Andrew Holleran / Photo editor
Fans of Central Florida football, the media that cover the team and even the Mayor of Orlando are split on UCF coach George O’Leary’s perspective on Ohio Stadium.
O’Leary turned heads after saying UCF fans are louder at its home games at Bright House Networks Field than Buckeyes Nation is during home games at Ohio Stadium during his Thursday radio show.
“It’s not a loud stadium. They sit on their hands in that stadium,” O’Leary said during his weekly radio show. “UCF is much louder than that stadium… didn’t bring in any music or any noise this week because I think we can execute without it.”
Audio from the show went viral, and a great debate has ensued – is UCF’s stadium, with a capacity of 45,301, according to the UCF athletics website, louder than the ‘Shoe, which boasts routine turnouts of more than 100,000 fans?
In making that statement, O’Leary might have been projecting the views of the Central Florida fan base, but not City of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.
Dyer told The Lantern he thought O’Leary was jesting when he said UCF fans were louder than OSU fans.
“I kind of thought he was just being sarcastic,” said Dyer, an alumnus of first-year OSU coach Urban Meyer’s previous coaching stop, Florida. “I thought he meant, like, it really is loud (at Ohio Stadium) and was comparing it to some places that weren’t really as loud. I suspect, given those comments, it will be pretty loud here today.”
Orlando Sentinel sports columnist Mike Bianchi, who also received some attention in Columbus this week after a perceived spat with Meyer during a Tuesday Big Ten conference call, disagreed with O’Leary’s comment as well as Dyer’s assessment of the comments.
Bianchi is no stranger to the Horseshoe – he told The Lantern he was in attendance for the 2006 No. 1 OSU versus No. 2 Michigan showdown referred to by some as the “game of the century.” Bianchi attended the game because the winner was likely to face the Florida Gators in the BCS title game and said he remembers plenty of noise during that contest, adding that O’Leary went too far in his criticism of OSU fans.
“The 2006 Ohio State-Michigan game – it was pretty loud that day,” Bianchi said. “I realize it was a huge game that day, but I think George O’Leary went a little overboard when he said UCF’s crowd was louder than Ohio State’s.”
Bianchi also disagreed with Dyer, saying that after hearing the recording, he thought there was disdain in O’Leary’s voice.
Perhaps not surprisingly, some UCF fans that made the trek from Florida to Columbus, defended the UCF coach’s remarks.
Ryan Roy, 24, of Orlando said he agreed with O’Leary, saying OSU has a lot of “old bags” for fans.
“I see what (O’Leary’s) saying because Ohio State has a lot of older fans,” Roy said. “UCF’s got a lot of younger people that fill up Bright House Networks Stadium. So we’re able to be more loud. We’re more energetic than the older, traditional Ohio State fans.”
Neil Gross, 35, of Orlando, conceded that O’Leary’s comment may have fired OSU fans up but said he appreciated the coach’s confidence.
“(UCF) didn’t come here for a moral victory,” Gross said. “We’re not here to keep the score close, we’re here to win. You want your coach to be confident and, really, if anything, it’s kind of a call out to the (UCF) fans that are making the trip. You know, maybe their fans aren’t as loud.”
Mike Asher, 35, of St. Petersburg, Fla., said that OSU wouldn’t run away with Saturday’s game.
“I expect their fans to be a little louder, but we’re going to bring it too,” Asher said.
The fans were indeed boisterous in the early portions of Saturday’s game, quieting during tense moments in the second quarter when UCF drew even with the Buckeyes, 10-10.
In the end, the 104,745 the came out for the OSU-UCF game say a Buckeyes’ victory, and there was plenty of noise.
O’Leary’s comment did indeed appear to spur Buckeye Nation to crank up the volume – UCF had two false start penalties in the first half, perhaps as a result of the noise.
There was plenty for OSU fans to cheer about, in fact, as the No. 14 Buckeyes (2-0) held on for a 31-16 win against UCF (1-1).
OSU continues play next Saturday with a noon game against Cal at Ohio Stadium.