THE University of Toledo Rockets get a win before they even take the field. Their agreement to play Ohio State University twice, with UT the nominal home team in a 2009 game at Cleveland Browns Stadium, will generate major revenue and provide a huge boost to the Rockets' football program and the Mid-American Conference.
The second game, in 2011, will be played in Columbus, for which UT will be paid an as-yet-undisclosed specific amount.
Ohio State has played only one other "neutral-site" game against an Ohio team - the University of Cincinnati at the Bengals' Paul Brown Stadium in 2002 - that's how rare this is for the Buckeyes, and how well it reflects on the Rockets and the relationship between athletic directors Mike O'Brien at UT and OSU's Gene Smith.
The two men have known each other for a long time - Mr. O'Brien was at Ball State and Mr. Smith at Eastern Michigan - and that clearly helped bring about the deal. In fact, it was Mr. Smith who suggested a "home" game for UT in Cleveland.
Similarly, Bowling Green State University's Falcons will be the home team on Sept. 2 at Browns stadium against Wisconsin, and Northern Illinois will play Iowa in Chicago's Soldier Field in 2007. All three games speak to the growing clout of the MAC and the growing popularity of such arrangements.
And for good reason. Everyone wins. The Browns will be generating revenue on a day when the stadium would likely be unused.
As the nominal home team, UT will have its largest-ever payday from an athletic event, looking to bring in more than $2 million in ticket revenue. From that is deducted rental of the stadium - $300,000 or so - and other fees, but the net "take-home pay" will still be a very large number, easily eclipsing the approximately $350,000 UT earned from its road game at Penn State in 2000.
And Ohio State gets to play before its huge Cleveland and northeast Ohio fan base.
A bonus for UT: As the home team, the Rockets will actually have more tickets to sell than the Buckeyes. UT will be allocated about 58,000 tickets, so this will be a field day for Rockets fans from this region and northeast Ohio. Browns stadium holds more than 70,000; the Glass Bowl holds 26,000 or so.
The Rockets will also gain wider exposure that could help in recruiting, so the impact of the deal will extend beyond the immediate financial benefits.
Ohio State deserves to be commended for its willingness to put its program and its prestige on the line against other Ohio schools that have nothing to lose by taking on the Buckeyes.
Cincinnati and Bowling Green both came very close to defeating the Bucks a few years ago. Sooner or later the upset will happen.
Perhaps in 2009? Along about Sept. 19?
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