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Joe Bo’s College Exam: Bowl Season Reveals Deep Ohio Roots

December 29, 2009

By Joe Bodolai

Of course the most obvious Ohio-related event of bowl season is the game between the Ohio State Buckeyes and Oregon Ducks. The Rose Bowl has not been a post-season destination for the Buckeyes since 1997, mainly because they’ve been playing in other BCS bowls.

Cleveland plays a big role in Ohio State football, primarily due to the “Glenville pipeline” which has seen some of the school’s top players such as Ted Ginn Jr., Troy Smith, and Donte Whitner to name just three. In addition, there is hardly a top-flight recruit in the state that the Buckeyes don’t land, making them a team with local connections to nearly every town and city in the state, accounting for their huge passion and popularity.

Northeast Ohio makes its mark in “The Rust Bowl”, which pits Nebraska’s Bo Pelini against Arizona’s Bob Stoops. The two coaches were teammates at Youngstown Cardinal Mooney and have been friends since grade school. Big brother Bob Stoops takes his Oklahoma Sooners into the Sun Bowl to face Stanford, coached by Michigan alum Jim Harbaugh, making this one an Ohio-Michigan echo. Finally, kid brother Mark Stoops, a former defensive back at Miami, has taken the defensive coordinator post at Florida State, a position that will be scrutinized after the forced retirement of coaching legend Bobby Bowden.

Ohio fans will, of course, recognize that many of the games are called by former Ohio State players Kirk Herbstreit and Chris Spielman, and analyzed by Robert Smith. And let’s not forget the Ohio roots of ”Dr. Lou“ Holtz, from East Liverpool who also coached at Ohio State on its 1968-69 National Championship team.

Finally, recently ex-Florida coach Urban Meyer was a defensive back at the team his Gators face in the Sugar Bowl – Cincinnati. He later developed his coaching skills starting at Cincinnati’s St. Xavier high school, where he was noticed by Ohio State and became an assistant with the Buckeyes for two years, eventually becoming head coach at Bowling Green, whose program he turned around in stunning fashion.

Any observer who tracks the family tree of coaches and programs across the country and looks at the pedigree of the top-flight programs realize that both professional football and the college game has deep roots in Ohio.

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