Ohio–Michigan Border Classic Replaces Big 33

By Kyle Rowland on June 12, 2014 at 8:30a
55 Comments

FINDLAY, Ohio – In October 2012, as the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers were on a collision course for the Super Bowl, the Big 33 Football Classic shuttered its doors to the state of Ohio. The decision put in jeopardy a long held tradition and point of pride: all 48 Super Bowls has included at least one Big 33 alum.

After a 25-year relationship with the state of Ohio (1972-76, 1993-2012), Pennsylvania gave the Buckeye State the boot in favor of Maryland. There’s speculation as to why the affiliation dissolved, ranging from Ohio’s success – four straight wins – to the Keystone State no longer being able to fulfill its contractual obligation for Ohio’s scholarship fund.

“It’s kind of out of the blue,” Grafton Midview head coach Bill Albright, then-president of the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association, said. “When we left [in 2012], we thought they were happy with the contract arrangements. We thought we were in good standing. Then I got [the] letter.

“I’m disappointed for the players and coaches because it was fun. Obviously, something changed.”

And another momentous shift will occur Saturday afternoon at the University of Findlay’s Donnell Stadium – the first Border Classic, pitting the best from Ohio against the best from Michigan, will take place.

The Ohio North-South Classic in Columbus became the OHSFCA’s priority when the Big 33 was no longer a possibility. But the coaches still yearned for a showcase game against another state. A border state was considered, and it wasn’t Indiana, Kentucky or West Virginia.

“In all honestly, [Michigan] was the only choice,” said Mohawk head coach Erik Baker, who’s also Region II director of the OHSFCA. “There was no, ‘If they don’t’ discussion. We just couldn’t imagine a scenario where the Michigan guys thought this wouldn’t be a fun thing. They’ve been great to work with. It was a natural decision to involve them.”

And so the Border Classic was born. The 40-man rosters were picked based on the top players at each position. If someone couldn’t play, the next person on the list was extended an invitation.

Planners involved in organizing the event wanted the game to stand out, on par with such high school all-star games as the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and the Under Armour All-American game. The Border Classic doesn’t have exotic locales such as San Antonio and Orlando, but it’s treating the game as an event, not one game.

Players are spending three days in Findlay, practicing daily, rooming in dorms, participating in community events and attending an awards banquet. Under Armour is providing Ohio’s uniforms, while Michigan’s are from Adidas. The game will be televised on BCSN.

The coaches associations from each state plan on making the game an annual event. Next year’s affair will take place at Wayne State University outside Detroit. Baker, the Border Classic coordinator, said they’re already in talks with Findlay about having the 2016 edition at the university’s newly built stadium, which is currently under construction.

A crowd between 5,000 and 7,500 is expected, and like late November, it should feature full-throated roars. Ohio State (two), Michigan (three) and Michigan State (six) will have 11 players in the game, marking the beginning of four years of rivalry games in the Big Ten’s East Division.

“It’s Ohio and That Team Up North,” said Ohio head coach Mike Fell, the head coach at Lima Senior. “These kids grow up with that. But we have Noah Furbush who’s going to the University of Michigan. He’s playing his last game for Ohio. It’s a natural rivalry.”

Michigan head coach Mike Zdebski said the Ohio-Michigan matchup makes the game a big deal and gives it instant credibility.

“A lot of it has to do with the Ohio State-Michigan game,” said Zdebski, head coach at Walled Lake Western, near Detroit. “Whether it’s stated or not, they know it’s there. The kids know it’s Ohio. They know how good the high school football is there.”

ESPNU offered to televise the game this year, but the deal fell through. There’s hope the network will be involved in the 2015 contest. Earle Bruce will be in Findlay Saturday serving as Team Ohio’s honorary captain. His presence will almost certainly lead to a passionate pre-game speech.

Urban Meyer was involved from the outset, attending the first board meeting and giving the game a proverbial two thumbs up. He wasn’t the only Big Ten coach with a stake in the game.

“That’s going to be interesting,” Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio said. “The Big 33 game was something that went on for so many years. Now you have the Michigan-Ohio rivalry. We have some guys playing this year. It’ll be interesting to see how it pans out. It should be a great rivalry with all the things that’s gone between the two states.”

Rivalries have proven to be built on respect instead of hatred. Ohio State-Michigan, Michigan-Michigan State and Ohio State-Michigan State are no different. While the fanbases despise one another, the players have an abiding respect for each other. Oftentimes, they competed on opposing high schools and developed relationships during the recruiting process.

Baker is quick to point out the game’s title: Border Classic, not Border Battle. The teams aren’t brought together to create hostility.

“It’s meant to showcase Ohio high school football and Michigan high school football,” he said. “Everyone on board has the same goal. Twenty years ago, I think this game would have more animosity. So many of these kids already know each other from other events and social media.

“There will be a lot of pride involved, and that’s great and to be expected. It will end up being a really clean game, especially with how many of them have to report literally the next day for summer school and summer training. They’ll play fast, and they’ll play hard.”

Style of play will be emphasized by Team Ohio. Their coaches are aware of the state’s perception. Everyone knows great high school football resides in Ohio, but they don’t always understand the nature of the games.

Three yards and a cloud of dust is still emblazoned in people’s minds. There’s more to Ohio, though, than physical football, offensive linemen and linebackers.

“We want to show that our skill players are among the best in the country,” Baker said. “We feel we have really good perimeter kids and quarterbacks.”

The Border Classic hasn’t kicked off yet. Deeming it a success isn’t farfetched, though. Marquee players fill both rosters, Meyer, Dantonio and Brady Hoke have given the game their blessing and sponsors have eagerly hopped aboard.

Still, when the game begins, there will be a tinge of sadness that Ohio isn’t involved in the Big 33, played on the same day 448 miles to the east in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

“Pennsylvania is a special place in the history of football,” Baker said. “The history of the Big 33 with the Super Bowl is a tradition we’re hoping to start. We want this to be a total experience for these players and their families.”

55 Comments

Comments

BGSUBucksFan's picture

Who are the two OSU commits playing?

Groveport Heisman's picture

Lattimore and Smith.

Mark my words..I don't need acceptance. I'm catching interceptions on you innocent pedestrians.

+2 HS
Becool12's picture

The two Glenville grads: Marshon Lattimore and Erick Smith 

+1 HS
Groveport Heisman's picture

I can see our Ohio boys going on a ten year run and *ichigan tapping out. States arent close in talent.

Mark my words..I don't need acceptance. I'm catching interceptions on you innocent pedestrians.

+3 HS
OfficerRabbit's picture

I think it'll be closer than we think. Top to bottom, Michigan doesn't sniff Ohio in terms of college level talent. But in terms of putting  22 guys out there that can play high level football, I think they'll do alright. If we were bringing the top 100 from each state, I think that's where you would really start to see the talent disparity. 

I hope we destroy the Michigan squad either way.

 

 

+6 HS
Groveport Heisman's picture

Its the top 40 kids from each state. Depth does matter and thats why I would put my money on Ohio every year. Pennsylvania has much better talent and we were working on beating them 5 straight. Coaches in Ohio are better too as evidenced by the History books.

Mark my words..I don't need acceptance. I'm catching interceptions on you innocent pedestrians.

UFest57's picture

This is a great event to take place in Findlay. Hopefully parking is not an issue, as it has been in the past with the stadium being in a residential area. I look forward to seeing the best in Ohio stick it to that state up north for years to come. 

seafus26's picture

I used to live in Findlay. It's a nice field, but a "stadium" I would not call it, as it is.

Go Bucks and michigan STILL SUCKS!

BroJim's picture

This is pretty cool, wish I was back in Ada for the short drive up to UF

I season my simple food with hunger

Horvath22's picture

DJ, Wayne State University is not outside Detroit. It is in the heart of Detroit. Be careful if attending, and pay someone to watch your car. Great write-up, by the way. And Findlay sounds like a great venue. Bowling Green might be better.

Bags5150's picture

Wayne State is not a lock yet as the Michigan site.  Still some discussions in my understanding.

Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth~Mike Tyson

kyo's picture

Wayne State isn't a terrible venue but I think there are better options in MI with stadiums of similar size. Wayne St is not in a terrible part of Detroit and I nor anybody else felt uncomfortable being there. I'd say the biggest problem is that the locker rooms are not underneath the main grandstand. The gym locker rooms are used for football games which is a decent walk to the stadium. If it wasn't so far away, Northern Michigan's wooden dome in the UP would be an awesome place for a game. GVSU is a pretty cool place too.

Also an FYI, Donnell is actually Findlay High School's stadium that UF uses, hence the entire facility being covered in blue and gold. UF is currently in the process of building a new stadium on campus.

+1 HS
Bags5150's picture

Donnell is unique as you say in that both the HS and U of F play there, but it is also unique in that it is funded by a foundation rather than the schools.  The foundation was set up by JC Donnell who I believe was the founder of Marathon Oil here.  It's a great facility for this game.

What do you know about Centenial?

Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth~Mike Tyson

kyo's picture

What do you mean by Centenial?

Bags5150's picture

I misspoke...i meant Concordia

Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth~Mike Tyson

Bags5150's picture

I misspoke...i meant Concordia

Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth~Mike Tyson

kyo's picture

I don't know much about them other than it being an NAIA school. I played my HS ball at Findlay and played college ball in the GLIAC so I'm familiar with all of the DII stadiums in MI.

Based on the anticipated crowd size I'd prefer to see this game stay in a smaller, yet full venue. I think it creates a much better atmosphere than playing in an empty stadium (disappointed with state finals being at The Shoe moving forward). But if this game can get covered by ESPN in the future I'd anticipate the crowd size growing dramatically at which point a MAC school stadium would make more sense.

+1 HS
IBLEEDSCARLETANDGRAY's picture

This has the potential to be almost as interesting as The Game, especially if there are lots of TSUN/OSU commits playing. We all know the rivalry starts early for those commits. Just hope nobody gets hurt.

"Sherman ran an option play right through the south" - Greatest Civil War analogy EVER.

chicagobuckeye's picture

I don't think it will come even close to as exciting as The Game. 

ISURVIVEDCOOPER's picture

It would be nice to see *ichigan high school programs get better through this to widen the Midwestern talent pool for the B1G schools (particularly for tOSU of course)

"I don't apologize for anything.  When I make a mistake, I take the blame and go on from there." - Woody Hayes

THEOSUfan's picture

What is BCSN?  Seriously, I have never heard of it.  I have FSO, STO, BTN,  etc..  I do not have BCSN.  Sounds like some kind of advanced nursing degree.

RunningFree's picture

Buckeye Cable Sports Network. So basically... just the Toledo area (and only if you have Buckeye Cable).

+1 HS
Bags5150's picture

BCSN is a regional broadcaster.  WOSN is also going to televise and it will be on radio on WFIN.  Elite Football Network (somehow related to the Elite 11 camps) has said that the will stream the game on the internet.  No confirmation yet.

Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth~Mike Tyson

Bags5150's picture

There are 17 or 18 B1G kids on the roster as well as a few ACC and a bunch of MAC kids.  Pettit, Furbush, Lattimore and Smith are here.  Also Glenvilles Davon Anderson going to tOSU on a track scholarship is here.  Rosters are here http://fcs.org/border/Rosters.html but there are some changes.  Malik McDowell was due to be here for Michigan but has to take the ACT and won't make it.

Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth~Mike Tyson

Bags5150's picture

Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth~Mike Tyson

+4 HS
Codeezy's picture

Davon Anderson from glenville, future tOSU track star. 

+1 HS
Bags5150's picture

Transferred to Glenville from South Carolina.  He won the OHSAA 110 hurdles last week.  Going on a track scholly to tOSU

Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth~Mike Tyson

+1 HS
Bags5150's picture

The school with the most players originally was Michigan State with 8!  I think Michigan had 3 or 4 and tOSU 3 (technically 2).  The new semester system in colleges and the fact that alot of these kids have to report this weekend (The Glenville boys report Sunday morning) to their various schools makes it difficult for some of the kids to commit to a game like this and some college coaches don't want their kids to play, they want them to report.  Miami of Ohio and Marshall had kids that were gonna play but nixed it.

Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth~Mike Tyson

703Buckeye's picture

If OSU, MSU, and scUM are okay with their players in the game, what do Miami and Marshall have to lose? Seems kinda lame. 

"Attack the Strong, Trample the Weak, Hurdle the Dead!"
-Former OSU S&C Coach Lichter

+1 HS
Bags5150's picture

Agree.  Not sure what the reasoning behind it.  I know there a some kids that have to take the ACT this weekend also.  

Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth~Mike Tyson

seafus26's picture

If they are still taking ACTs at this point,the first few attempts must not have gone as planned. 

Go Bucks and michigan STILL SUCKS!

+1 HS
Bags5150's picture

Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth~Mike Tyson

+4 HS
Poison nuts's picture

Why aren't guys like Booker & Campbell playing in this one? Seems like they're elite Ohio players for sure.

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

Bags5150's picture

Not sure.  Campbell played in the North South game so he might not have wanted to play two games.  I know he was contacted.  Not sure at all about Booker.

Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth~Mike Tyson

Bags5150's picture

I run the @omborderclassic twitter account if you'd like to follow.  Lots of updates and photos from behind the scenes and at practices.

Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth~Mike Tyson

+1 HS
Bags5150's picture

I run the @omborderclassic twitter account if you'd like to follow.  Lots of updates and photos from behind the scenes and at practices.

sorry for double post

Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth~Mike Tyson

+3 HS
kholmes's picture

It seems like a decent amount of big names not playing. Kyle had reported on twitter that ND, Northwestern, and Wake Forest also had their incoming recruits pull out of this. It looks like Damon Webb is not playing and it has been reported that Lawrence Marshall (UM) also decided not to play. Its a hard decision to play in this as nothing would be worse than getting injured in a full contact exhibition game a week before reporting to campus. Hope everyone makes it with no injuries.

+2 HS
Bags5150's picture

Great point.  Like I said before, alot of these kids are leaving directly from here to report!  Let me just throw this in for the record, the kids that are here are FANTASTIC!  A great group of polite and respectful young men.  Yesterday there was an autograph session with area youth and all of these kids were amazing and talked to the kids and interacted.  It was really neat to see.  

Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth~Mike Tyson

+3 HS
Bags5150's picture

Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth~Mike Tyson

+1 HS
buckeyedude's picture

I'll be going to the game in Findlay on Saturday, but I think this game would be a better fit in Toledo. Perrysburg or Whitmer High School or even the University of Toledo could host this. Parking isn't an issue at any of those venues.

 

 

+1 HS
Bags5150's picture

Findlay was the first to step up plus the OHSFCA regional director lives here so it made sense logistically for the first one.  When it returns it will be played at U of F's new stadium.

Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth~Mike Tyson

hspbuy1's picture

Sounds like a great tradition getting started up!

hspbuy1

andretolstoy's picture

This sort of irks me.

-1 HS
Bags5150's picture

What is it that irks you?

Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth~Mike Tyson

36buck's picture

Years ago when  most all the big time recruits played in these games it meant something.  Now not so much.  

Bags5150's picture

I'm watching practice right now.  I can tell you...it means something.  Every huddle breaks with an O-h-i-o chant.  I've heard several beat Michigans!  These kids want to win.  Side note Lattimore has great hands!

Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth~Mike Tyson

+1 HS
Mortc15's picture

Kinda surprised at Mike Fell being the coach of Ohio this year. Being from the Lima area, I know much about his great run at Ada and now coaching Lima senior High but still a little surprising he was asked to be the coach given the other great coaches around the state. Thinking maybe distance had something to do with it(?). 

Buck-I4Life

thatlillefty's picture

"The Border Classic doesn’t have exotic locales such as San Antonio..."

Ah, San Antonio. So exotic! This showcase is awesome though. Maybe sometime down the road the game will be shown on a bigger network. But it's still great exposure for all these kids involved. Gotta think there will be lots of college coaches scouting this event. Thanks for the article, Kyle.

Bags5150's picture

Been approached by ESPN already.  Need a good game and good turnout.  Tickets are only $5 and are available at the gate.  Earle will be honorary captain and doing the coin toss.  Would be nice to have a big pro Ohio crowd!

Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth~Mike Tyson

36buck's picture

Not saying the kids aren't pumped. Just saying the talent level is down a lot from where it was years ago. So many kids enroll early etc.  

+1 HS
Bags5150's picture

Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth~Mike Tyson

nrbuckguy's picture

Great having this in Findlay, as a current Oiler  i can't wait to watch. Hopefully they bring it to our new stadium in 2016.

In Urban We Trust

+1 HS