It’s college football’s national title game, so a lot of people will watch ESPN’s telecast of it beginning at 8 p.m. Monday.
But who can local fans root for?
The Ohio State Buckeyes aren’t playing, and neither are any schools from the Big Ten Conference to which they belong. In fact, the combatants, defending national champion Alabama and Clemson, in South Carolina, are located far away from here. Neither school has ever played a football game anywhere in Ohio.
And the title game is being played even farther away, all the way across the country in Santa Clara, Ca., at Levi’s Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers.
However, games are more attractive – or at least they’re usually more attractive – when viewers feel they have ties to the teams, schools and/or areas involved.
For those of you who went to school at Alabama or Clemson, or are from the states where the schools are located, or perhaps lived there for a time or have family members or friends there, you’re lucky. Pick your favorite.
But there aren’t many of you around here. So, then, what about everybody else?
They can pull for Alabama. The Crimson Tide has someone with extensive Ohio appeal.
That comes, of course, in the person of head coach Nick Saban, considered one of the greatest head coaches in college football history with six national championships at Alabama (five) and Louisiana State.
Saban, now 67, was a defensive back at Kent State from 1970-72, playing for head coach Don James, a Massillon native. In Saban’s senior season, the Golden Flashes won the only Mid-American football championship in school history and made the second of KSU’s three bowl appearances, going to the Tangerine Bowl.
Saban began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Kent State under James in 1973 and ’74 before serving as linebackers coach there in 1975 and ’76.
He was defensive backs coach at Ohio State under Earle Bruce in 1980 and ’81.
Saban got his first head coaching job at the University of Toledo in 1990 and found instant success, guiding the Rockets to the MAC championship in his only season there. In 1991, when Bill Belichick was named head coach of the Cleveland Browns, Saban was hired as his defensive coordinator. He stayed with the Browns for four seasons, in the last of which, 1994, they made their first AFC playoff appearance in five years and the defense set a team record for fewest points given up in a 16-game regular season with 214. During his time with the Browns, he lived in Medina.
So with all that, then, you can root for the team coached by Nick Saban, a guy who has plenty of Northeast Ohio in him.