BOWLING GREEN — The genesis for Bowling Green State University’s football game against Buffalo at 2 p.m. on Friday at Crew Stadium in Columbus came almost seven year ago, according to athletics director Greg Christopher.
“A few weeks after I came to BG [in 2006], we played a football game at Browns Stadium,” he said. “Over the years since, we have looked for other opportunities to play games at a neutral site.”
Christopher said that outside of a hockey game at the Huntington Center in 2009, the opportunity to play neutral site games has been limited.
“You want to play as many games at home as you can,” he said. “That’s the best way to get student involvement and to get community engagement.”
But playing a football game on “Black Friday,” as BG has done every season since 2007, provided an opening to consider a neutral-site game.
“Every other year we host this game on the day after Thanksgiving, and it is hard on attendance,” Christopher said. “Students aren’t in town, and the community is scattered.
“If ever a game made sense [to move], this is the game.”
BG coach Dave Clawson understands the desire to move away from Doyt Perry Stadium for this game.
“I don’t know of a coach who wants to give up a home game,” he admitted. “But it makes sense why we are doing this.
“Football [can be] the ‘front porch’ of the university — being the most visible thing we do. Rather than just playing in front of 2,000 people, let’s take [the game] to one of our top recruiting areas — not just for athletes, but for students in general — and let’s use football as a way to market the university.”
That was easier said than done, though.
“We thought about having another game at Browns Stadium, but for a MAC game we though that was a little too large,” Christopher said. “We talked about Progressive Field, but a football field doesn’t fit there and could prove to be embarrassing.
“We also talked to [the Mud Hens] about Fifth Third Field, but a football field doesn’t fit there, either.”
Columbus Crew Stadium has hosted high school games, and quickly BG found a fit.
“From our first conversations, the people with the Crew were eager and excited for the opportunity,” Christopher said. “They have been terrific partners.
“We’ve built a budget for the event, and we’re very confident that it won’t be a negative — and has a chance to be a positive.
“This is an opportunity to take the university on the road, and this can be an engagement opportunity in one of our largest alumni areas.”
Clawson said the game also can provide a recruiting opportunity for his program.
“[Columbus] coaches appreciate the effort, that we show their area is so important to us from a recruiting standpoint that we are bringing a game to them,” Clawson said. “And we’re going to have a bunch of recruits there.
“We will have as many recruits at that game as we do at a [typical] home game.”
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481, or on Twitter @jwagnerblade