From a distance, Chris Holtmann didn’t see the importance of Ohio State refusing to schedule regular-season games against prominent in-state opponents.
At Butler, he had taken part in the Crossroads Classic, which features Notre Dame, Indiana, Purdue and the Bulldogs, and he had seen first-hand the excitement the event generated among Hoosiers.
So when he took over as the coach of the Buckeyes, Holtmann started to put his stamp on the nonconference schedule by scheduling a home-and-home series with Cincinnati to open the next two seasons.
“I get, in some ways, why it hasn’t happened in the past,” he said before practice Wednesday at Value City Arena. “I can understand that. I’m not an idiot. Cincinnati is a top-25 program right now. If you win that game, that’s a good RPI game and that helps you. Not only that, but there’s no question the thirst for our fans has been apparent.
“I think the argument that you don’t have to play them because you’re the state university, that doesn’t resonate with me as much because of the quality of the program and the energy around the game and the fact that it could be a quality RPI game.”
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The games will be the first true regular-season games between the two programs since 1921. They are also games the prior coaching staff wasn’t particularly inclined to schedule, making building a more attractive nonconference schedule high on athletic director Gene Smith’s task list for Holtmann’s staff.
It’s also a challenge that will likely get more difficult in the coming years. After going from 16 to 18 conference games in 2007, the Big Ten is strongly considering moving to 20. The Atlantic Coast Confernce will make the move starting with the 2019-20 season.
Should that happen, it would further compact a nonconference schedule that includes an annual game in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, participation in the Gavitt Games and the CBSSports Classic. Plus, Holtmann has often mentioned his preference to play in a preseason tournament such as the Maui Invitational or the Battle 4 Atlantis.
“You can’t play 30 high-major games,” Holtmann said. “That’s not fair to your team. It’s a puzzle we’re trying to put together here based on what I’d like to do and what is reality. The biggest thing is, can we have a couple games in the nonconference that people really find attractive in those November and December months, and can at least one of them, maybe two of them, be at home?”
Wednesday marked Ohio State’s fourth practice under Holtmann, and one member of the team wasn’t present. Holtmann announced that freshman forward Kyle Young will be out for a few weeks after having his tonsils removed Tuesday.
He is expected to be ready for the season opener Nov. 10 against Robert Morris but not for an exhibition Nov. 5 against the College of Wooster.
Sophomore Andre Wesson continues to make up for having missed the summer because of a medical condition, but Holtmann said he is “progressing well.”