High-school football haven up for ESPN's 'TitleTown' honor

Ed Balint

Massillon, Ohio, is going head-to-head with Boston and other powerhouse sports cities for the crown of “TitleTown USA.”

Boston boasts a slew of professional sports championships -- 17 for the Celtics alone, three Super Bowl titles for the New England Patriots and multiple World Series titles for the Red Sox.

Massillon touts its 22 state football championships, 20 undefeated seasons and nine national championships.

One is a pro sports paradise. The other is a high-school football haven. Both are vying to be named TitleTown.

ESPN announced earlier this week that Massillon is among 20 finalists for TitleTown. Nineteen were chosen by a panel that includes 12 ESPN broadcast anchors and 19 sports journalists from across the country. The 20th finalist -- Louisville, Ky. -- was determined by fans voting at ESPN’s Web site.

Before the winner is determined, ESPN SportsCenter will visit the 20 communities. A pep rally at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium is tentatively scheduled for late July, where fans can “show why Massillon should be No. 1,” said Colleen Stack Lynch, associate communications manager for the Bristol, Conn.-based sports television giant. A date and time for the rally will be announced.

ESPN also will feature each of the 20 finalists on segments. Finalists also include Columbus and Pittsburgh. The winner will be the city that receives the most online votes at the ESPN Web site. TitleTown USA will be announced on SportsCenter on July 27.

Bill Dorman, past president of the Massillon Tigers Football Booster Club, said he’s not surprised Massillon made the elite list, adding that the community is “very privileged” to achieve the distinction.

“We have a very energized fan base, and when things like this come along, they react and respond,” said Dorman, who played varsity football for Washington High School in the late 1960s. He compared the latest effort to Massillon supporters who rallied to win a contest in the 1980s to get a picture of Massillon player Chris Spielman on a Wheaties cereal box.

But even given Massillon’s football lore, “it’s kind of mind-boggling that you could compete with someone that has such national appeal like Boston and other communities,” said Dorman, a member of the executive committee for the Paul E. Brown Museum project.

However, Massillon football has a national reputation of its own, Dorman said. Massillon T-shirts and other garb trigger questions about Tigers football when Dorman visits places such as South Carolina and Georgia.

Can Massillon out-muscle Los Angeles and other sports heavyweights?

“I never count Massillon out,” he said.

TitleTown criteria

For the finalists, judges considered a community’s pride, passion, performance, heritage, history and tradition. Essays were submitted by sports fans, who bragged up their communities and wrote of their rich sports history. Videos also could be submitted.

More than 100 communities were nominated, including Cleveland and Cincinnati, before the list was whittled from 50 to 20.

Since early June, ESPN has been announcing one city per day as a finalist. Pro sports teams are not a requirement for the contest, Stack Lynch said.

Massillon fans are just as passionate about Tigers football “as Green Bay fans are about Packers football,” she said.

“We wanted to make sure we had a good representation of all sports and all cities that have sports teams,” the ESPN spokeswoman added.

An ESPN news release Friday said Massillon is “regarded as a national high school football powerhouse.” Statistics are rattled off, including Washington High School’s more than 700 victories -- third all-time in the nation, according to ESPN.

In addition, Washington High School has graduated 23 players who have played in the NFL, as well as three NFL coaches and 14 collegiate All-Americans, according to ESPN.

Massillon fans

The ESPN Web site, on the section devoted to the TitleTown contest, featured Massillon on Friday. Two essays from Massillon fans were spotlighted.

Massillon’s storied rivalry with McKinley High School and the seating capacity of Paul Brown Stadium both are mentioned.

“There are four things that will always be in Massillon,” reads one of the essays. “There will always be pride, courage, hard work and Massillon football.”

Reach Repository writer Ed Balint at (330) 580-8315 or e-mail

TitleTown contenders

Twenty finalists have been chosen, including Massillon. Here are the other 19:

Ann Arbor, Mich.


Chapel Hill, N.C.




Gainesville, Fla.

Green Bay

Knoxville, Tenn.

Lawrence, Kan.

Los Angeles

Louisville, Ky.

New York

Palo Alto, Calif.

Parkersburg, W. Va.


San Francisco

Valdosta, Ga.

Williamsport, Pa.