Three Ohio colleges won national football championships this month: Youngstown State in NCAA Division I-AA, Mount Union in Division III and Findlay in the NAIA.
Youngstown's title was its fourth in this decade under Jim Tressell and Mount Union picked up its third, and second straight. The Purple Raiders have won 28 straight games _ the longest streak in any division. Findlay won two other titles in the '90s.
Want more Ohio champions? Central State has three NAIA national titles in the 1990s and Dayton claimed the Division III crown in 1989.
The success can be traced to the quality of the schools themselves, plus the strength of Ohio's high schools.
The state's blue-chip prep players are snapped up by the likes of Ohio State, Notre Dame, Penn State and Michigan.
But most of the high school players aren't big enough or fast enough to be noticed by the Division I powers, so they go where they can play. Often, it's right in their backyard.
"The reality of it is only about one in a 100 kids gets a (Division I) scholarship," said Thom McDaniels, who coached Canton McKinley High School to the big-school state championship this year. The Bulldogs also were voted the No. 1 high school team in the nation by USA Today.
"Every year, we're going to have more Division II- and Division III-type football players."
McDaniels' son, Josh, was a quarterback at McKinley. But at 5-foot-11 and 165 pounds, he was deemed too small for Division I.
"They're not going to invest a free $50,000 education in a kid like that," Thom McDaniels said. His son is now a sophomore at John Carroll, a Division III school in Cleveland.
Plenty of McDaniels' players wind up at Mount Union in Alliance or at Youngstown, about 50 miles away.
Mount Union coach Larry Kehres welcomes the Ohio talent. Only one of the Purple Raiders' 42 returning lettermen came this season from outside the state.
"Blocking and tackling are still at the heart of Ohio high school football teams," Kehres said. "They're ready to learn at the college level."
Gerry Faust has seen the pipeline from both sides. After five years at Notre Dame, Faust took over a Division I-AA team at Akron and brought it up to Division I before giving up coaching in 1995. Before Notre Dame, Faust led Cincinnati Moeller to five state titles in six years.
"When a young man plays football in the state of Ohio, he really learns the basics," said Faust, now Akron's public affairs and development director.
How did Faust sell the Zips' programs to players passed over by the big colleges? Akron offered more of the same as it worked its way up the ladder.
"We tried to tell them we were playing all those schools _ Tennessee, Auburn. We were playing at the same level," he said.
Mount Union, with an enrollment of about 1,800, stresses academics as well as athletics. Division III colleges cannot offer athletic scholarships.
"As a private college, we're interested in attracting good students who are good athletes," Kehres said. "There's also room for that individual who gets reasonable grades and works hard."
Faust gave one more reason for the success of this year's teams.
"You've also got to say that Larry Kehres, Jim Tressel and (Findlay coach Dick) Strahm deserve a lot of credit," he said. "They do a great job of coaching."