Reminder: If you haven’t done so, be sure to vote in our football season preview survey, the results of which will be compiled and published in a future blog post. Thank you!
Welcome to week six of your eight-week Empire season preview for the 2012 football Buckeyes. Every week between now and kickoff, we’ll break down a different component of the fall season (see topics and links to past posts below). Some will be written by me. Some will be presented in roundtable format.
This week, I’ll tackle the season at Ohio Stadium.
College football stadiums around the country are simultaneously different and the same. Many have unique traditions and storied legacies. All have played host to moments of triumph and defeat. But only a few have the intangible qualities that make them as special as Ohio Stadium.
Last year’s most memorable Horseshoe experience happened on October 27th. In preparation for the upcoming night game, fans flocked to campus area to tailgate and bar hop for an entire afternoon before the game itself. The energy exuded by the campus that day was stoked in equal parts by the universally-acknowledged-but-not-fully-understood importance of the evening’s game and the fact that the game was night.
When night came, the place didn’t disappoint. The decibel level was at its highest. Seven Nation Army shook the stands. And when the Braxton Miller and Devin Smith finished off the Badgers, the lower deck emptied onto the field in a symbolic display of a fan base’s catharsis. In many ways, the memories fans have of that night are the result of the stadium itself, as much as they’re also the result of the team’s success. That statement can be made about very few schools around the country. We should all be thankful that Ohio State is one of them.
Even more remarkable is the fact that the Wisconsin game wasn’t an aberration. Though the experience was magnified as a result of the factors discussed above, the Shoe has been providing similar memories to students, fans, alumni, coaches, and players for decades.
That doesn’t mean that everything is the same year after year. Things have changed at the Shoe. For example, today’s fans would never guess that the stadium once housed students (I personally know someone who lived there).
What’s new in 2012? The most notable change to Ohio Stadium for the coming season is the new scoreboard installed by the school over the summer.
The details of the project are well-known, but worth repeating. The upgrade cost the school a staggering $7,000,000, a princely sum that only a powerhouse program can afford. The new scoreboard’s dimensions are 42-by-124, which represents a 193% expansion in square feet when compared to the old model. The board will play video in high-definition. Finally, the sound within the stadium will be enhanced considerably by the installation of 25 new speakers on each side of the scoreboard and the refurbishment of speakers scattered around the stadium.
The decision to build the new scoreboard inspired debate both among Ohio State students and around the Columbus community. Regardless of how you feel about how necessary such a large expenditure was, two truths are undeniable.
First, you can always expect the Horseshoe to be taken care of. The football program is, for better or worse, an invaluable commodity to the university. It’s a revenue machine and, in the end, the money the program brings in will be spent on making sure the flow of cash doesn’t stop. Along with the team itself, Ohio Stadium is the football program and the school’s ambassador to the world. It will always be treated accordingly.
Second, from a football and fan experience perspective, this is a major upgrade. The old technology was adequate, but arguably unworthy of its place at a school as prominent as Ohio State. Also, shiny things attract starry-eyed recruits, a fact which the athletic department doubtlessly took into account when making this decision.
For as much as the new scoreboard will bring to the Horseshoe, the essence of the stadium won’t change. That’s because the essence of the stadium is a product of the team, the fans, and the passion that define Ohio State football.
This year, the Buckeyes play eight home games. That’s eight opportunities to experience the Shoe at its best. Take one of them.