Money more important than home game for Aztecs

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 8, 2003

COLUMBUS -- For money-strapped collegiate athletic departments, sometimes the bottom line is more important than playing in front of a home crowd

When San Diego State decided to sell its home game against Ohio State for $2.4 million, it made good fiscal sense not only for the Aztecs but for the Buckeyes.

''The arrangement is that we're about a $4-million gate here and our guarantee to go there was almost $400,000,'' Ohio State athletic director Andy Geiger said Saturday. ''I don't know what there gate is, but $2.4 million is huge for San Diego State. And we get $1.6 million instead of $400,000.''

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It was good for the No. 2-ranked Buckeyes that they made the switch. They were mediocre at best in almost every facet and were fortunate to sneak out of Ohio Stadium with a 16-13 win.

Ironically, the deal was brokered by Rick Bay, the former athletic director at both schools. The Aztecs were originally scheduled to host Ohio State in 2003, but the home game was basically ''sold.''

Bay, then San Diego State's AD, left in the spring after a dispute over an athletic department audit. He has been replaced by former Memphis and UCLA men's basketball coach Gene Bartow, who is filling in on an interim basis.

Bartow said he hasn't heard many negative comments from Aztec fans.

Geiger said the costs for a transcontinental flight would hardly have made it worth the Buckeyes' while.

Asked if it would cost Ohio State $100,000 to make the trip, Geiger said, ''I don't know if it's that much, but it's healthy.''

Bartow disagreed with the perception that the San Diego State players' interests became secondary to making a few bucks from the Bucks.

''This is a game that these players will remember the rest of their lives. The atmosphere here is just so great. This is what college sports are all about,'' Bartow said. ''These players would like to come in here every year, payday or not.''

HISTORY-MAKING: Will Allen's 100-yard interception return for a touchdown in Saturday's 16-13 win over San Diego State is the longest ever in Ohio Stadium and matched the longest ever by a Buckeye.

''Chris Gamble had excellent coverage and he tipped the ball up and I reacted to the ball and revved up there,'' said Allen, a senior safety. ''I had four or five blockers in front of me. You had to score with that.''

San Diego State coach Tom Craft said, ''I'm not about one play deciding a game. But the interception was it.''

Howard ''Hopalong'' Cassady held the previous mark after an 88-yard interception runback against Wisconsin in 1954. Two players, David Brown in 1986 and Marlon Kerner in 1993, picked off passes and brought them back 100 yards -- both times at Purdue.

QUICK-HITTERS: The victory over San Diego State extended Ohio State's non-conference home winning streak to 33 in a row, dating to a 35-26 loss to Southern Cal on Sept. 22, 1990. … The Aztecs are 0-13 against teams ranked in the top 10. … Despite having an off day, senior quarterback Craig Krenzel is 17-1 as a starter. … No opposing running back has topped 100 yards against the Buckeyes in the last 12 home games. … Mike Nugent kicked two field goals to extend his Ohio Stadium record to 17 in a row before the streak ended with a miss. … Ohio State had 196 yards of total offense, the first time it has been held under 200 since a 13-6 loss at UCLA in 2000.