As the only person in my immediate family to not attend Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, I commonly refer to myself as the official black sheep. Anyone who has either attended the schools or has lived near them knows of the deep-seated rivalry between Miami University and Ohio University, it is one of the defining features of the two institutions.
My first desire to learn about the rivalry came from merely a place of curiosity. When I started to dig deeper however, it became very clear that the history of OU is of vital importance. Learning about the history of the school’s athletics programs, dealing with civil rights, growing and expanding the university both academically and geographically have all given me a better perspective on where OU is as a whole. It may seem rocky right now, but OU has always been at the forefront of progressive movements.
To begin learning about why OU and Miami are such bitter rivals, we will have to go all the way back to the beginnings of not only OU, but the very founding of the state of Ohio.
The Northwest Ordinance, chartered in 1787, made special provision for certain designated cuts of land to be dedicated towards education. Through this, the first two universities in Ohio were established, both of which would come to be named after great centers of learning — Athens right on the Hocking River, and Oxford in western Ohio. Ohio University, which was almost called American Western University, was officially established in 1804, and opened its doors to students in 1809. Miami, the second university in the state of Ohio, was founded in 1809 and began teaching students in 1823.
It’s plain to see that this close proximity both chronologically and geographically would cause some tensions. Both universities suffered from financial troubles in their long history, with Miami even closing its doors in the 1870s and again in the early 1880s. Perhaps the most famous codification of this rivalry lies in the Battle of the Bricks, the annual football match between OU and Miami, which has been going on since 1908. With 91 meetings, Miami holds the lead with a 52-37-2 edge, although OU has won the last eight out of nine meetings.
The rivalry has bled into other sports as well. In 2012, WOUB, a public radio station in Athens, Ohio, uploaded a video to YouTube titled “The Ohio/Miami Rivalry From The Bobcat Perspective.” Among disparaging comments from students and faculty, the video also contains OU President Roderick McDavis saying: “Whenever you line up and play Miami, whether it’s in ping pong, checkers, or football or basketball, you want to beat them, because they’re our top rival.”
The rivalry has made recent headlines as well. During this year’s Green Beer Fest, the Miami student-run website The Drunken Undergrad, posted an article titled “Dear OU (of Ohio),” in which they criticized the students of OU for their “attempt to undermine one of the most epic, long-standing college drinking traditions in the country: Green Beer Day.” The article goes on to criticize the lack of creativity around OU for stealing the Green Beer Day tradition. The OU student-run newspaper, The Post, picked up the story and added in the various OU student replies.
Statistically, it’s hard to distinguish between the two schools, especially in terms of size, academic prowess and demographics. Culturally, however, the two schools’ stereotypes vary vastly. OU is positively known as having one of the best craft-beer scenes in the whole country, an incredible journalism school and existing in a beautiful college town. It also carries a reputation as a party school (which may be interpreted as either a pro or con), being one of the most haunted places in the United States (again, take with a grain of salt) and having less-than-exemplary student culture. As The Post reported, 2014 saw an alarming increase in the rate of sexual crimes, including five serious sex-related crimes in the current Spring Semester.
Humor columnist Joe Donatelli, upon a visit to Athens, commented on the state of Uptown fashion, writing that “Someday soon a guy is going to walk into The Crystal wearing nothing but a soiled bath mat and no one will notice.”
The culture at Miami has its pros and cons as well. Their business program is very well renowned, and their study abroad program is incredibly well established, especially with the existence of the John E. Dolibois European Center. The University has its fair share of criticisms, however, mainly its comparisons to J. Crew catalogs and inflated egos. As a letter to the Miami Student written in 2011 put it, “Miami students are showy, but in the right way … we smoothly integrate our Sperrys, North Face clothing and iPhones into everyday life.” Needless to say, people find the attitude and tone of many Miami students to be insufferable.
From the admission of Ohio to the United States, contempt between the two universities has been growing, expressed on fields of competition and online message boards. Looking forward, a compromise between the two seems all but impossible. Have you had any experiences, good or bad, with the Miami/OU rivalry? Be sure to let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to use the #CampusCompared hashtag on Twitter.