Five times in the storied history of Ohio State football, the Buckeyes have played a game in the city of Cleveland — four times at old Municipal Stadium (1942-44, 1991) and once at the “new” Cleveland Browns Stadium, that coming in 2009 against Toledo.
With “neutral-site” games at NFL stadiums all the rage in the game of college football, and with a new owner set to officially step in next month, could the Buckeyes be headed back to Northeast Ohio in the not-too-distant future?
If that new owner has anything to say about it, absolutely.
In the course of an interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Tennessee businessman and new Browns owner Jimmy Haslam was asked about getting more use out of his stadium generally and getting the Buckeyes to return for a game specifically. Suffice to say, Haslam would jump at the opportunity.
“I’ll go on record as saying I’d love Ohio State to play here. I mean love to,” Haslam, whose father was a member of the Tennessee Volunteers’ 1951 national championship team, stated.
A game in Cleveland would make sense on at least a couple of levels. The city and surrounding areas that stretch several counties wide have been a hotbed for both a highly-supportive fan base as well a recruiting pipeline for the football program. Plus, it would give the opportunity to people in the area to come into the stadium and see a winning football team and I’m a lifelong Browns fan so by law I’m permitted to crack wise.
When asked about the possibility of returning to the Northeast Ohio city, OSU left the door slightly — very slightly — ajar.
“Our experience in Cleveland has always been enjoyable,” athletic director Gene Smith said in a statement sent to CFT in response to Haslam’s comments. “As we look at our future schedules, I do not see an opportunity in the near future but will always keep that prospect in mind.”
As for the possibilities of an opponent if — still a big if, obviously — such an agreement would be struck between the Buckeyes and Browns, future non-conference games against in-state schools would seemingly make tremendous regional sense — Cincinnati and Kent State in 2014, Bowling Green in 2016 and Cincinnati again in 2018.
Ironically, the 2018 game “replaced” a game scheduled for this season that would’ve been played at Paul Brown Stadium, home of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Playing a future Big Ten game in Cleveland shouldn’t be totally discounted, either; a conference matchup between Illinois and Northwestern was played in 2010 at storied Wrigley Field, home of MLB’s Chicago Cubs.
The latter scenario, though, likely wouldn’t sit well with Columbus-area fans and alumni, losing a home conference game to That City Up North.