kicks $1.1 million yearly into the schools general fund with a commitment of an additional $5 million to the university library. In a rapidly approaching era of professors as free agents, this is a good thing. Indeed, the old joke of Ohio State accepting just about anyone is no more.

The "Big Spirit" part of the article should be interesting. Buckeye fans don't exactly have the best reputation on the internets, but that's a factor of winning and Woody. They say you can't choose your family and old football father Hayes certainly left a bigger legacy than some think. Ohio State fans were taught to hate Michigan from a guy that would rather push his car to the state line than buy gas up there. It's all usually in good fun, although an edgier element can come out on game days. There's a good chance that the calm demeanor of The Vest could rub-off, counterbalancing the Hayes effect, but only time will tell.

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(Via Buckeye Commentary -- be sure to check out the Conley Sr. dunk video!)

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