Cincinnati Becoming Ohio State Territory Under Urban Meyer

By Kyle Rowland on July 4, 2014 at 8:30a
51 Comments

In Earle Bruce’s final two recruiting classes, Ohio State plucked away Cincinnati’s top players. Quarterback Greg Frey and running back Carlos Snow went to Ohio State, not Notre Dame or an SEC school. At the same time, Cleveland’s best – Elvis Grbac and Desmond Howard – fled the state for Michigan.    

Over the next three decades, recruiting territories inside Ohio’s state borders changed drastically. Cleveland was painted scarlet and gray, with nearly every major target Ohio State wanted venturing south on 71 to Columbus. Meanwhile, there was a blockade around Cincinnati’s city limits.

But the Southwest Ohio trend is beginning to change under Urban Meyer. Five-star linebacker Justin Hilliard became the third Cincinnati recruit to join Ohio State in Meyer’s four recruiting classes and seventh from the southwestern part of the state. Hilliard is just the second St. Xavier player to sign with the Buckeyes since Frey in 1986.

John Cooper and Jim Tressel were never able to penetrate the Greater Cincinnati area on a consistent basis. During that time, SEC schools began marching north and pulling talent away from Ohio State and other Midwestern schools that recruit the area.

“In my opinion, there’s no better high school football anywhere in the country than there is in the city of Cincinnati,” said Ohio State assistant and Cincinnati native Kerry Coombs. “I think historically, you could say that they have produced an awful lot of great, talented kids at a wide range of ability levels and a wide range of universities. Friday nights in Cincinnati are truly special and unique. I loved coaching football there. I still love whenever I have a chance to be back there for high school football.”

One reason the Buckeyes have never been major players in the Queen City on a yearly basis is the lack of rabid fans when compared to Cleveland, Dayton and Canton, where Saturdays are planned around Ohio State games. Even Toledo, which contains a segment of Michigan fans, is considered a major Ohio State market.

Just 100 miles separate Columbus from Cincinnati, but the two cities couldn’t be more different. Whereas Columbus, Cleveland, Indianapolis and Detroit are Midwestern to the core, Cincinnati has a southern feel to it. The culture is more Kentucky than Ohio.

“To me, Cincinnati is different, it is unique, and that's OK,” Coombs said. “Cincinnati should celebrate who they are, and I do as a Cincinnatian. I'm also an Ohioan, and I feel that gap is what we're continuing to bridge and working really hard to bridge.”

The University of Cincinnati also contributes to the city’s distaste for the Buckeyes. The Bearcats upended Ohio State to win the college basketball national championship in 1961 and ’62. The two schools wouldn’t meet again until 2006 due to lingering animosity from the title games and the infamous recruitment of basketball star Damon Flint in the early 1990s.

In recent years, the Bearcat football program has enjoyed a resurgence. They’ve won or shared four conference championships in the last six seasons and appeared in two BCS bowls. In 2009, Cincinnati finished the regular season unbeaten and nearly played for the national championship. Ten bowl games in 15 years has led to a spike in interest from Cincinnati residents and a surge in attendance at Nippert Stadium.

The Catholic influence is also significant in Cincinnati, making it fertile recruiting ground for Notre Dame and Boston College. Brian Kelly’s relationship with the city has only strengthened the Irish’s recruiting grip. They currently have two Cincinnati players on the roster and four total from Southwest Ohio.

“That was the school I had the most trouble with saying no to,” Hilliard said. “I definitely see the connection with St. X. “

Ohio-born Mark Stoops, the head coach at Kentucky, has a coaching staff with deep Ohio ties and is recruiting the Cincinnati area hard.  

During Tressel’s tenure, Jordan Hicks, Trey Depriest, Andrew Hendrix, Matt James, and Spencer Ware, among others, all got away to other big-time programs. Tressel hailed from Northeast Ohio and tended to recruit more heavily from that area. It was during this time that Glenville became a pipeline for Ohio State.

The Buckeyes offered 20 Glenville players in Tressel’s 10 years as head coach and signed 17 of them. The number of offers to Glenville kids was nearly the same as the offers that went to kids from the entire city of Cincinnati (22).

In Meyer, Ohio State hired a coach who has national appeal, was born and raised in Northeast Ohio and then established roots in Cincinnati, graduating from UC, coaching at St. Xavier and having family that still resides in the city. The week before Meyer was hired, Cincinnati Taft defensive end Adolphus Washington committed to Ohio State. When asked by reporters who his head coach would be, Washington didn’t hesitate in naming Meyer.

Turning Cincinnati into an Ohio State hotbed is one of Meyer’s biggest recruiting objectives.

“Urban coached me my senior year at St. X, so I have known him a long time,” St. Xavier head coach Steve Specht said. “He's fiery. If Coach Meyer wants somebody, Coach Meyer is going to get that somebody. I enjoyed talking to Coach, and I enjoy the whole staff at Ohio State. I coached against Coach Coombs for years, but Coach Meyer, boy, he’s cut from a different cloth. He’s a special individual.”

It’s no surprise that when Ohio Stadium was being renovated in 2013 the Buckeyes opted to move their spring game to the Bengals’ Paul Brown Stadium. It was a shrewd strategy by Meyer that was executed with precision.

Ohio State went on team trips to Montgomery Inn, Skyline Chili, Graeter’s Ice Cream, the Reds Museum and Marvin Lewis’s home. Nearly 40,000 fans showed up to the game. It was a number that made Meyer and Coombs, the former head coach at Colerain and an assistant at UC, beam.

“I can tell you for me personally I couldn’t be more proud of my town," Coombs said. “There’s something that fills your heart as a Cincinnati guy to come down 71, and then you turn and there are the buildings. For me, thank you to the people of Cincinnati. This was special for a lot of kids today.”

Coombs has become Ohio State’s ambassador to Cincinnati, a pitchman who speaks with fire and brimstone about the Buckeyes. He was hired for his work in the defensive backfield, but it’s no secret Coombs’ ties to Cincinnati were also part of the job interview.

“I’ll put it this way,” Specht said when asked about Coombs, “I think Kerry Coombs is a hell of a recruiter. I don’t think it matters if it’s Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland or another state. If Kerry is recruiting an area, he’s a good recruiter and he’s going to get kids to look long and hard at Ohio State.”

Said Stacy Elliott, the father of Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott: “Coach Kerry Coombs is phenomenal. When he speaks, he touches my soul. When I first heard him speak, I had to stop what I was doing because I love great speakers. He speaks the truth. He’s a walking billboard for Ohio State. When you hear him speak, he dies and Ohio State football lives through him. That’s a great man. I’m not surprised by anything he does.”

Including turning the forbidden city of Cincinnati into an Ohio State enclave.

51 Comments

Comments

Oldschoolbuck's picture

So glad we're finally making inroads in Cincinnati (might I say, we're "penetrating the Queen"?). I spent a lot of time traveling down I-71 when I was a student at tOSU and my girlfriend (now wife) was a student at UC. BTW, there is not too much worse than an apartment in Cincinnati in the middle of July that lacks a/c - that is one hot, humid town!

+9 HS
BUCKSOMIES's picture
+1 HS
VintonCountyBuck's picture

I remember reading that the city of Cincinnati produced the 5th most (tie) NFL players of any city in the country. 

There is no doubt of the amount of talented high schoolers in Cincinnati.  The amount of SEC headcoaches with Ohio ties has, I believe, helped contribute to a lot of these prospects heading south to play their college ball.

Its good to finally see Cincy has become a priority once again for the Bucks.

“Right now, Michigan is not at the pinnacle of college football, and that’s all Urban Meyer cares about...He’s been there and knows what it takes to get there.” 

+5 HS
BuckInNashville's picture

Hey Kyle, probably a spellcheck "correction", but both Urban and Tress hail from Northeast Ohio, not Northwest. Tress was born in Mentor, (incidetally, his dad Lee coached Baldwin Wallace from '52-'80). Urban was born and raised in Ashtabula. 

+1 HS
buckeyedude's picture

You're half right, BuckInNashville. Urban and I were born in the same hospital in Toledo, Ohio, one month apart in 1964. That hospital would be Mercy Hospital. They moved to Ashtabula at some point. My parents stayed in Toledo.

 

 

+1 HS
Gcbuckeye62's picture

Love this article, great job Kyle! 

MacG91's picture

Thats an old pic you posted there of the Queen City.

Mac..yeah

+5 HS
cinserious's picture

~~MacG91: You are a Great American!

b

Gone ham, be back soon...

+8 HS
AngryWoody's picture

I love some Bill Cunningham on "The Big One" 700WLW

Our Honor Defend!

+3 HS
buckeyedude's picture

Bill Cunningham is originally from Toledo as well. I believe he attended the University of Toledo.

 

 

cinserious's picture

Willie has said he was born in Kentucky. I don't know if its true or not but one think is for sure... he went to Deer Park H.S. (if it still exists, we know the Buckeyes have a better chance of finding an offerable recruit from South Dakota than Deer Park LOL!

Gone ham, be back soon...

+2 HS
Oldschoolbuck's picture

Best. Episode. Ever.

+2 HS
Bucksfan's picture

Possibly of any episode of any show ever.

+3 HS
mpj1401's picture

WKRP reference line is the funniest of all time.

+1 HS
woodcocklives@osu's picture

In addition to the misuse of "northwest" instead of "northeast", when state geography is the piece's premise, I am having a hard time understanding how a couple of commits makes for turning Cincinnati a "hotbed" for Ohio State recruiting. And as for Cincinnati area area having the best HS fb in the state.....well...2 or 3 private powerhouses doesn't make that statement true, particularly when you consider the entirety of NE Ohio (Cleveland, Akron, Canton, Youngstown)

-2 HS
livinthedream's picture

I need to add that Trey Depriest is NOT from Cincinnati.  He turned down Tress to go to 'bama. He is from Springfield which is closer to Cbus than Cincy.  For evidence read: "Trey DePriest is an American football linebacker. He currently attends the University of Alabama in his junior year. A native of Springfield, Ohio, DePriest attended Springfield High School, where he were he played linebacker..."   en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trey_DePriest

Buckman's picture

I like how you just compared Cincinnati(one city) to Northeast Ohio(which includes multiple cities)....

I like to believe that my best hits border on felonious assault.

JACK TATUM

+2 HS
woodcocklives@osu's picture

Well, Cincinnati area is SW Ohio, but we can add Dayton too...story's still the same.

Buckman's picture

No, it's not. Especially since Cincinnati consists of Moeller(current 2x defending state champ), St. Xavier(05,07), Elder(02,03), Colerain(04). Which means half of the D1 football state championships since 2000 belong to Cincinnati. Also never mind the fact that Moeller finished 3rd in its league in 2012 and won the state title.

What other city in the state has outdone Cincinnati and how?

I like to believe that my best hits border on felonious assault.

JACK TATUM

+5 HS
woodcocklives@osu's picture

I acknowledged the private powerhouses in my post. I stand by my assertion that overall quality of athletes and football is played in NE Ohio. Its not a knock on Cincinnati or SW Ohio. But it I will echo North campus' thoughts on the spin in the piece that paints the previous staff of being unable to make recruiting inroads there. Urban didn't reinvent ohio state....as much as that story is spun.....

-1 HS
PG_BUCK's picture

As someone who has grown up in Cincinnati and moved back after my time spent in Heaven up N71, I have to say that it can be tough being a Buckeye in the Nati. Definitely a huge UC fan base that has been growing with every addition to the bandwagon. While I don't mind it and believe that Cincinnati is going through a resurgence, I certainly would love more respect down here for tOSU.

Go BUCKS!

+5 HS
Phillips.449's picture

2nd that Buck. I also have lived in the 'Nati my entire life except for the wonderful 4 years I lived on/just off tOSU campus.  On the other hand I will admit that I bitched quite a bit about this town turning into bandwagon Buckeye fans just after the National Championship. People were coming out of the woodwork wearing tOSU gear who couldn't name a flipping person on the team. In some ways it is better to hear ignorant people talk about how much my alma mater sucks.  Many of them have absolutely Zero clue what they missed and that is sometimes easier to ignore and blow off.  

+2 HS
cinserious's picture

~~“I can tell you for me personally I couldn’t be more proud of my town," Coombs said. “There’s something that fills your heart as a Cincinnati guy to come down 71, and then you turn and there are the buildings."

Coombs is referring to the final turn on 71 S near Taft and McMillan where suddenly downtown appears in the foreground. I love it too! Another even more striking approach to downtown is from the South as you come around the 'Cutt'na HIll'.

Cincinnati is such an old city compared to the rest of the Midwest, its got a very East Coast big city feel to it. Its also unique because of centuries of southern immigrants moving in from Kentucky. As mentioned above, there is a very strong parochial school connection in and around the city, due to the centuries-old German Catholic population.

 

Gone ham, be back soon...

+6 HS
CincyBucks's picture

GCL is without a doubt the best overall conference in the country. 

CincyBucks

+2 HS
cinserious's picture

YES!

Gone ham, be back soon...

+2 HS
DaveStephens's picture

I can tell you having spent almost no time in Cincinnati, it has a special place in my heart.  Everytime I'd make 10-14 hour drives from college or duty stations in the South, coming around that last turn on I-71/75 before you come down the hill always made the drive worth it.  Beautiful city.

Still pissed Moeller beat Ed's in the state championship when I was a senior.

The Dude abides.

+3 HS
cinserious's picture
c

Approaching downtown from the South. 

Gone ham, be back soon...

+7 HS
DaveStephens's picture

Yep, that's the one.  Never hit that traffic though.  That meant 3.5 hours to home.

The Dude abides.

+2 HS
bigtenspeed's picture

Due to my drive from Mason to Amelia everyday the first thing I noticed was red tailights...which I hate. Other than that the view is actually quite amazing. Growing up, that always meant 3 hours to Marion.

+2 HS
blazers34's picture

Mason to Amelia.........AMIG?

bigtenspeed's picture

Actually, I work in Mason so was referring to the commute home. I do pass AMIG on my way to and from work though. Good guess though!

buckskin's picture

Coombs is an ok coach who is primarily on the staff for one reason:  he has major connections in Cincy.  Glad to see those connections are paying off with some players who will contribute in years to come.

+2 HS
northcampus's picture

I wonder how much time Kyle has actually spent in Cincinnati? When he writes these amateur sociologist articles analyzing the culture of the city, does he speak to anyone besides Coombs before aimlessly generalizing the city?  Or does he just cherry-pick certain recruiting decisions and throw in some perceptions along the way before closing out the piece?

OSU got nearly every kid from Colerain and Lakota West that they wanted during the Tressel era (which produced most of the OSU-level talent coming up in Cincy during that era).  OSU also wanted and got Posey, Ballard, Norwell, the Underwood brothers, Jalin Marshall, and some very good walk-on players from Cincy. Any time a Cincy kid chooses to play for and/or is offered by the Buckeyes, it's a big deal in Cincinnati.

Hicks and Ware were not originally from Ohio, so why is this never mentioned when these two are always two of the main Cincy kids who 'spurned' OSU?  Kyle Rudolph (not mentioned) was a bigger loss than either Hicks or Ware and Rudolph was a hometown kid (unlike the other two).  Others like Ryan Kelly and Luke Kuechley and Denicos Allen were not even really pursued by OSU.  The lack of OSU interest until later in the recruiting process is/was OSU's biggest issue in Cincy, not some perceived bias that exists in the city.

And Trey Dupriest is considered a Cincy kid?  The Centerville area (Nuge, Mangold, Hawk) is more Cincinnati than Springfield Ohio!  Does Kyle also consider Charles Woodson a Cincy kid who turned down the Buckeyes?  I expect better writing and due diligence out of you Kyle.  Did you have Joe Schad edit this for you?

AngryWoody's picture

Woah, you are mad. Step away from the ledge and calm down....

Our Honor Defend!

+3 HS
buckeyebfd's picture

Living in Cincinnati my entire life except when I enjoyed the luxury that is Morrill(sp? ) Tower, I agree the city has an entirely different feel from the rest of the state. More a melding of Midwest and South, people seem more polite but it can be difficult for outsiders.
UC fans from my experience have a very little brother attitude towards tOSU and it irked them to no end when we drew 40k at the spring game and they have a hard time selling that many tix when they play at PBS.
I hope with UFM's and Coombs' connections down here we can make more recruiting inroads

+4 HS
bigtenspeed's picture

Cincinnati definitely has more fans of other teams than any other city in Ohio but there's a lot more OSU fans here than the Cincy media acknowledges. Just look around in Kroger/Lowes/Bob Evans on fall Saturday and you will see more OSU gear than any other team.

+5 HS
s.pasadena fl's picture

Recruiting is going to keep getting better & better in  Cincinnati, Why?  Because of one Urban Meyer! I watched him recruit down here in Florida for years. There is none better. Lets all enjoy the ride!

Ed Hopper

+2 HS
CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

Great to see that the Bucks are making some progress in the Cincy area!  There are a lot of talented football players there.  The more we can get to be a part of Buckeye Nation the better!

Go Bucks!!

+1 HS
Crumb's picture

Born and raised in the Queen City, bout time it too became 100% Buckeye!!!

"The only good thing about it is winning the d*** thing" - Urban Meyer on The Game The War

+6 HS
OSUStu's picture

Bring the recruits, leave the chili.

If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.  ~ Bruce Lee

-9 HS
OSUStu's picture

I thought that might hit a nerve or two. But seriously, whatever that stuff actually is, it is bad for you.

If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.  ~ Bruce Lee

-3 HS
irishfury's picture

I was born in Hamilton county lived in CIncy till I was twelve.  Always been wierd to me as all my family there is buckeye fans.  My grandmother introduced me to Ohio State players when I was kid.  She taught at a catholic school in Greenhills.  So when ever I hear OSU has hard time in Cincy I always found it wierd.

cinserious's picture

I can't speak to OSU recruiting pre-90's but during the 90's John Cooper was a hell of a recruiter and pulled in plenty of top notch national recruits as well as Ohio guys. He also lost way too many top notch Ohio guys to Michigan (mostly from NE Ohio). During the Tressel era, the vast majority of the Buckeye recruiting focus was on NE Ohio and pretty much the rest of the state while leaving Cincinnati mostly to Michigan, ND, and the SEC teams. The foundation is laid now under the Urban empire with his coaches set to recruit SW Ohio extremely well, maybe better than ever.  

Gone ham, be back soon...

+2 HS
johnarmitage's picture

From columbus, lived in Cincinnati two years after graduation. Never liked the cincy and KY jelly kids in school, and living there sucked. People Snooty and superior. Northern OH people much more humble, genuine, and cool. Columbus a mix but more like he north. 

bucks always had trouble recruiting in Cincinnati, probably because do the big catholic population there and this superior, "east coast" attitude.

but then I'm just a secular liberal, so there. Sorry to be mean bros but that's how I felt there. Way too conservative, and a best friend from there agrees.

buckeyedude's picture

Ive been to Cinicinnati several times for mini vacations and weekend trips. I find it to be an amazing town. I love going to Reds games and think the stadium is cool. I also agree with the author that it definitely has a very "southern feel" to it. Having lived my whole life in Toledo on the border with TTUN, I've noticed a definite "southern twang" in the accent from the folks down there. And since u brought it up Johnarmitage, i find Cincinnati's conservatism refreshing, especially in light of Toledo and Detroit's pro-union, extreme Liberalism.

 

 

+4 HS
cinserious's picture

To be fair, Columbus is a pretty darn liberal city and is very laid back and awesome in its own way. I love me some Cincinnati but it is pretty extreme on the conservative side. Columbus is not liberal in the NE Ohio or Toledo way with unions and manufacturing and all but its more liberal in a 'we got a lil' something for everybody' kind of way. I live in Hilliard and can tell you there's no better place to raise a family in Ohio. 

Gone ham, be back soon...

bigtenspeed's picture

Agree. The area is like a southern/midwestern mix. I've been to Philly many times so disagree with the comments that Cincinnati feels East coast. To me Cincinnati is a big city with a small town feel. Also LOL on the twang. It's the Cincinnati accent. It's mostly found on the west side.

+1 HS
German Buckeye's picture

Dayton area native here.  Great memories of Cincy...Reds, Bengals games at Riverfront, the riverboats, etc. Definitely relate more to southern Ohio over northern.  

+1 HS
Joebobb's picture

Kyle,

You live in Ohio, you write for an Ohio State Blog, one would think that If you are writing about one of the major cities in your home state, you would have a stock photo that was a little more recent. From the looks of that photo, it is from the early 90's. C'mon you can do better than that

+2 HS