It is this sentiment and not, incidentally, a fine football team, that has helped Ohio University get its share of the 700 players who graduate from Ohio high schools every year.
Bill Hess, Ohio's 37-year-old coach, is a former assistant to Woody Hayes of Ohio State, and it is said that when Hayes retires Hess may get his job. If so, it will not be the first time a Mid-America Conference alumnus went on to a major coaching position. Such famous coaching names as Weeb Ewbank, Red Blaik, Paul Dietzel, Ara Parseghian and Woody Hayes himself all came from Mid- America.
This is Hess's third year as Ohio's coach. In that time he has won 20 games, lost four and tied four. Hess is of the new school of football coaches, a meticulous planner and organizer. His effort to be close to his players borders on compulsion. During preseason practice he moves into the dorm with his team and during the season eats at the training table. His wife occasionally hires a baby sitter and sneaks down to be with him.
Although the big wins over Toledo (48-7), Western Michigan (24-0) and Miami (21-0) indicated that Ohio was the best team in the Mid-America Conference this season, there was no definite proof until the Bowling Green game. Bowling Green, coached by Doyt Perry, had won 18 straight games and last year was the national small-college champion. Perry, like Hess, came from Ohio State, where he coached under Hayes for three years. Unlike Hess, he holds himself aloof from his players. He is also one of the great pessimists in the game. Three weeks ago he told a Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter: "OU will beat us by 28 or 32 points, depending upon whether Hess decides to run or kick." Just before game time, Perry reduced the estimate to two touchdowns. "I have been beaten by more than that only once in my career," he said.
Bill Hess roared at the prediction. "That man is the saddest, sorrow-fullest, most successful coach I know. I've heard he even denies he teaches control football. Not so. We play the same game. Even the teams resemble one another. Our basic attack is the power sweep and the belly series, and theirs is too. We have a strong 200-pound fullback, Bob Brooks, and they have Bob Reublin, 215 pounds. We have fast halfbacks like Bob Harrison and Clyde Thomas. They have Don Lisbon and Chuck Comer. But they also have trackman Bernie Casey, who weighs 210 pounds."
Bowling Green's 13,000-seat stadium was sold out 10 days before the game. The athletic department squeezed in temporary stands to the edge of the running track, and when that source of seats gave out it searched for wall angles in which to pack a few folding chairs. As the game began there were at least another 1,000 spectators leaning over the parapets and peering out of windows of adjoining buildings to watch the play.
It was a game for purists, basic and powerful. It had blocking and tackling and a careful consideration of the fickle factors that often decide a game. Bowling Green scored first, going 90 yards in 19 plays. Only one of the plays was a pass.
Ohio, behind for the first time this season, scored before the first half ended on a three-yard run.
The score was still tied in the fourth period when Bowling Green's cautious play may have cost it the game. Faced with a fourth down and one from mid-field, Coach Perry chose not to gamble. "I decided we were apt to have a better chance if we kicked and kept the pressure on them," Perry said later.
But Ohio took the punt deep in its own territory and started a slow, meticulous march that ended with the winning touchdown. The victory gave Ohio the Mid-America Conference championship. The team will undoubtedly be voted small-college champion.