Michigan vs. Ohio State: A Serious Rivalry!

Michigan vs. Ohio State: A Serious Rivalry!
Betty Ford: Sports and Popular Culture

Skill: Middle School
Time Required: Three to four class periods


Sports rivalries, particularly among schools and colleges, often are exciting ways in which to create a sense of community and belonging among students at the respective schools.  Participating in these rivalries is often fun, and builds school spirit.  President Ford played football for the University of Michigan, and experienced first-hand, one of the great college rivalries of all time, Michigan vs. Ohio State.


The purpose of this lesson is give students an opportunity to consider the relative merits of school rivalries through a study of the Michigan-Ohio State experience.  In particular, they will consider the ways in which news accounts of the games are “shaped” (or “slanted”) to appeal to each school’s fans.

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet; paper and pens or pencils, or a word processor.


1.  Introduce the lesson by asking students if they have favorite sports teams, and which ones they are.  Discuss their own school’s sports program, and how students think that fans behave during games, and why.  Do they see any “downside” in intense sports rivalries?
2.  Give students an opportunity to explore the three websites on the Michigan/Ohio State rivalry listed below.  Then, give each student the handout on “How to Detect Bias in the News,” and, dividing the class into several groups, have them consider the examples of news reporting on the “Rival Reporting” site.  Ask each group to make a list of examples of bias in these news reports.
3.  Bring the class back together to discuss their findings. Then ask each student (or group) to prepare a list of positives and negatives about sports rivalries in general, with perhaps their own school as the focus of attention.

Extending the Lesson:

This lesson can be extended by asking students to think of ways in which fan behavior at school games might be improved, without losing the positive aspects of school spirit.  As a list of ways is developed, it can be shared with the coaches and administrators.

Sources & Resources:

OSU vs. Michigan 

Great Sports Rivalries 

Traditions: Michigan vs. Ohio State 

Rival Reporting of Ohio State vs. Michigan Games 

How to Detect Bias in the News 

This lesson was developed by Averil McClelland, Kent State University, with some inspiration from a lesson plan on Nationalism and the Olympics.