Bobcats caught in ‘Ohio’ crossfire

It has been more than 40 years since Ohio and Michigan last met on the hardwood or the gridiron, but the Wolverines’ two most prominent coaches seem to think the Bobcats and Wolverines meet much more regularly.

First-year Michigan football coach Brady Hoke aggravated many Ohio State fans last season when he continually referred to the Buckeyes as simply “Ohio.”

Michigan basketball coach John Beilein continued the trend when he referred to Ohio State as “Ohio” following Michigan’s 64-49 loss to the Buckeyes Jan. 29.

Now, with both Hoke and Beilein on the “Ohio” bandwagon, the real Ohio is caught in the middle of a quarrel in which it has no part.

But that does not mean the Bobcats have not taken notice.

One day after Ohio State defeated Michigan, Ohio assistant basketball coach Dustin Ford mockingly congratulated his team on the win via Twitter.

“Was recruiting all day yesterday and just saw on Twitter we played Michigan,” Ford tweeted. “Good win for us- wish I was there #bobcatnation.”

Hoke is an Ohio native and played football in the Mid-American Conference at Ball State, where he later served as head coach from 2003 to 2008. So the fact that Hoke disregards a school that he clearly knows exists has some Bobcats disgruntled.

Ohio basketball coach John Groce was an assistant at Ohio State before coming to Athens.

“It is kind of disrespectful, but it is what it is,” Groce said. “You can’t control what other people say. You can only control what you’re doing on a daily basis. That’s how we operate here, and I can assure you that’s how Coach Matta operates in Columbus.”

Ohio State’s athletic department chose not to comment on the matter, and Groce said he would prefer to let his team’s play do the talking and is sure his former squad feels the same.

“For me, it’s almost comical,” Groce said. “I can’t control that. They’re going to say what they’re going to say.”

Like Groce, Ohio junior guard Walter Offutt spent time at Ohio State before joining the Bobcats. He said he does not care what the Michigan coaches are saying and doubts his former Buckeye comrades do either.

“I really don’t care what’s going on with that,” Offutt said. “Just go out here and play basketball, control what I can control. (Ohio State) beat them recently, so I don’t think they care.”

In the days following the Wolverines’ loss, Beilein was asked why he made the switch after always previously referring to Ohio State by its proper name. Beilein suggested that Ohio State actually brings the name upon itself.

“I can’t tell how it happened. It just sort of happened, with the ‘Beat Ohio,’ ” Beilein said during a Big Ten conference call. “I hear (Ohio State fans) yelling yesterday, ‘Ohio, Ohio,’ so we just call them ‘Ohio.’ ”

But that does not sit well with former Ohio University president Vernon Alden who has been insistent that the Athens university be called “Ohio — not OU” and that Ohio State be known as “Ohio State.”

“Michigan is needling Ohio State because they want to be known as simply ‘Ohio,’ but that’s not possible because we are OHIO,” Alden said in an email.

Ohio and Ohio State were involved in litigation in the late 1990s surrounding the trademark of the name “Ohio.” Ohio State often refers to itself as simply “Ohio” in cheers and fight songs.

The Buckeyes and Wolverines are scheduled to play again Feb. 18, but it could be another 40 years before the actual Ohio and Michigan meet again.

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