COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Three hours before Ohio State kicked off against Maryland, a cry rang out in the Maryland student union.
It was immediately followed by an overwhelming chorus replying “I-O!” On the other side of campus, hundreds of Buckeye fans met in the C1 lot for a tailgate hosted by the Alumni Club of Washington, D.C. Under Ohio State flags and Ohio State tents, music blared and drinks flowed.
Then, of course, there was the game itself. The Buckeyes routed Maryland 62-3, and most of the home fans had seen enough by halftime. That meant roughly one and a half hours in which Ohio State fans had free run of the place. It didn’t take long for them to take advantage of it. Minutes into the third quarter, a stadium-wide O-H-I-O chant broke out and lasted for more than a full minute.
More than six hours from Columbus, playing in College Park, Md., still felt like a home game for Ohio State. For that, Ohio State’s players and coaches could thank the thousands of Buckeye fans in the mid-Atlantic.
Conference realignment was contentious from the moment it started. However, the Big Ten’s addition of Maryland and Rutgers proved to be quite the blessing for conference alums living in the Washington, D.C. and New York areas.
Suddenly, graduates of Ohio State living in the nation’s capital had much greater access to their alma mater. In addition to the games themselves, the expansion brought with it the Big Ten Network. It became easier not only to watch Ohio State in person, but also to follow the Buckeyes on the television.
And make no mistake, the amount of OSU transplants living in the D.C/Maryland/Virginia area is by no means insignificant.
“You have a ton of Ohio State transplants here,” said Tim Hogan, an Ohio State fan living in D.C. “Every five blocks or so in downtown D.C., there’s an Ohio State bar on Saturdays. I lived in South Carolina and there were a decent amount of Ohio State fans there, but D.C. is just packed.”
Carter Alleman, the president of the Alumni Club of Washington, D.C., said the group helps put 500 Buckeye fans apiece in five different bars each week for watch parties. He estimated that Ohio State has 10,000 alums and 25,000 supporters in the metro area. The convenience of Maryland’s switch from the ACC to the Big Ten has only made the devotion of Buckeye fans grow more rabid.
Take, for example, the aforementioned tailgate that Alleman helped plan. It started as a small get-together between the area’s clubs. (In addition to D.C., there is also an alumni group in Baltimore and three more in Virginia.) An Eventbrite page to organize the tailgate started out with 15 people. The next day, it had more than 600 attendees on it.
“It was like, whoa!” Alleman said. “It was an unbelievable response. But it’s a great way for people to meet other Buckeye fans or reconnect with each other. It also allows us to show our Buckeye pride in the community.”
It was a banner day to show off that Ohio State pride. From the fans in the student union to the tailgate to the O-H-I-O chants ringing through the stadium, Buckeye fans made their presence felt from start to finish. While OSU fans have a reputation for traveling well, this group got to enjoy the rare day when the Buckeyes came to them.
None of it would have been possible, of course, without the Big Ten’s decision to expand.
“If Maryland were still in the ACC, I’d still be coming here with my buddies,” said Bruce Bruchey, an Ohio State fan who lives in Annapolis.
His friend, Terps fan Al Merchant, quickly added the kicker. “Yeah, but we’d be watching them play Wake Forest.”