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Published: Wednesday, 7/16/2008

Columbus uses Ohio State titles; city among 20 ESPN finalists

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

COLUMBUS - Around Ohio's capital city, any current championship talk seems to center on the pair that got away, not the mother lode of titles that have ended up residing here.

The sting of defeat in the last two national championship games has been a dominant sports topic, even as the Ohio State Buckeyes move closer to the start of the next college football season and find themselves favored to win the Big Ten - for the fourth straight time - and again ranked among the top teams in the country.

It is the rich championship history of this city, the bulk of which has been supported by the Buckeyes' large, well-muscled shoulders, that brings Columbus consideration as

"TitleTown USA" in a competition being staged by ESPN, the all-sports cable network.

After taking nominations on-line earlier this year, ESPN named Columbus one of 20 cities that are finalists for the mythical crown, and a large entourage from the network will be in town tomorrow to gauge the championship pulse here.

ESPN will film a segment outside Ohio Stadium beginning at 10:30 a.m., and will feature Ohio State legend and two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin. Promotions for the two-hour event have encouraged fans to attend in team attire and create a "pep rally" atmosphere.

"We're the ambassador for Columbus," said Adam Hertzog, a producer for ESPN involved with the on-site taping. "We're going to make the case that day why Columbus should win it. The more people and the more excitement we can capture that day, the better it will look on camera."

ESPN hopes the manufactured competition will generate plenty of interest and discussion, and prompt a large response when online polling to determine the winner of the "TitleTown USA" honor begins July 24. Segments on all 20 finalist cities are being broadcast on ESPN. The Columbus segment airs Monday, July 21, in the 6 p.m. edition of SportsCenter. ESPN Classic will also run Ohio State's victory over Miami in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl national championship game at 2 p.m. that day.

"TitleTown USA is synonymous with greatness," said Mark Gross, a senior vice-president with ESPN. "A moniker like this is no mere nickname, but proof positive that your teams have the pride of a champion, the purpose of a warrior, the support of the most passionate fans in America and the perspective that comes with historical achievements."

The overwhelming majority of those achievements here in the epicenter of the Buckeye State have distinct scarlet and gray hues. Ohio State's football program has won seven national championships, and 32 Big Ten Conference titles. The Buckeyes have won the Big Ten crown in the past three seasons, with the last two being outright championships.

Ohio State has also had its players win seven Heisman Trophies, and receive All-American honors more than 100 times. The Buckeyes have also claimed 18 bowl victories.

While most of the glitter and glory on the national scene have been generated by the OSU football team, the title credentials here have been significantly enhanced recently by a number of other sports teams at Ohio State.

The Ohio State men's basketball team won a Big Ten championship and advanced to the NCAA title game in the 2006-07 season, and then took the NIT championship this past season. The Ohio State women's basketball team has won four straight Big Ten championships.

The Buckeyes' fencing team won a national championship this past season and junior Andras Horanyi won a second straight individual national title. Teresa Meyer, a senior on the OSU pistol team, took three national titles in 2008, and had seven in her career.

The Ohio State men's lacrosse team was part of a tri-championship in the Great Western Lacrosse League, while the Buckeyes men's soccer team won the Big Ten title and advanced to the NCAA national championship game. The Ohio State wrestling team had two individual national champions and four All-Americans last season.

In the ESPN "TitleTown USA" competition, Columbus is up against 19 other cities, including Ann Arbor, home of Ohio State's bitter rival the University of Michigan, as well as Detroit and Massillon.

Contact Matt Markey at:

mmarkey@theblade.com

or 419-724-6510.



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