10 reasons why Massillon, Ohio, is TitleTown USA

Chris Easterling

Massillon, Ohio, is in contention for ESPN's "TitleTown USA" contest. With all due respect to David Letterman, here are the Top 10 reasons why Massillon should be TitleTown USA.

1. 780 wins – No team in the state of Ohio has more football wins than the Massillon Tigers, and only two other schools nationwide have more. And if it’s safe to call the Buckeye state one of the five best football-playing states in the country, then it’s safe to call the town that is home of the state’s winningest football program one of the best.

2. 22 state championships – Forget the argument, “Well, how many were won on the field?” When the Tigers won their 22 titles, the poll was the way state champions were determined, and nobody in Ohio has come close to Massillon’s total. And it’s not like anybody questions the validity of Ohio State’s seven national championships – none of which, by the way, were won in a playoff.

3. Paul Brown Tiger Stadium – There may be bigger stadiums in high school football nationwide, but few have the aura of the 16,000-plus seat stadium that the Tigers call home. It has seen future Hall of Fame coaches stroll its sideline and All-American players cross its goal lines. It’s such a landmark in Ohio high school football that it has been home to the state’s championship games for well over a decade now.

4. Paul Brown – He may not be the father of the modern game of football, but he certainly is one of the uncles. Brown, whose nine years at his alma mater produced an 80-8-2 record, six state championships and four national championships, would help to reshape the game of football beyond just the high school level.

Among the innovations Brown – who also coached the Ohio State Buckeyes, Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals, which he helped found – introduced were playbooks, and the practices of grading of players’ performances off game film, coaches calling plays and scripting offensive plays. Brown’s offensive philosophy is also credited by some as the forerunner to the “West Coast Offense” which his former assistant, Bill Walsh, popularized with the San Francisco 49ers.

5. Famous coaches – Brown. Chuck Mather. Leo Strang. Lee Tressel. Earle Bruce. Bob Commings. All of them spent time as the head coach of the Massillon Tigers. All of them would also go on to the college – and in Brown’s case, the NFL – level where they continue to leave their mark on their respective programs.

6. Legendary players – The list is a long one of former Tigers who would go on to become names at the college and/or professional level. Names like Harry Stuhldreher, Tommy James, Lin Houston, Jim Houston, Don James, Dennis Franklin, Steve Luke, Chris Spielman ... the list goes on and on.

7. Steve Studer – While the others may have had gone on to longer football careers with more national recognition, no one Tiger player may have best epitomized the Tiger spirit as Studer. From All-American lineman in the 1970s to longtime strength and conditioning coach for Massillon, Studer left in impression on generations of Tigers even beyond his passing in February 2004.

8. Massillon-McKinley game – It is simply, “The Game.” For 116 times, the Tigers and Bulldogs have squared off in a rivalry which is unparalleled in high school sports. Some rivalries may see bigger crowds, but none can match the history and tradition that comes with the showdown between Ohio’s two biggest all-time winners, Massillon and McKinley.

9. Fanatical support – Every high school has its share of passionate fans. But none likely can boast the sheer volume of die-hard supporters like the Tigers can. For years, 20,000 at a home game wasn’t the exception, it was the rule. And that support carries beyond the friendly confines of Paul Brown Tiger Stadium, as any opponent who has seen their stadium overrun by orange-and-black clad Massillon fans can attest.

10. Tradition – The Victory Bell. Footballs for newborns. The calliope. Tiger Rag. The list is a long one of those traditions which unite Tiger fans of the 1940s with Tiger fans of the 2000s. And the Tiger fans of today will no doubt carry those forward to yet another generation in the future.

The Independent