Gridiron Geography: How the Dispute Over the Border between Michigan and Ohio Created a Bitter College Football Rivalry

Rachel Counts Butler University
Faculty Sponsor(s): Vivian Deno Butler University
Every collegiate football season fans await the last weekend of November—when Rivalry Week promises a program of intense matchups. The Ohio State University–University of Michigan rivalry, popularly known as “The Game,” is one of the most passionate. For over 100 years, the battle between the Buckeyes and the Wolverines has been fought on the football field, exhibiting fervent determination for a conference title, and most importantly, bragging rights over the other. However, as emotions run high, unsportsmanlike conduct ensues. Fans from both sides exchange glares and profanity, and for one day a year, friends turn into enemies. This collegiate war, however, did not start on the football field. Its history extends far past either schools’ founding to the year 1835, when the dispute over the Michigan-Ohio state line erupted into the Toledo War. Gridiron Geography examines the nearly bloodless Toledo War as the origin of the Ohio State-Michigan football rivalry and its connection to the formation of regional identities. Although the boundary was defined by the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, inattention by United States Congressmen left the 468-square mile Toledo Strip disputed. Following Ohio’s admission to the Union in 1803, the debate was further complicated by events such as the War of 1812, the building of the Erie Canal, and the enforcement of Michigan’s “Pains and Penalties Act.” While compromise was eventually reached, this conflict created a lingering animosity between the states and their residents. This bitterness culminated into one of the most storied college football rivalries, further shaping regional identities.
History
Oral Presentation

When & Where

10:45 AM
Jordan Hall 278