Ohio coach Jeff Boals encouraged the crowd as he ran back to Ohio’s locker room after defeating Miami 78-68. He’d done so all night by waving his arms and turning to face all sides of The Convo. Boals knew that the extra energy could be the difference in a win or a loss against Ohio’s rival because he’s been there before.
Boals has seen all sides of the Bobcats’ rivalry with the Redhawks and after Saturday, he’s 6-0 against them as the head coach and 7-1 against them as a coach for the Bobcats overall.
The energy that radiated off Boals was different than usual. Rather than perch by the scorers table, Boals was up and down Ohio’s sideline. He bounced around and fed his players an extra boost when they needed it.
“I was like that as a player,” Boals said. “I wasn’t very talented, but I played with a lot of energy, a lot of toughness.”
Boals’ extra passion for the Miami rivalry has carried over into his other coaching ventures, too. There have only been two times in Boals’ coaching career that he has lost to Miami on his home court. Boals lost to Miami as an assistant at Marshall in 1999 and 2000. Otherwise, he’s got a clean slate while on his own court.
However, the rivalry means more to Boals as a Bobcat.
“I’ve been fortunate to play a lot of rivalries,” Boals said. “I’ve coached Marshall-West Virginia, Ohio State-Michigan (and) Kent State-Akron. There’s none better than this one.”
For a non-Ohio or non-Miami fan, it’s hard to understand the hundreds of years that go into the rivalry. It’s hard to get out-of-area recruits to understand it and it’s hard to get new players to understand it. Ohio had nine players on its roster Saturday who had never experienced a Battle of the Bricks. Luckily, they had Boals to get them through.
“I’m not going to lie, going into the game, I really didn’t know how big it was until they kept saying ‘oh, this many people are going to the game,’” Jaylin Hunter said. “I’ve never been to a game in The Convo with that many people, so it was definitely live in there. I was just excited fans came out to see the show.”
Hunter had never played Miami before as a Bobcat. He didn’t know what to expect. Miami was a good team who had almost beat the likes of Georgia and Wright State earlier this season, so he knew it would be a tough one. However, the energy from Boals and the crowd helped him score 23 points.
Ohio’s second-leading scorer, Dwight Wilson III, had experienced a Battle of the Bricks before, though.
“(Ohio) fans don’t care who you lose against, you just can’t lose to Miami,” he said. “(It’s a) deep-rooted rivalry for years. Boals’ has been a part of it. Our strength coach went here, you can’t even wear red around him. It was good to get this one for the fans.”
By the end of the game, even freshman A.J. Brown was starting to work the crowd. He mimicked Boals’ actions and got The Convo to roar.
Boals has inspired a new generation of the Battle of the Bricks, and as long as he’s here, the rivalry will not die.