Ohio State Might Be Adamant About Not Playing Abroad, But Their Tune Might Change the More Common it Becomes

By Johnny Ginter on August 12, 2017 at 2:24 pm
The rotunda of Ohio Stadium

One of the first things that I ever wrote for Eleven Warriors (seven years ago!) was my account of meeting a American football team during a trip to Kyoto while I was living in Japan. It's still one of my absolute favorite things that I've ever written for this site, because the sheer joy of watching something as quintessentially American as football thrive in somewhere as distant as Japan was pretty awesome.

I also really enjoyed Jim Harbaugh and Michigan's romp through Rome, mostly for the slack-jawed awe that came with watching Harbaugh interact with the freaking Pope, but I assume that it was also pretty fun for him and the rest of the Michigan football team.

So it was disappointing that in May, Gene Smith was pretty emphatic about Ohio State not travelling abroad anytime soon. Which is unfortunate, because that denies Ohio State a place as part of college football's very long history of playing outside of the United States, a history that stretches all the way back to the 1800's (if you decide to not count Canada, despite their key role in developing the sport, just a few years after the Spanish-American War LSU played in Havana in 1907).

From Wikipedia, here's a (very) truncated list of college football games played outside of the United States since the late 1800s:

SEASON ScoRe Winning team Losing team Stadium City Country Attendance
1874               3–0             Harvard McGill Montreal Cricket Grounds Montreal Canada 2,000
1880 13–6 Michigan Toronto Toronto Lacrosse Club Toronto Canada  
1885 8–2 Michigan Windsor   Windsor Canada  
1907 56–0 LSU Havana Almandares Park Havana Cuba 10,000
1912 28–0 Florida Vedado Tennis Club Almandares Park Havana Cuba  
1936 7–7 Auburn Villanova La Tropical Stadium Havana Cuba  
1944 7–6 Idaho State Edmonton AAB Clarke Stadium Edmonton Canada  
1946 12–0 Nevada Edmonton AAB Clarke Stadium Edmonton Canada 1,500
1954 19–6 Eastern New Mexico Notre Dame (Canada) Taylor Field Regina Canada 4,000
1976 42–16 Grambling State Morgan State Korakuen Stadium Tokyo Japan 50,000
1978 10–0 Utah State Idaho State Hankyu Nishinomiya Stadium Nishinomiya Japan 15,000
1979 40–15 Notre Dame Miami (FL) Korakuen Stadium Tokyo Japan 62,574
1980 34–3 UCLA Oregon State National Olympic Stadium Tokyo Japan 86,000
1981 21–16 Air Force San Diego State National Olympic Stadium Tokyo Japan 80,000
1984 45–31 Army Montana National Olympic Stadium Tokyo Japan 60,000
1985 24–21 Wyoming UTEP VFL Park Melbourne Australia 19,107
1987 17–17 California Washington State National Olympic Stadium Tokyo Japan 45,000
1988 38–24 Boston College Army Lansdowne Road Dublin Ireland 42,525
1989 46–29 Pittsburgh Rutgers Lansdowne Road Dublin Ireland 19,800
1991 33–21 Clemson Duke Tokyo Dome Tokyo Japan 50,000
1992 7–7 Heidelberg Otterbein Stadion am Bieberer Berg Offenbach am Main Germany 4,351
1993 41–20 Wisconsin Michigan State Tokyo Dome Tokyo Japan 51,500
1996 54–27 Notre Dame Navy Croke Park Dublin Ireland 38,651
2006 27–24 Cincinnati Western Michigan Rogers Centre Toronto Canada 26,717
2007 52–30 Rutgers Ball State Rogers Centre Toronto Canada 31,455
2008 38–20 Connecticut Buffalo Rogers Centre Toronto Canada 40,184
2009 27–3 South Florida Northern Illinois Rogers Centre Toronto Canada 22,185
2012 50–10 Notre Dame Navy Aviva Stadium Dublin Ireland 48,820
2014 49–48 Western Kentucky Central Michigan Thomas Robinson Stadium Nassau Bahamas 13,667
2014 26–24 Penn State UCF Croke Park Dublin Ireland 55,000
2016 51–31 California Hawaiʻi ANZ Stadium Sydney Australia 61,247
2016 17–14 Georgia Tech Boston College Aviva Stadium Dublin Ireland 40,562

This season, Rice and Stanford will be the next set of Pac-12 teams headed to Australia, and Michigan appears to have started preliminary talks to head back to Rome, but for real this time.

Gene Smith may object for the time being, but it'll be interesting to see how much longer Ohio State can stand on the sidelines as playing games overseas comes back en vogue. Urban Meyer is all about using every single avenue that gets recruits to Columbus, and I don't expect him to reject too many chances to do that, even if it means hoofing it to Singapore or Helsinki or whatever.

So, last question: where to?

Personally, I'd stump for somewhere in Germany, given Ohio's extensive German heritage and Germany's somewhat-better-than-average support for American football in general, but I'll leave it to you and ask "If Ohio State were to play a game abroad, where should they go?"

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