When a particular website dedicated to a prolific in-state school declares a different school "the best college town in the state", you can forget records, conference championships or football tradition. Athens, Ohio, ranks 19th on our Top 100 College Football Towns of America Countdown.
To celebrate 100 days until the start of the college football season, HERO Sports is counting down the Top 100 FBS College Football Towns in America. Each day, through Aug. 24, a new city will be revealed. We will analyze the city, the program, the good and bad of the city as well as the bottom line. If you got a problem, @me on Twitter.
19. Athens, Ohio — Ohio
The Frank Solich-era has brought something not seen in Athens, Ohio since the 1960s, consistent winning. (Photo: Ohio University Athletics)[/credit]
Established in 1894, it seems almost impossible for a university in Ohio to struggle as much as the Bobcats have in their 124 seasons. If you were to time travel back to Athens (not sure wny you would choose Athens in this hypothetical time-traveling, but I digress.) during the Don Peden years, it is almost inexplicable. Peden won over 70 percent of his games while at Athens, and multiple conference titles. A decade later, Bill Hess continued a strong Ohio program. The Bobcats grabbed four MAC championships in the 60s, including the 1960 national Small College Championship.
When the 60s left, so did the winning. From 1970 until Solich's hire in 2005, only three times did Ohio finish more than a game above .500. Under Solich, Ohio has won four MAC division titles. The Bobcats have been to a bowl game in eight of the last nine years. With winning has brought consistency. Solich and his coordinators have been together for 13 years, currently the longest streak in FBS.
2018 may give the Bobcats their best chance of winning a conference title since 1968. Vegas thinks so, as well. Ohio's offense is a pyromaniac's dream, with fireworks capable on every snap.
For better or worse, Athens is known for its penchant for "getting lively." In other words, they party. Ohio University consistently ranks among the top party schools in the nation. There are 21 bars in Athens, which doesn't seem like a lot until you realize Athens is a town of 20,000 people. Which makes the 21 bars on Court Street and other cobblestoned avenues seem like a tad bit much. Ohio University's premier party is HallOUween. An event so large, estimates range sometimes up to 100,000 party-goers. Then there are the various "-fests". Where block parties become municipal party-parades.
Even if you are well past the appropriate age to partake in such activities, there are still plenty to do in the city that snuggles up to the Hocking River as rolling hills of the Appalachians serve not only as a backdrop, but part of the city's charm. Radar and Bong Hill are perfect hikes to sweat out the bad stuff, or just to take in the natural beauty of Southeastern Ohio. Combined with stunning architecture and a rich history, Athens really does earn its name as one of the best college towns in America.
Call me a sucker for the underrepresented, but there is something to the pride demanded at Ohio University. A small university that makes it well known that it does not appreciate being referred to as OhioU or OU. It is Ohio or Ohio University, dammit!
As what may come in any college town, there are some questionable sights. One trend that should not be questioned, but rather ridiculed, then ostracized are barefoot people in Athens. It's bad enough people should have to look at your callused, hairy toes with unkempt nails, in your own home, but to parade around town shoeless like a badge of honor is the worst possible result of a liberal arts college in the middle of nowhere.
While Solich continues to trend upwards with the Ohio football program, the tradition and notoriety of Athens, as one of the best college towns in America is enough to make the top 20 college football towns as well.