COLUMBUS — When Ohio State football welcomes Alabama to Ohio Stadium in 2027, it will end a 29-year drought between regular season games against Southeastern Conference opponents.
Twice before, it appeared that regular-season separation would end.
Ohio State canceled a home-and-home series scheduled with Tennessee for 2018-19, citing the Big Ten’s move to a nine-game conference schedule. A home-and-home with Georgia for 2020-21 was also scheduled, then ditched because OSU planned to enter a home-and-home agreement with the Pac 12 that never materialized.
Perhaps some are similarly skeptical the Ohio State-Alabama will ever actually consummate this series.
The difference is this time, both programs backed up their word with a financial commitment.
If either school backs out of the agreement — barring a force majeur clause like the ones currently being scrutinized in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic — it owes the other school $3 million.
“Normally we’re at about $1 million — maybe a dash above that, $1.2 (million),” Diana Sabau, the Ohio State Deputy Director of Athletics who negotiate the series with Alabama, told cleveland.com ‘s Doug Lesmerises.
“We’ve never stepped into this pool. It was important to us to show the intention and the commitment to making this series happen.”
Sabau said the $1 million guaranteed exchange for the visiting teams was also unusual for a non-conference home-and-home agreement.
“That helps each school financially and makes it a little more incentivizing,” Sabau said.
Ohio State wasn’t the only party who has pulled out of one of these matchups between what most regard as the two best conferences in football. Alabama canceled a 2016-17 series with Michigan State, initially citing possible changes to the SEC schedule. Later, coach Nick Saban said Alabama made a business decision to only play neutral site games.
In order to make Ohio State-Alabama happen, both schools had to make a different business decision.
“We have a really big financial commitment because we are serious to make these games happen,” Sabau said.