Everyone knows that this heated battle between the Buckeyes and the Wolverines has been going on for a long, long time. Few, however, realize exactly how ancient the rivalry is.

Roshan Reddy

The initial battle – war, actually – occurred in 1835, not in 1897, as the record books suggest. So what catalyzed the now-epic conflict?

Toledo, Ohio.

For those of you who don’t know, Toledo is a medium-sized city about 50 miles south of Ann Arbor, just five miles beyond the Michigan border. For those of you who are familiar with the “Glass City,” you might be a little confused as to why anyone would fight over it. Although it boasts an excellent art museum, a pretty awesome zoo and is my hometown, one can’t help but notice the plethora of abandoned buildings and nondescript strip malls scattered around downtown.

The peculiar dispute began with a question of who owned the so-called Toledo strip – the area around the mouth of the Maumee River. The Northwest Ordinance gave Ohio the land in 1787, but the border was later redrawn so that the strip officially belonged to Michigan. But the Buckeyes were resolute – first come, first serve.

What followed was one of the more ridiculous episodes in American history.

In 1833, Michigan applied for statehood, but Ohio congressmen wouldn’t admit it to the Union until Michigan agreed to the Ohio version of the border. After fuming for years, both states’ militias decided to take action. They planned to meet somewhere on the strip, but both legions got lost in the Black Swamp, which covered most of the area. When they finally stumbled into one another, little violence ensued.

The war’s only casualty – which actually took place at a tavern – was a Michigan sheriff, who was stabbed in the thigh by Two (not to be confused with his brother, One) Stickney, an Ohioan. It took the intervention of President Andrew Jackson to quell the dispute.

Michigan still wanted its statehood, but again, the Buckeyes in Congress were resolute, and wouldn’t allow it. Finally, Michigan compromised and received the Upper Peninsula, while Ohio got its way and could officially claim Toledo as its own.

And thus, Michiganders had their first excuse to dislike their neighbors to the south. Since then, the Buckeyes have provided us with plenty of fodder to fuel the sometimes-ugly rivalry. Here, in no particular order, are a few more:

n Putting their noses where they don’t belong: Last year, upon its arrival in Columbus, the Michigan football team was forced to stand in a long line waiting to be sniffed by search dogs and had officials root through their equipment. Coach Lloyd Carr later voiced his disappointment with this surreptitious psych-out tactic. I guess the Unabomber did go here, but this was still a pretty underhanded move.

n Moments in the sun: Maurice Clarett, former Ohio State standout turned deranged whistle blower is, to Wolverine fans, probably more amusing than irritating. After all, the attention-hungry star did try to out Buckeye football for alleged athletic booster violations. Although the NCAA investigation cleared the names of boosters and coach Jim Tressel of any wrongdoing, it sure makes you wonder.

n We must ignite this couch: Win or lose, there’s only one mode of operation for the Bucknuts – they riot. Whether it’s lighting couches on fire, overturning cars or simply assaulting others, Ohio State’s post-game revelry is some of the most, well, intense in all of college sports. This week, an editorial appeared in The Lantern, Ohio State’s student newspaper, imploring students to behave themselves and clean up their rather embarrassing reputation. In order to cope with this problem, University President Karen Holbrook formed “The Task Force on Preventing Celebratory Riots.” My tax dollars at work.

n Delusions of grandeur: I know several people have complained about this, but what’s with Ohio State calling itself THE Ohio State University? I’m not sure what it’s trying to distinguish itself from, but it’s managed to set themselves apart from the pack – just for being silly.

There are copious other reasons to dislike the Buckeyes, but they’re too numerous to list here. I hope that this small sample is enough to get your minds churning. Remember that the roots of this rivalry involved the Buckeyes using brute force in an effort to cheat Michigan out of its rightful land, so even though the Bucks got the first win in the series, they didn’t do it honestly.

Then again, was securing Toledo really a victory for Ohio? The Upper Peninsula is pretty nice, and Toledo’s not quite the bustling metropolis it once was. I guess that’s another notch in the Michigan win column.

Although, with the series record at 58-37-6 in the Wolverines’ favor, I don’t think Michigan really needs any retroactive victories.

Just the one on Saturday.


Megan Kolodgy defends the state of Ohio every other week of the year but this one. She can be reached at megkolo@umich.edu.


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