At his first-ever headgear pick on College GameDay, Coach Lee Corso pulled on Brutus the Buckeye’s mascot head and correctly picked the Ohio State Buckeyes to beat the Penn State Nittany Lions. That was 1996, and since then, Ohio State University has hosted ESPN’s pregame show 18 times. On November 23, 2019, OSU hosted for the 19th time, which is the most all-time and five more than Alabama.
With that resume, you’d think Buckeye fans would be excited for Rece Davis, OSU alum Kirk Herbstreit and the gang to set up shop in Columbus, right? Apparently, a lot of fans hated the idea of ESPN and the network’s “SEC bias” coming to their town, and some planned a full-on boycott of the upcoming show.
As head coach Ryan Day and Heisman Trophy candidate Justin Fields prepared to face James Franklin and Penn State’s seventh-ranked scoring defense, Ohio State fans rallied support to avoid ESPN College GameDay altogether.
#BoycottGameDay circled social media throughout the week. Not only did OSU faithful bash GameDay’s initial announcement via tweet, but many are planning to attend FOX’s Big Noon Kickoff — also setting up shop in Columbus — where former Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer will be on Saturday morning.
ESPN College GameDay Boycott
Full disclosure: I’m a Penn State graduate and have heard every argument you can make about “SEC bias” in the College Football Playoff. I remember all-too-well when Penn State lost two early road matchups against Pitt and No. 4 Michigan, beat No. 2 Ohio State and No. 6 Wisconsin to win the 2016 Big Ten Championship Game, then were left out in favor of the Ohio State team they beat.
Ohio State fans claim that ESPN and the CFP committee carry an SEC bias, which stems from back-to-back Big Ten title teams that were left out of the playoff. In 2017, that OSU team lost to Oklahoma at home and then lost to unranked Iowa by 31 points. The next year, Purdue embarrassed Ohio State in a 29-point loss, then the Buckeyes needed overtime to beat Maryland, 52-51. Yes, THAT Maryland.
As a side note, plenty of Buckeyes still hate 1991 Heisman Trophy winner and former Michigan star Desmond Howard, now a College GameDay analyst because, well, he did this.
Desmond Howard Punt Return vs. Ohio State
This small contingent of Ohio State football fans who planned to “boycott” ESPN’s College GameDay didn’t do any damage to ESPN’s dominance of college football’s elite pregame show. Of course the arrival of Big Noon Kickoff, as well as Big Ten Network’s BTN Tailgate, lured some die-hard Buckeyes to their former leader and away from ESPN’s flagship show.
But a full-blown boycott where no sign-waving fanatics show up? Get real. Lee Corso pulled his Brutus the Buckeye head once again, the crowd erupted, and Ohio State went on to beat Penn State, 28-17.
This post was originally published November 20, 2019. It was updated following the game.