Cody Cousino/ Photo editor
On Feb. 26, Ohio State celebrated William Buford, the lone senior on the men’s basketball team. I was just another bystander watching from the sidelines as Gene Smith pulled him aside and told him to “Make it a big one,” and as Buford’s mother buried her head into her son’s arm, overwhelmed by tears. But minutes later, when the Buford family was on the court and the announcer was summarizing Buford’s career for the crowd, I was hit with the finality of the scene, not just for Buford, but also for myself.
That moment was a culmination of everything that I had hoped for when I chose to be a Buckeye instead of a Wolverine, Badger or Terrapin. I wanted strong academics. Check. I wanted a campus that just felt right. Check. There is nothing quite like the Oval on a perfect fall day. And I wanted a school with a sports tradition.
I love sports passionately. A sports tradition was important to me for that reason, but also because I believed then, and still do believe, that sports are a tremendous unifier of people. Different as we all might be, we can come together under the banner of our teams and pride in our school.
For me, that is Buckeye Nation in a nutshell. As much as college is about the classroom and as much as I have appreciated the caliber of my education, so much of my college experience has been framed by OSU’s sports and the experiences I’ve had as a spectator and as an intern for the Department of Athletics.
I will never forget the awe I felt at my first football game at the ‘Shoe. I had been on campus and in classes for about a week, but it was on that Saturday that I became a Buckeye. I always swell with pride when I remember the day that about 20,000 voices at the Schottenstein Center came together to tell Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan to “Deal With It” and I was compelled to call home to ensure that my family was experiencing it with me. As an intern, I stood just feet from the football team as they sang “Carmen Ohio” after the heart-stopping and exhilarating showdown that was the Wisconsin game.
Amid all of this large-program success, it is easy to forget how lucky we are to have the diverse athletic program that we do. I discovered baseball was my favorite Buckeye sport when I celebrated Alex Wimmers’ no-hitter against Michigan with my younger sister and my closest friends. I was a bundle of nerves while the women’s basketball team showed their grit and determination and eventually came back to win against Florida State. I have been awed by the power and strength displayed by the women’s volleyball team. During a men’s volleyball game, I helped President E. Gordon Gee lead an unusual and hysterical game of “Gee Says.” I have walked past the men’s ice hockey team’s bench more times than my nose would prefer to remember, but on one of those many trips, I met an incredible alumnus who spearheaded the campaign to make hockey a varsity sport at OSU in the ‘60s.
I cannot begin to know what the last four years have meant to Buford, but as I prepare for graduation in less than two weeks, I know that my time spent here would have been a lot less meaningful had it not been for our Buckeye athletes … all of them.