When the Ohio University Bobcats met the Miami University RedHawks at Yager Stadium in The Battle of the Bricks this past weekend, there were more important facts and statistics involved than Ohio’s ranking in the polls. Ohio….and I am talking about Ohio University, located in Athens, Ohio. The one from the Mid-American Conference. The one called the Bobcats. I know it’s difficult for some, uh, slower people to recognize that there’s a difference, but….Oh! So you’re saying he’s NOT stupid, but is in fact trying to get under our skin? Oh! Well, very well done, sir. Clever. You sure got us. Anyway…. Ohio University was ranked twice this year, at 25th in week 7 then at 23rd in week 8. Prior to this year, the Bobcats were last ranked for seven straight weeks in 1968. And that’s it. They were never ranked before that. No doubt they would have been ranked if the AP Poll existed in 1915, a year when the only blemish to their 8-1 record came at the hands of the Redskins of Miami (I still believe that when Miami changed their mascot it should have been to a redskin potato).
How about Miami? They have had far more success on the football field. Overall, Miami is 651-395-44, which compares favorably to Ohio’s 516-525-48. Miami is 7-3 in bowl games, compared to Ohio’s 1-5. Ohio’s lone bowl victory was against Utah State. Miami has defeated the likes of Texas Tech, Arizona State, and today’s fairly successful SEC teams South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. Then, of course, Miami has seen some big names in the football world come through its program either as player or coach, including Clifton’s Woody Hayes, Barberton’s turncoat Bo Schembechler, Akron’s Ara Parseghian, Norwalk’s Paul Brown, Loudonville’s Ron Zook, Troy’s gone too soon Randy Walker, Toledo’s John Harbaugh, and Lima’s QB with a predilection (allegedly) for non-consensual sex Ben Roethlisberger. All Ohioans. They were champions four times in the Ohio Athletic Conference, three times in the Buckeye Conference, and fifteen times in the Mid-American Conference. They featured in the AP Poll in 1955, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, and 2003, being ranked as high as 10th in two different seasons.
So what is the greater significance of these two schools, one in which Ohio University leads the way? They are the first and second colleges founded in Ohio. Better than that, Ohio University was the first university established in the Northwest Territory and is the ninth oldest public university in the United States, being founded in 1804. It was conceived in the late 18th century, chartered as the American Western University in 1802, then founded one year after Ohio became the first state created out of the Northwest Territory, the 17th in all. Miami University, founded in 1809, is the tenth oldest public university in the United States. It was originally mentioned in an Act of Congress signed by President George Washington (therefore also in the 18th century), but was not passed by the Ohio General Assembly until 1809, and they didn’t get their first president until 1824, which was also when their first classes were held. The school closed in 1873, only to be re-opened in 1885 when it paid off its debts.
So where do these two schools stand in the greater picture? Obviously there were colleges founded in the colonial era, including the Ivy League schools and others including The College of William and Mary and Rutgers. But, outside of the original colonies, where do they stand? I’m glad you asked. As far as I could tell, there were four colleges founded before Ohio University outside of the original colonies (if we’re counting the colonies as not including their western-stretching claims. West of the Appalachian Mountain Range, let’s say). Kentucky’s Transylvania University (1780) was the first college west of the Allegheny Mountains, and the 16th university in the United States. “Transylvania” means “across the woods”, and it was across the forest from Virginia in its Transylvania colony. Tennessee’s Tusculum College (1794) is the 23rd oldest operating college in the United States. The University of Tennessee (also 1794) was founded as Blount College two years before Tennessee became a state. In 1807 UT was rechartered as East Tennessee College. Finally, the University of Louisville (1798) was the first city-owned public university in the United States. It was founded as Jefferson Seminary, and didn’t actually open until 1813. Now you know. And knowing is half the battle.