But a movement is afoot to possibly change that scheduling conflict in the years to come.
For the third year in a row, Ohio’s top two high school football all-star games will be conducted simultaneously.
But a movement is afoot to possibly change that scheduling conflict in the years to come.
The scheduling conflict first came about in 2006, when the Big 33 Football Classic moved its game up one month from July to the third Saturday in June. But that is when the Ohio North-South Classic has always conducted its game.
The Big 33, based in Hershey, Pa., moved its game up a month so it could continue to feature signees who are headed to top Division I schools. In recent years, many of those signees have opted to enroll at their college choice for summer school. Once signees enroll in those summer sessions, which usually begin in late June, they become ineligible for all-star game competition.
As a result, Ohio’s top players – who used to be able to play in both games – are “drafted” by coaches onto one of the three all-star teams. The North and South squads will go head to head in the North-South Classic June 14, while the Ohio all-stars will play a Pennsylvania squad at Hersheypark Stadium later the same night. This marks the 16th straight year Ohio will participate in the Big 33.
The results for Ohio in the Big 33 have not been pretty since the conflict came about two years ago. The Pennsylvania all-stars won the 2006 game 61-42 and followed with a 28-10 win a year ago.
The Ohio High School Football Coaches Association sets up the selection process for both games and sponsors the North-South game. This year, though, the Big 33 coach, Olmsted Falls’ Jim Ryan, was given a better shot at some of the state’s top available players.
“We wanted to have the most representative team go to Pennsylvania,” said Avon Lake coach Dave Dlugosz, current president of the OHSFCA. “That is without denigrating the people in the North-South game, which is the longest running high school football all-star game in the U.S.
“But the fact is with the North-South game, Ohio is always going to win that. The Big 33 is an interstate rivalry. A lot of credence is given to the result of that game. We took away a couple of the restrictions on the Big 33 coach in the selection process to give him a little bit more leeway.”
As a result, Ryan’s Big 33 team will have at least 21 players who signed letters-of-intent in February for Bowl Championship Series schools. Last year’s Ohio Big 33 team featured just 15 BCS signees.
Dlugosz said the OHSFCA is being proactive in protecting its own game as well. There will be two big changes to the Ohio North-South Classic this year. The game will be played at 4 p.m. on June 14, followed by the Big 33 game at 7 p.m. from Hershey. The other big change is the venue. The North-South game will move from Columbus Crew Stadium, where it has been held every year since 2001, to venerable Ohio Stadium on the Ohio State campus.
“A lot of kids never get the opportunity to get into the Horseshoe,” Dlugosz said. “We think it is the St. Peter’s Basilica of football in Ohio. By moving our game there, we think we’ll give the kids and their families and even the population of Columbus a chance to see a football game there.
“Some people, because of the cost of tickets, never get a chance to go there for Ohio State games. Plus, it will give our kids a chance to experience that field.”
Those changes could be the first in what could be a major shift for the North-South game. Dlugosz confirmed that OHSFCA officers have discussed moving their game, now in its 63rd year, to April to avoid a conflict with the Big 33 altogether.
“We are in the discussion phase with our organization and Ohio State and we may move our all-star game to the weekend of Ohio State’s spring game in April,” Dlugosz said. “It would create a big weekend for football in Ohio with our game and their game. We could also do some things with the Browns and Bengals and even tie it all in with Paul Brown.
“That is only in the talking stages. The drawback there is the spring sports. Some athletes may have to miss some time from their baseball or track teams in order to compete in the game. We are empathetic to that. We’re just trying to figure out a solution.”
Attendance at the North-South game has hovered around the 5,000 mark in recent years. In fact, last year’s game drew 5,070 at Crew Stadium. By aligning itself with Ohio State and possibly moving out of June, North-South game organizers are looking to solidify their game.
“We were thinking about this and Ohio State was thinking about it and we just kind of came together on it,” Dlugosz said.
It is also clear that, by sending a more representative team to the Big 33, the OHSFCA is committed to staying a part of that game, now in its 51st year, for years to come.
The Big 33 Football Classic typically draws between 15,000 and 20,000 fans and is regionally televised between the two states. The 2006 game drew a crowd of 14,043 to Hersheypark Stadium. Moreover, the Big 33 and its sponsors have raised nearly $500,000 for scholarships for Ohio students.
Here are details on both of these all-star games:
The Ohio North-South Classic
It will be contested 4 p.m. June 14 at Ohio Stadium.
Sherwood Fairview head coach Bob Olwin will coach the North team. Some of his key players include Youngstown East running back/defensive back Salvadore Battles (Kent State signee), Hunting Valley University School defensive tackle Jake Stoller (Yale signee) and Solon linebacker Steve Greer (Virginia signee).
“I coached as an assistant in this game in 2002,” Olwin said. “It is a great honor to get nominated to be a head coach in this game. This is something a lot of guys don’t get the chance to do. For our team to be able to play this game in Ohio Stadium, that also makes it very intriguing.”
According to the OHSFCA, alumni of the Ohio North-South Classic have participated in all but two of the NFL’s 42 Super Bowl games.
“That is enough said right there about the quality and tradition of this game,” Olwin said.
Groveport-Madison’s Tim Brown will coach the South squad. Notable players include Dublin Coffman quarterback Zach Stoudt (Louisville signee), Cincinnati St. Xavier defensive lineman Greg Scruggs (Louisville signee), Lewis Center Olentangy defensive end Kenny Anunike (Duke signee) and Hilliard Darby wide receiver/defensive back Jeremy Ebert (Northwestern).
Last year, the South squad blasted the North 50-7. But the North maintains a 36-23-3 lead in the all-time series.
Television details for this year’s North-South Classic had not been resolved. ONN televised the game last year.
Big 33 Football Classic
The Big 33 game is set for 7 p.m., June 17, at Hersheypark Stadium. It is sponsored by PNC Bank.
Ohio State signees on the Ohio squad include Beavercreek defensive back Zach Domicone, Westerville Central kicker Ben Buchanan, Madison tight end Nic DiLillo, Cleveland Glenville lineman Shawntel Rowell and Washington C.H. Miami Trace linebacker Nathan Williams.
More notables on the team include Dublin Coffman linebacker Steve Gardiner (Michigan State signee), Wauseon lineman Elliot Mealer (Michigan), Trotwood-Madison wide receiver Roy Roundtree (Michigan), Clayton Northmont lineman Zebrie Sanders (Florida State) and Youngstown Cardinal Mooney linebacker Mike Zordich (Penn State). Mentor quarterback Bart Tanski, the Ohio Mr. Football award winner headed to Bowling Green, is also on the squad.
The initial Pennsylvania Big 33 roster listed Jeannette quarterback Terrelle Pryor, one of the nation’s top five prospects, according to ESPN.com, on that squad. But the updated roster does not include Pryor. It does, however, include 21 players headed to BCS schools, however.
OSU football coach Jim Tressel appeared at an Ohio Big 33 team event held at Ohio Stadium. He addressed the team and their parents.
“You will enjoy that experience of meeting new people,” Tressel said. “You will enjoy competing on a higher level against faster, more developed athletes. The buddies you will meet, you will remember for the rest of your life.
“The families you live with, they will become some of your greatest fans for the rest of your career. This is just one of those special events. You need to take advantage of every second. Enjoy the experience in Hershey, Pa. No one does it better. No one does a better job of giving you a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Olmsted Falls’ Ryan, the Ohio head coach, previously served as a Big 33 assistant.
“I knew before I was there that it was a prestigious all-star game,” Ryan said. “I wasn’t aware, though, of how much every day when you are there that you’re winning. It is like a bowl week with all of the charitable appearances. Your goal is to win the game, certainly. But your goal is also to win every single day while you are over there.
“The Big 33 is more than just a game.”
Ryan said he and his coaching staff accepted nominations for players from around the state. They pored over videotapes in making their selections.
“It was pretty drawn out,” he said. “We spent time over Christmas break and on into January. I know when we started making calls (to players), the excitement of the people we talked to on the phone was unmatched.
“I think we’ve got some pretty nice players. The majority of them are going to BCS schools. We thought it was nice to get the Mr. Football award winner, Bart Tanski from Mentor, because he has played in a lot of big games there.
“We have five guys from Ohio State. We have almost all of the guys from their recruiting class who weren’t injured or already enrolled in school.”
Ryan wants to see his Ohio team end its two-game losing skid in the series.
“Ohio has not won this game since 2005,” he said. “Our main goal is to go over and win the football game.”
From the players’ perspective, representing Ohio is a big honor.
“One thing about being an Ohio boy, everybody wants to play in the Big 33 or the North-South game,” DiLillo said. “I know the Big 33 has gotten a lot bigger and I know Pennsylvania beat us pretty good last year. If we can get after it, hopefully we can win this game.”
Williams said he is excited about the competition he will see in the Big 33 game.
“I am just looking forward to getting out there and competing with guys at my level, particularly against guys who are going on to big-time colleges like Ohio State and Michigan,” he said.
The Big 33 game will be televised live by CN8 in Pennsylvania. Other TV plans will be announced as the game nears.
The Ohio-Pennsylvania series resumed in 1993. Last year’s win gave Pennsylvania an 8-7 lead in that series.