The Big 33 Game isn’t going to be that big anymore.
Not with Ohio no longer participating.
Starting next summer, the annual Big 33 Game that’s for a long time pitted some of the best graduating high school senior football players in Pennsylvania against their counterparts in Ohio will be Pennsylvania vs. Maryland. Since 1993, it’s been Ohio vs. Pennslyvania.
Just how big a deal has the Big 33 been? Consider there’s never been a Super Bowl played without a Big 33 alum.
Replacing Ohio with Maryland decreases the chance of that streak continuing. Significantly.
The Big 33 game has a rich history on many levels. It’s been, at various times, Pennsylvania vs. Texas, Ohio, Maryland, the nation and itself. It’s a marquee event in Hershey, and in the past it’s been broadcast live across both Pennsylvania and Ohio and treated as a big deal. The list of alumni is a who’s-who of college and NFL stars.
All good things must come to an end — the changing landscape of college football and a down economy hurt — and this series ends — for now, anyway — with Team Ohio having won the last three and six of the last nine. To the guys that played in the game, that matters.
These all-star showcases aren’t what they used to be. Too many good players enroll in college in January of their senior year and can’t play in them, and many others pass for fear of injury or just plain fatigue. There’s no easing into college football anymore; players report in mid-June to campus, immediately start taking classes and immediately enter weightlifting and conditioning programs so they can catch up to their older teammates and be ready to contribute.
In case you missed it the first 25 times, Urban Meyer’s strength coach at Ohio State makes $380,000 a year.
College football coaches in general make a lot of money, and they get paid to win. When their recruits aren’t ready to play, winning gets tougher and so does keeping a job. It’s a cut-throat business.
If a coach tells a player he shouldn’t play in the Big 33 game or another summer all-star game, that player would be wise to listen.
It’s a shame that these games in general are a dying breed, and it’s a shame that Pennsylvania chose to make this decision. The Ohio North-South game is now played in April in an attempt to maximize the player pool. Back when that game was played in Stark County, especially, it was a summertime event that mattered and brought lots of great players together.
The Cleveland Browns explored making a bid at the Big 33 and/or the Ohio North-South game in the early 2000s, but it didn’t make sense, financially or logistically. Putting these games together takes a lot of work, a lot of money and a lot of luck. It’s not hard to see why Hershey and those involved with Pennsylvania’s side of the deal thought they needed a change of some sorts, but this change seems to be drastic and short-sighted.
It’s just a shame. And it stinks like those involved in Pennsylvania were tired of Ohio winning.