For many people, anybody that went to Ohio State is a villain. That sort of thing comes with the territory when you have one of the biggest and winningest athletic departments in the country. Fans of opposing teams will go so far as to think that Kirk Herbstreit or Joey Galloway are villains because they now work for ESPN, or others are going to look at athletic director Gene Smith as a villain because his job is to do all he can to maximize exposure and revenue for the Ohio State athletic department.
Then again, if you’re not hated, then you’re not doing something right. Nobody is passionately hating Nebraska basketball or Maryland football. Do you want to know why? Because they are usually parked at the bottom of the conference. If anything, people feel sorry for them. What fun is it to kick the losers while they are down? Well, there is an exception with Michigan. There is no wrong time to want to see the Wolverines fail. Michigan went 10 years in between wins against Ohio State on the football field and Buckeye fans still hated Michigan’s guts.
By this point, you are probably wondering where we are going with this. Meredith was on a trolley on St. Patrick’s Day and mentioned she was an Ohio State fan, which prompted someone to say, “I hate Aaron Craft!”. While to Ohio State fans, Aaron Craft is this adorable figure with the most pinch-able rosy red cheeks, to opposing fanbases it felt like Craft was at Ohio State for two decades torturing their team on a yearly basis. We are looking for other Buckeyes that we love but everyone else looks at as villains.
Today’s question: Who is the greatest Buckeye villain?
We’d love to hear your choices. Either respond to us on Twitter at @Landgrant33 or leave your choice in the comments.
Brett’s answer: Evan Turner
I know, this answer probably seems super lazy since Turner’s nickname is, “The Villain”. Could I have gone with someone like Woody Hayes? Sure, but I was also like -7 years old when he coached his last game, so I didn’t really get to appreciate how much Ohio State fans loved him, and everyone else hated him. Buckeye football teams have been great over the last 25 years, there just isn’t one player that I feel is disliked quite like Turner.
Whenever Turner is mentioned, the first thing Ohio State fans (as well as Michigan fans) are going to think of is the game-winner he hit against Michigan in the 2010 Big Ten Tournament. That alone should be enough for Turner to never have to buy a drink in Columbus ever again. Turner opened up his 2009-10 season by becoming the first Big Ten player since 2001 to record a triple-double, and only the second Ohio State player to ever accomplish that feat, with Dennis Hopson being the other. Not only would not only win Big Ten Player of the Year that season, he was also named National Player of the Year before declaring for the NBA Draft and being selected with the second overall pick by the Philadelphia 76ers.
For those who aren’t Ohio State fans, it probably feels pretty easy to hate Turner. Not only did Turner have this funny voice which sounded a bit like he was huffing helium before he talked, even teammate Mark Titus had a bit of a feud with Turner during their time at Ohio State. If Turner was getting under Titus’ skin, imagine what he was doing to opposing fanbases. Fortunately Buckeye Nation won’t have to worry about the beef escalating, as Turner and Titus buried the hatchet before Turner’s jersey was retired in 2017.
Meredith’s answer: Aaron Craft
As Brett alluded to in his intro, when it comes to Buckeye villains, there’s really no one who comes close to Aaron Craft. While he was (and is) beloved by Ohio State fans the world across, there’s no love lost once you cross the border out of Buckeye Nation.
The most poignant example of the villainy of Craft came in the second round of the 2013 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. The Buckeyes were the No. 2 seed in the West Region and were facing No. 10 Iowa State.
Craft would finish with 18 points on the night, but none were more critical than his three-pointer with the game tied and a half second left on the clock to secure the win for Ohio State in regulation. The shot was a dagger in the heart of Iowa State fans. The West had been a wild region that year with upsets galore, with four of the top seeds — Ohio State the lone exception — falling in the opening weekend.
Iowa State had mounted a furious comeback after being down by as much as 13 late in the game, and the Cyclones had momentum, especially when it came to shooting beyond the arc. The shot by Craft (which he made over 6-foot-7 Georges Niang) was like getting beat by their own medicine.
Moreover, Craft was a 30% three-point shooter on the season. He hadn’t attempted a three-point shot before his game winner. It also doesn’t help that the shot itself was, simply, awkward. In short, his winning shot from range was unexpected.
Even today, Iowa State fans hold the Ohio State basketball program in contempt. We’re approaching a decade since Craft’s shot, but his name still elicits groans among Cyclone nation.
But the thing is, it’s not just Iowa State. Recently, a friend who cheers for Tennessee shared that Volunteer fans also hang onto their dislike of Craft for his role in an illegal barbecue hosted by then-coach Bruce Pearl in 2010. For the record, Craft was seen in a photograph at said event, which ultimately led to Pearl’s termination.
Living in the bubble of Ohio State fans, it’s hard to see what the vitriol against Craft is all about, but on the outside, I suppose it makes sense: He’s an aggressive defender; he’s undersized; he shouldn’t be that good — it’s probably annoying to opposing teams and fans. Moreover, when someone like that is the one who puts the dagger on what should have been a Cinderella season, it’s easy to label that the villain origin story.