With all due respect to the Columbus Crew, Columbus Blue Jackets and Columbus Clippers, and even with a nod towards the Major League Lacrosse's Ohio Machine and the Professional Rugby Organization's Columbus Aviators, sports in Ohio's capital still centers around one institution: Ohio State.
The Buckeyes remain the most dominant sports draw in Columbus, so it was only fitting that when the Greater Columbus Sports Commission gathered to celebrate the city's sports at the Morning Sports Report early Wednesday Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith was on hand to tout the school's accomplishments.
Smith began with the Olympics, citing the 16 current or former Buckeyes competing in Rio. The athletic director was able to rattle off the athletes' accomplishments from memory, from the bronze medal won by Canadian Buckeye Michelle Williams in the 4x100 meter freestyle relay to the success of former Ohio State football player Nate Ebner on the USA Rugby team.
The Olympic talk was followed by a video touting the Ohio State wrestlers in Rio, Buckeye assistant coach Tervel Dlagnev and defending heavyweight NCAA champion Kyle Snyder.Despite Smith's effusive praise for the Olympic athletes, it wasn't long before things turned to the football field and he expressed excitement about the unknown that comes with such an inexperienced group of Buckeyes.
"I think we have unbelievable talent. It’s really fun to go out there and watch the energy that is there," he said. "It’s just a different level of energy because for two years we had professionals that practiced differently and these young puppies, they’re not holding anything back because they are competing for opportunities.
"You always have to keep in mind that since Urban (Meyer) has been here we’ve had great recruiting classes, so these young guys have just been waiting in the wings to have this opportunity. They’ll compete hard, I think we’ll win more games than we lose," Smith joked. "I think it will be an exciting team. And the freshness of getting to know the new players I think will be pretty cool for our fans and trying to get to know their backgrounds.”
Smith also addressed the hardwood. Shortly after Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said that the city is ready and willing to host an NCAA Men's basketball regional, Smith said that he is confident the Ohio State men's team will be much better in the upcoming season.
As for the women, Smith said now it the time for fans to get their tickets as the 2016-17 version of the team will be a fun one to watch.
"It’s going to be extremely exciting, they’ve got a lot of great talent," he said. "I think that is going to be the challenge for our coach, managing the depth and providing all those young women the opportunity to play."
The theme of the Morning Sports Commission was that Columbus has no offseason. While that's true of the city's eclectic combination of sports, it's highlighted by Ohio State, the bell cow of Columbus athletics, and Gene Smith reinforced that Wednesday morning.