Being a sports fan from a small town in Connecticut, I was excited about the prospect of seeing some decent and spirited college football when I enrolled at Ohio University in 1975. I knew it wasn't Ohio State, though most in my hometown, when they heard where I was going, told me, "Go, Buckeyes!" Still, I thought Saturday afternoons at Peden Stadium—about three football fields from my West Green freshman dorm—would be loads of fun.
On the day of the first game I asked my roommate, Dave Johnson, from a farming community near Columbus, if he wanted to walk over with me. "Nope," he said. "I'm watching the Buckeyes." In those prehistoric days, the four-story dorm had one television—in the basement. I stopped there about a half hour before the Bobcats kicked off. The place was packed, 30 or 40 kids glued to Ohio State. So I went by myself to the game, a mundane affair against Ball State or Central Michigan or some other Mid-American Conference team. The stands were maybe half full, and I soon found out why even that many students had shown up: the Marching 110. At Ohio U the rollicking rock 'n' roll halftime show was the thing. I don't remember what they played that day, but they were loud and fun. And when they were done, 80% of the students left. The second-half crowd reminded me of my high school games.
What a letdown.
During my years the team went 16-27-1, and I fell in line with my classmates. We went to the stadium to hear the Marching 110 fire up "Get Down Tonight" by K.C. and the Sunshine Band (that's one I remember) or some such funky jam, and danced away. Then we'd file back to the dorm, leaving the Bobcats to trudge through a second half in front of family and friends.
Earlier this year, I had a chance to speak with the quarterback, Tyler Tettleton, after the team's victory over Penn State—it is a weird world when, in one calendar year, little OU beats Michigan in basketball and Penn State in football—and I told him that I hoped the team was good enough to keep students around after intermission. "They stay now," Tettleton said. Times have changed.