You can count Avon Lake’s Dave Dlugosz and Midview’s Bill Albright among those surprised by Wednesday’s announcement that the Big 33 Football Classic was replacing Ohio with Maryland for the first time in 20 years.
Dlugosz and Albright are the only Lorain County coaches who have led an Ohio all-star team against the top talent from Pennsylvania, and neither coach saw the format change coming.
“It completely blindsided us,” said Albright, who was Ohio’s head coach in a 24-21 overtime win in June. “I’ve been on the phone all day with people talking about it. We’re very disappointed. When we left (Hershey, Pa.) a few months ago, we thought they were very pleased with what we brought to the game.”
Ohio replaced Maryland as Pennsylvania’s opponent in 1992. Ohio held an 11-9 advantage over the past 20 years, including winning the last four games.
Ohio also competed in the Big 33 game from 1972-76. Texas has also competed in the event — known as “The Super Bowl of High School Football” around the nation — and Pennsylvania has battled itself in an East-West format during the game’s 56 years.
“We were in negotiations with them to re-up the contract and this just came out of the blue,” said Dlugosz, who coached the 2001 Ohio squad in a 31-29 loss. “We really looked forward to playing in that game every year. (The Ohio High School Football Coaches Association) manipulated our own all-star game — the North-South game — to accommodate the Big 33 game. Apparently, it wasn’t enough.”
Albright, who served as the OHSFCA president this year, said he received a letter from the Big 33 director, Dave Trimbur, informing them of the decision to switch opponents last week.
“They never contacted us before this … nothing was ever said,” Albright said. “I’m dumbfounded, I really am. We walked away from the game in June thinking this will continue. Everything as far as we knew was fine.
“This is all on them. We wanted to continue with it.”
The Big 33 signed a five-year deal with Maryland, who had a record 76 Division I scholarship players in 2012 — including 10 four-star and 26 three-star recruits, according to a release.
“The Big 33 is happy to welcome back Maryland to the PNC Big 33 Football Classic,” Trimbur said in the release. “The competition, as well as the proximity to Hershey, Pa., will allow this to continue to be the premier High School Football all-star game in America.”
A game that Ohio’s best would surely like to be a part of. There has never been a Super Bowl played without a Big 33 alumnus. Some of the top players from Ohio — including Lee Evans, Matt Wilhelm, A.J. Hawk, Ted Ginn Jr. and Ben Roethlisberger — have played in the Big 33 game.
“It’s a shame for the coaches and players of Ohio,” Albright said. “Now they won’t have that opportunity.”
Both local coaches said that the OHSFCA will have to move on, and begin focusing on ways to improve the North-South all-star game.
“This forces us to make our own game bigger and better,” Albright said. “We meet again as a board in December, and I’m sure this will be a major topic of discussion.”