The Ohio State club football team began its inaugural season Sept. 27 with a 21-20 loss to Miami University.
Despite the loss, coach Max Claman feels that the team played exceptionally well considering the circumstances.
“I was surprised at how well we held up,” said Claman, a junior sports and leadership studies student. “We lost by one point despite the fact that we committed six turnovers. The Miami coaches said we played the best game by a team playing their first-ever game that they had ever seen.”
Nerves were high before the game since most of the players have not stepped on a field since high school, junior safety Joe Budgake said.
“I was a little nervous before the game since it was going to be the first time in three years I had stepped on a football field,” said Budgake, who is also a team captain and the club’s president.
The team has had to come together in light of the fact that its original coach, Jack Solak, left to play quarterback at Florida Atlantic University.
“He had a great opportunity presented to him and I can’t blame him or be mad at him for it,” Budgake said. “He got us started and still was the first club football coach. His work was greatly appreciated.”
In addition to losing its coach, the team is coping with players quitting the team almost every week, leaving the team’s roster at a paltry 22. Yet the team’s chemistry is a non-issue, Claman said.
“That’s the least of our problems. We’ve got great cohesion and good balance,” Claman said. “This is club football; everyone here wants to be here.”
However, since it is club football, the team members are students first and players second. When a player can’t make it to practice because of homework or a job, there’s nothing the team can do.
“Obviously with two practices a week we’d like to get as many guys as we can here, but we can’t do anything about it if guys don’t come,” Claman said. “Who shows up dictates what we can run in practice.”
According to the team’s Web site, Budgake and juniors Marshal Carpenter and Jordan Fleischman founded the team for those who “love football” and “understand what it takes to work hard and be successful.”
“I started this club and play on the team because I love playing football and because I wanted to do something big here at Ohio State,” junior wide receiver Carpenter said. “Ohio State University is the largest in the nation and we have every other club sport you could think of besides the most obvious, football.”
The team conducted tryouts in the middle of April and practiced sparingly over the summer.
In the team’s 2009 schedule, they will host Xavier and Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, host and travel to Wright State and play West Virginia either in Morgantown or Columbus.
Carpenter believes the team will excel despite its lack of experience and small numbers.
“We expect to win every game and beat everyone we play. That is the attitude of the team,” said Carpenter, who is also a team captain and the club’s vice president. “We all have that same attitude and believe losing is unacceptable. With that said all of these teams are just like us; college students who love football and want to keep playing.”
Claman remains cautiously optimistic about the season prospects, knowing the obstacles the team is up against.
“We have to be realistic,” Claman said. “We have zero funding. Miami of Ohio’s club football team gets $12,000 a year from the university. We’re just trying to make an impact and trying to show that we’re legitimate and maybe that’ll show the university we’re legitimate.”
The team hopes its unity paves a path to legitimacy, Carpenter said.
“The camaraderie is amazing. All the guys get together really well. We all try to hang out outside of practice and really have a good time,” Carpenter said. “We all like to joke and have fun, but when it comes down to actually doing hard work, conditioning, or running through plays we all suck it up and get the job done.”