Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University where he pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeyes from 1971 through 1974. He furthered his baseball experience as a minor league umpire for seven seasons, working for the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA). He has written for numerous websites, and for the past fourteen years has served as columnist and photo editor for The Gettysburg Magazine, published by the University of Nebraska Press, in Lincoln Nebraska. His interests include history, support for amateur baseball, the outdoors, and he has a music degree from Ohio State University.

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If the thought of huge crowds, huge cost, and the issue of tickets to watch the Buckeyes play in person keeps you away from college football, consider the other OHIO football tradition…the Ohio University Bobcats. Beautiful setting, affordable, comfortable, and a great first impression.

Athens – For years they’ve called Ohio University “Harvard on the Hocking”, that’s the Hocking River, of course, in the heart of southeastern Ohio hill country.  The Harvard part…well, OU alumni are inclined to believe they’re just as learned.

Drive down route 33, through Lancaster, Nelsonville, and follow the signs. They all lead to the other Ohio university that the locals say actually represents more Ohioans than the much bigger one that’s located in Columbus.

OUfootball_insetI had my choice on Saturday…drive to Columbus and fight 107,000, the traffic, and pay $75 to see Ohio State pummel Bowling Green;  or, turn right of I-70 onto state route 33 and make the hour drive to Athens to see the Bobcats entertain Texas State, from San Marcos, Texas.

A good seat to see Mid-American Conference football at quaint Peden Stadium is about $25. Parking is convenient. The crowd is unobtrusive and no problem. An OU athletic administrator shared that a comfortable house on an average Saturday is about 20,000. Capacity in Peden, built back in 1929, tops out at 25,000.

Simply put, you drive in, park, walk through the tail-gaters, and see a good college football game. Ohio State’s outcome Saturday was anything but exciting, but they’ll tell you that’s not what you’re paying for, anyway. It’s the experience of the ‘horseshoe’, the Buckeyes, O-H, and the TBDBITL…the best damned band in the land.

They play big-time football at OU, just without the big-time expense and crowds.

They play big-time football at OU, just without the big-time expense and crowds.

Ohio University’s opener, on the other hand, was something far different. They lost to Texas State in three overtimes, 56-54. And while the diehard Bobcat alums may have not liked the outcome, they could at least day it was always in doubt. Nobody left early.

There’s really nothing missing about an Ohio University game. The school and its setting is beautiful. They have a great marching band, if that’s what makes you follow the Buckeyes. It’s certainly affordable, and they play pretty good Division I competition. I’d never heard of Texas State, but next week they travel to Lawrence, Kansas to play the Jayhawks of the Big 12.

Another plus to Bobcat football, it’s rare to see an area high schooler from a division V, VI, or VII school actually play for the Buckeyes. But Covington’s A.J. Ouellette not only plays, the junior running back has led the Bobcats in rushing for the past two seasons and was selected as caption for the 2016 season.

In addition, redshirt freshman Austin Clack, from Tipp City, dresses and is also poised to see action in the near future, according to sports information personnel.

The environment is so laid back, so simple, and so inviting, you can’t help but ask…why do people like OU so much?

Tipp's Austin Clack, a redshirt freshman,  waits his turn to make a contribution to the Bobcats.

Tipp’s Austin Clack, a redshirt freshman, waits his turn to play for the Bobcats.

“It’s really about the setting,” said Mary, a junior from Zanesville. “I looked at Ohio State and thought it was too big, too busy (traffic), and too much construction. I came here and fell in love with Athens on first site. It’s beautiful.”

“It’s far easier to make your way through OU than OSU,” said Rob, a transfer from nearby Marietta. “I should have come here in the first place but my parents both went to Ohio State. OU is really a place you can identify with. It feels like home.”

And it’s easy to go to a football game, whether you have tickets, or not. More than one found their way to the grassy knoll on the south end of the stadium, where they watched for as long as they liked, and left when they’d had enough. I got the sense that none of them had paid $20 to get there.

It really is a ‘must see’ if you like college football. If you can’t stomach $100 bucks to see Big Ten football, at least indulge yourself to the down home comfort (and cost) of seeing the Bobcats play Miami, Kent State, BG, or Western Michigan. It’s a good product priced right. And the lodging and food at the Ohio University Inn (three minutes from Peden Stadium) is as good as the Hyatt in downtown Columbus.

Check it out, and you’ll probably come home with a sweatshirt. I guarantee…you’ll want to go back!

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