The Engagement Gap

Posted on:

< < Back to

Students wake up often still feeling the effects of the previous night on Court Street. They pull on their Ohio shirts and tanks, brush their teeth and make their way down to Peden Stadium, where an entire community, it seems, is pulled in. The hours of tailgating and abundance of Marching 110 in uniform can mean one thing— it’s game day.

From Sports Illustrated to the White House, the Bobcats' No. 24 ranking in the Bowl Championship Series Standings has everyone taking notice.

President Obama even opened his Oct. 17 speech in Athens acknowledging the undefeated Bobcats, “I came here today because I heard you’ve got a pretty fun football team to watch,” he joked.

The last time Ohio football was ranked, America was well into of the Vietnam War and man was still striving to set foot on the moon. Yes, they are fully deserving of this recognition. However, is it possible that this recognition is casting a shadow on other Ohio teams?

Like the undefeated, top-ranked club hockey team.

Last season, Head Coach Dan Morris guided the Bobcats through the Central States Collegiate Hockey League (CSCHL) tournament. The Bobcats also made it to the second round of the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) national tournament.

This year, they’ve opened up their season with a 10-0 record and the No. 1 ranking in the ACHA. Like Frank Solich, Coach Morris is merely focusing on the winning one game at a time.

“I think accomplished is a tough word,” he joked when asked about their success.

Ohio hockey and Ohio football are both undefeated through their respective seasons. However, being victorious seems to be one of the only things these teams have in common.

No one is denying any of the facts here. This is America where football, basketball and baseball will always reign in the hierarchy of sports on media coverage and fan base. They are America’s pastimes, while other sports are still just beginning to climb the ranks.

This holds true even more so at the college level, especially at Ohio. Although the athletes are seemingly not in any competition for media attention, there’s still the stigma that football reigns.

Most would attribute the engagement gap between the two to the obvious— Ohio football is a varsity sport, whereas Ohio hockey is merely a club team.

However, another defining factor is being ignored here. Everybody’s heard it over and over again— location, location, location. Coach Morris had it right when he said, “We’re in the state of Ohio, and football is king. Hockey will always be a fringed sport (in Ohio).”

Each week Peden is filling up more and more, reaching record high attendance; Bird Arena can hardly reach half-capacity for their Friday-Saturday series.

While every day Tyler Tettleton and others are being pulled aside after practice to comment on their team’s success, the mood remains humble.

Tettleton commented, “It’s great to see that. You love playing in that type of environment where everybody wants to be here and cheer you on.”

Morris also commented quite dryly, “We just don’t have the infrastructure to host events like that.”

As the years continue, these gaps may or may not decrease. A fact one can be certain of though is the competitiveness of Ohio football and Ohio hockey.

Ohio hockey establishes its goals at the beginning of each season according to Morris.

“We want to be regular season conference champions. We want to be tournament conference champions. And we want to be national champions,” he said.

Pat Chiesa of WOUB also had it right when he commented in a recent video on the football team’s success.

“While Obama is pushing for four more years in the White House, the football team he recognized on October 17th is simply pushing to win four quarters of football, one week at a time.”

Both Ohio football and hockey will be on the road this weekend with hopes of continuing their undefeated seasons. While the football team travels to Miami for its annual Battle of the Bricks, Ohio hockey will travel to Liberty University for another Friday-Saturday series.