Over the past year, few athletic programs have accomplished as much as Ohio State. And for that success, the Buckeyes’ men’s athletics program will be rewarded Wednesday during the ESPYs with the Capital One Cup, an award given to both a men’s and women’s group of athletes that demonstrated consistent success over a variety of sports. The Stanford Cardinal women’s athletics program won the women’s Capital One Cup.
The award is earned on a points basis, with different point values being assigned to either ranking within the Top 10 of a certified poll, or placing in the championships of any given sport. The Ohio State men’s athletic program received 111 points, narrowly edging out two-time cup champion Florida who came in second with 105 points.
To the athletes and alumni, this award takes on a special meaning.
“It says that you’re one of the best,” said Eddie George, former Ohio State running back and 1995 Heisman Trophy winner. “For us to finally hoist up a Capital One trophy to say, ‘OK, our athletic program as a whole is the best in the land,’ says a lot.”
For its victory, Ohio State will receive not only the trophy, but $200,000 to be put towards student-athlete scholarships.
And though Ohio State ranked third in highest-grossing athletic programs according to Business Insider, George said the school can benefit from the additional source of funding.
“Anytime that you can get money for student-athletes to get more opportunities to come, it’s just that added bonus,” George said. “It’s saying that you don’t have to go out and fundraise as much. That goes right toward the bottom line, and it allows for student-athletes to get scholarships, not just for football, but for all sports. It gives someone a chance to foster their dream and to get a great education.”
Winning an award such as this requires a well-oiled machine of athletics and someone at the helm who knows how to run it, George said. As a result, George believes a great deal of credit belongs to Smith for the work he has put into Ohio State athletics to put the program in a position to function as well as it has.
“It just goes to show you the great job that Gene Smith has done for Ohio State as our athletic director,” George said. “(He) is very adamant and persistent about equality in all of our sports and supporting all of our sports.”
George said that Smith and the rest of the athletic department have worked hard to bring Ohio State to the point of where it is no longer just viewed as a football or basketball school, but a university with widespread success across all different sports. He added that winning an award like this one sends a message to any potential incoming recruits that the program as a whole is committed to bringing together all the pieces required to drive a championship-caliber team.
“It says that we’re hiring the best coaches, we’re giving the best mentorships, we’re doing everything we can as a university to put our athletes in the best position both athletically and academically,” George said. “It says that you’re coming to a program that believes in winning championships, that’s getting recognition, the best of the best.”
George will officially bestow the honor to his alma mater during the presentation of the award, handing the trophy to fellow Ohio State alum and member of the 2016 National Championship-winning men’s volleyball team Miles Johnson.
The former standout running back said he did not know how he was chosen, but that as soon as they called to offer him the position, he immediately accepted.
“When they asked me to do it, I didn’t hesitate,” George said. “And to honor Ohio State for winning their first-ever Capital One Cup trophy is pretty amazing, so I’m honored to do it.”
The ESPYs will begin at 8 p.m. Wednesday, and will be aired on ABC.
*The rifle and fencing team received double the listed total, but since both teams are mixed genders, the point totals had to be split with half going to men’s athletics and the other half allotted to women’s athletics.