Michigan and Ohio State players aren’t the only ones who have been working extra hard in preparation for the 102nd meeting between the Wolverines and Buckeyes tomorrow. Michigan’s Athletic Media Relations personnel have also been swamped with credential requests and the immense task of preparing for the imminent press blitz.

“When they say it’s the ‘Big Game,’ it really is, in terms of the national exposure and the national and regional media that cover this game,” said David Ablauf, sports information director for football. “It’s the most visible game in college football. From a media standpoint, there’s often more media that cover the Michigan-Ohio State game than cover bowl games.”

This year, the Athletic Media Relations office has issued nearly 1,000 media credentials, a figure significantly higher than for other games on Michigan’s schedule, but typical for a contest in the storied rivalry. Ablauf expects no fewer than seven pre-game television shows to air live on location outside Michigan Stadium.

“The amount of interest in this game is enormous,” Ablauf said. “There’s always been something on the line. It’s a great border war, it’s a great rivalry game, and there’s always been a title of some nature on the line when this game is played. I think that’s what continues to add to it, as well as the fact that it’s the last game of the year for both teams.”

Ablauf cites 1997 and 2003 as the years with the most media attention in recent memory. The former was Michigan’s national championship season, and the latter was the rivalry’s 100th game. But this year’s television coverage situation is unprecedented. ABC will broadcast the game nationally to all but five states: Washington, Oregon, California, New Mexico and Nevada. If necessary, ESPN will break into its coverage of Virginia Tech at Virginia – which starts at noon – to air Michigan-Ohio State in the West Coast markets that don’t get the game on ABC.

“This is the first time that ESPN has ever done a split regional,” Ablauf said.

Even international viewers will be able to watch on television.

Westwood One will broadcast the game nationally on the radio, while out-of-town print publications – including The New York Times, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Chicago Tribune – will descend on the Big House press box en masse.

“It’s not the largest press box anymore – by any stretch – to accommodate a huge crowd,” Ablauf said. “I think that’s the one thing that’s hopefully (going to improve in) the future, is to be able to accommodate the big type of crowds. We’re getting to the point where we’re getting maxed out in terms of space in order to accommodate the media for these games.”

Several bowl game representatives will also be on-hand to watch the proceedings. Although neither Michigan nor Ohio State has any chance to contend for the national championship, the Rose Bowl will still send staffers to watch.

“The Rose Bowl always comes to the Michigan-Ohio State game, regardless if it is the national title game,” Ablauf said. “They’re very supportive of this conference, like they are with the Pac-10.”

The Orange, Fiesta, Capital One, Outback and Alamo bowls will also send delegates to Michigan Stadium.

Unlike in previous years, ESPN’s “College GameDay” on-campus studio show will stay away from Ann Arbor. Instead, the production will air from East Lansing, where Penn State can lock up an outright Big Ten title by beating Michigan State. But that won’t lessen the load too much for Athletic Media Relations.

“Our whole entire office staff pitches in and really helps,” Ablauf said. “I think that’s a huge factor in why we can put on games like this. Our offices are well-equipped and have done this so many years that everyone knows how to handle this. It’s a total team effort, from top to bottom.”

Associate athletic director Bruce Madej remembers a caravan of satellite trucks so large a few years ago that he had to park a few himself on the Friday morning before the game.

“We have huge media crowds for Notre Dame and Michigan State,” Madej said. “But remember, when we have a Michigan State media crowd, rarely do we get all the big national groups in. – The game itself is definitely high-pressure for everybody. But that’s what makes it interesting.”

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