Dennis Hopson is not honored in any manner within the hallways or arena at the Jerome Schottenstein Center on campus in Columbus, Ohio. Neither is Clark Kellogg or Herb Williams. Both are Buckeye greats, each teetering on Legendary, yet they are forgotten heroes within the Buckeyes' basketball program.
Most universities chose to honor their greats in one of many different ways. Some retire numbers. Some retire jerseys but keep the numbers alive. Some have chosen to take both routes. Meanwhile, The Ohio State University has chosen to retire just four numbers in it's storied basketball history while leaving many others who have succeeded enormously within the program to fend for themselves in the arena we call history. It doesn't make sense for the administration to cut it off at four when so many are deserving.
After all, greats were meant to be honored.
This is the fourth of a five-part series documenting the Ohio State career of Mr. Dennis Hopson - and why we should never again see a #32 in Scarlet and Gray.
The Ohio State University men's basketball program has limited itself in how many numbers it can retire - requiring a player to win the National Player of the Year award in order to be considered - aside from the honorary retirement of John Havlicek's #5 in 2005. It is perhaps the greatest honor a student-athlete could receive, yet to date Ohio State has retired just four - the #11 of Jerry Lucas, the #35 of Gary Bradds, the #22 of Jim Jackson and Havlicek's #5 - all of whom were named National Player of the Year at some point during their Ohio State career except Havlicek.
Evan Turner was the latest Buckeye to receive the National Player if the Year award and in time his #21 will likely hang from the Schott's rafters as well. He was the fourth in OSU history to be named NPOY.
By comparison, the University of Kentucky has had a total three players named National Player of the Year - Forest Sale (1933), LeRoy Edwards (1935), and John Wall (2010) - but currently have 37 numbers retired at Rupp Arena. Yes, thirty-seven.
Even the University of Virginia brass have done their former players right, retiring the numbers of seven former players, and the jerseys of two more (keeping those two numbers active for the future).
UCLA has nine numbers retired at Pauley Pavilion. The University of North Carolina basketball program has nine retired numbers and 34 more honored in the rafters of the Smith Center. Duke University has eleven all-time National Players of the Year and even they don't use it as the measuring stick, having retired thirteen numbers at Cameron Indoor.
Little old Davidson College in North Carolina? They've retired five basketball numbers.
In 2009 the University of Texas tweaked its policy of requiring a player to be honored as a national player of the year before his or her jersey was retired, and later that year retired 3 additional football numbers, two more in basketball, and 4 addition numbers for their baseball program.
Tommy Nobis, a football Longhorn from 1963-1965, was especially touched by the honor. "The University of Texas stands for a lot more than just football, but I know how important football is there and we've had a lot of great teams and players," Nobis said. "When I think of all the players who have walked out onto that field, to be pulled out and recognized as one of the best is really special for me and my family."
Ohio State could learn a lesson from this exact UT gesture, and the effect it has on the honored athletes.
No matter what a celebrated college athlete goes onto in life, there is a certain pride held within the colors they wore during their college years. For example Michael Jordan, perhaps the greatest professional basketball player of all time, wore his gray UNC practice shorts under his Bulls uniform for every NBA game he ever played for Chicago.
More than 1,000 former Penn State University athletes traveled back to Happy Valley last week to honor Joe Paterno during his campus memorial service. Hundreds of former Miami Hurricanes are part of a well documented, pride-laden "fraternity" known as The U and they're quite outspoken about it. Every Buckeye playing on NFL Sundays emphasizes "THE" before "Ohio State University" in their pregame self-introductions. Why? Pride. Uniqueness. Their love for college athletics and the institution for which they attended.
Once these athletes reach professional rank their odds of remaining with one organization are slim and none. For those who enter the workforce after playing college sports they change companies, on average, once every seven years. But a sparse few attend more than one college. It becomes a source of pride. A label. Part of the very fiber of our careers and being, athlete or not.
These former college athletes honor their universities in every way they can think of. In most cases the universities they honor reciprocate. For some reason The Ohio State University basketball program does not.
Let's assume Ohio State never changes their stance on the retirement of numbers from within the history of their 113 year old basketball program, in spite of what has become the norm across the college basketball landscape. Why then do they not honor their greats in another manner?
The Dallas Cowboys of the NFL don't retire any numbers, yet they've chosen a Ring of Honor to honor the greats who have come through their organization. This Ring, wrapping the full inter circumference of Cowboys Stadium, currently houses the names of twenty former Cowboy greats who they wish to celebrate.
The Ohio State University has stuck with it's NPOY stance, absent the night Havlicek was honored, and currently honors four. But if we take a look at another alternative, honoring the many greats who have graced the basketball program over the decades of it's existence, then the list becomes quite a bit more impressive.
We can start with Dennis Hopson, Herb Williams and Clark Kellogg before moving deeper into history to find names such as Kelvin Ransey, Bill Hosket and Jimmy Cleamons. Not good enough? Let's throw in one-and-done players such as Greg Oden and Mike Conley - who led us to the NCAA Championship Game as freshmen in 2007 before leaving for the NBA. Not worthy? Alright how about a couple other Buckeye All-Americans such as Robin Freeman (three-time letter winner with a 28.0 career average) or Allan Hornyak (three-year starter with a career scoring average of 22.8)?
The point is that Ohio State basketball history does not begin and end with Lucas, Bradds, J.J. and Havlicek. To leave it at those four is a disservice to the program itself, the players who have played before and after Dennis Hopson and to the fans who support it through good times and bad. These names deserve more than some game tape and a memory or two.
As it stands today Thad Matta has the program in a pretty good position nationally, perhaps standing as well off as it's been since the early-60's. But the 113 year old program wasn't built around our current head coach, and it's history not etched into the college basketball record books by only four names.
The University of Illinois gets it where Ohio State lacks. Back in late 2008 they brought twenty Illini greats together for a public reunion and jersey "Honorment" ceremony in which they hung the program's greats in the rafters without officially retiring each number. Do you think all 20 men would have made their way back to Champaign for the scheduled "Night of Legends" if they weren't genuinely honored by the show of respect and appreciation?
So where is Ring of Honor within the Jerome Schottenstein Center? When is the Night of Legends scheduled in Columbus? Where is Dennis Hopson honored on campus?
He isn't at The Ohio State University, and that's a travesty.
If you wish to sign a petition on behalf of retiring Dennis Hopson's #32, please do so HERE
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