I found this article interesting. I'll highlight a few points that raised my eyebrows. Eighty-eight miles of asphalt physically separate Ohio University in Athens from The Ohio State University in Columbus, but their athletic programs couldn’t be further apart. Ohio State is a national behemoth—competing annually for the Big Ten and, many times, national championships—while Ohio is a budding mid-major. Consequently, the Sweet Sixteen runs by the universities’ men’s basketball squads represents two distinct outlooks: a Buckeyes win is expected while the Bobcats ride a Cinderella wave into their Friday match-up with North Carolina’s Tarheels. On a given year, fans’ loyalty at both schools would be set—cheering Ohio State to victory. But the Bobcats’ success in this year’s tournament has complicated fandom for many in-state students who grew up as Buckeyes. “It’s funny because when I think of the state of Ohio, I think of ‘Buckeye Nation,’” says Lizzie Sheffield, a recent Ohio graduate. “It’s such a crazy turnaround. While I was in college, I’d get groups of friends together to watch Ohio State games. It was never, ‘Hey, let’s go watch OU.’” Sheffield, who grew up near Columbus and came to Athens for the university’s journalism program, hasn’t hesitated from rooting for her alma mater this year. But the team’s success has been unexpected, to say the least. “I don’t think any student wasn’t hoping our team would do well,” she adds. “[But] OSU has had a strong athletic history for a long time; OU’s has been more spotted. It’s kind of like going to church: if the sermon doesn’t make you feel great afterwards, will you continue to go? Probably not.” It would be wrong to label all Ohio students as Buckeyes fans. Shades of Buckeye scarlet roam Athens’ notorious uptown business district, Court Street, during Saturday afternoons in the fall and winter. This association may seem odd, but it’s considered natural across Ohio. And, as Sheffield mentions, both students and administrators are ecstatic about this year’s team and the 2010 lineup that bested a three-seeded Georgetown team. The Curse of Cleveland Wes Lowery, an Ohio journalism major and Cleveland resident, said this adherence could be for a number of reasons. “Especially for Clevelanders, who have such cursed professional franchises, it’s very easy to latch onto the Buckeyes,” he says. “People who come to OU bring that with them.” Lowery, who lived in New Jersey before moving to Ohio in eighth grade, focused his passion for sports on New York’s professional teams. After arriving in Cleveland, he was intrigued by Ohioans’ infatuation for the Buckeyes and quickly took interest. “I’m more of a passive Ohio State fan,” Lowery admits. “It’s all that my buddies would talk about. If we weren’t going out for [Cleveland] Cavs games, then we were going out to watch OSU. Everyone was absolutely obsessed with the Buckeyes out here.” But a few Bobcats wins don’t equate instant school pride. USA TODAY’s Marlen Garcia took note of Ohio’s developing national identity with each NCAA win, but it’s about more than just defining the university’s reputation outside of the Midwest. There’s a distinctive younger brother-older brother dynamic as Ohio challenges its northern neighbor for the state’s spotlight. Alex Lubetkin, a Cleveland Heights native and English major at Ohio, has seen his support for the Buckeyes wane after moving to Athens. He would still applaud a major Ohio State win, but Ohio’s recent basketball and football successes (with the Bobcats’ football team winning its first bowl game late last season) created a whole new sensation. “It’s like, ‘Oh my God, we finally have a team,’” he says. “We’ve finally gotten to the point where we can brag to OSU fans about our sports teams. We’re no longer little brother.” Academically, a fairer fight For Bobcats, it’s easy to celebrate the university’s renowned journalism and sports administration programs or “party school” reputation, but for most students, athletic success completes the college experience. Watching a university’s basketball team destroy traditional powerhouses can bring students and alumni together in a way that academic excellence and an invigorated social environment can’t touch. “It’s easily something that gives you something to talk about,” Lowery says. “It gives you memories and now I can say to someone I’m meeting for the first time, ‘Hey, how about that Bobcat tournament win?’ It’s something for a normal OU student to be proud of.” There’s still a chance the Bobcats and Buckeyes could share a court in the Final Four in New Orleans, as Ohio’s Midwest bracket would match up against Ohio State’s Eastern bracket, though most would say it’s unlikely. But how would Sheffield react if the two tipped off in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on March 31? “I would probably sit there quietly and lose my [expletive] the entire game,” she says. “Although, ultimately I would root for the Bobcats. I’m a huge fan of underdog stories and it’s my alma mater. But it would definitely be a rough game to watch.” ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I grew up in a suburb of Cleveland. My parents both graduated from Lorain County Community College. They became Buckeyes fans, so growing up, I became a Buckeye fan. From age five to eighteen, it was all that I knew. When it came time to choose a college I looked at a few schools, Ohio State included. I ended up choosing Akron. For my first two years at UA, I still considered myself an Ohio State fan. As I started getting more and more into UA athletics and continued to develop pride in being a Zip, my fandom for Ohio State started to go away. Today, I don't care if Ohio State beats Michigan...it's not that I'm rooting against them or I don't watch (it's still a great game), I just don't really care who wins. I'm in the extreme minority in that line of thinking in Ohio, but why? In most states, smaller in-state schools don't cheer for their own schools more than their own alma mater. So why in Ohio? I have a few theories: 1) People who didn't attend college choose Ohio State as their "default" collegiate team. Before I get shredded, I'm not saying Buckeye fans are uneducated. However, if someone chose not to attend college, why wouldn't they gravitate to the most successful athletic program in the state? 2) Lack of on-field/on-court success at other schools. Cincinnati has had some success in both basketball and football. Kent State, Miami, and Ohio have all made big NCAA Tournament runs in basketball...Akron has developed a consistent winner in hoops as well. A few MAC schools have had varied success in football. Kent State has a superb baseball program. Akron's soccer team is one year removed from a Division I National Championship. However, no other school in Ohio is consistently in the Top 25 in the "big two" - football and basketball. Which leads us to theory #3... 3) Front-running. Rip me if you must (and I'm sure some of you will), but it's true. A large portion of "Buckeye Nation" is no different than Ohioans that consider themselves part of "Steeler Nation" - they choose to be a fan of the team that wins the most. We rip these Steelers fans, just as we rip those who live in Cleveland but go to Progressive Field in Yankees gear, or those that had the guts to attend "The Q" in Miami Heat garb. But isn't it the same to cheer for and follow a school that you didn't attend more than the one you did/do attend? Three questions for everyone: 1) What school did you graduate from? 2) To what degree do you cheer/not cheer for Ohio State? 3) Why or why don't you?