Jim Tressel on the field during the 2011 Spring Game.
The guest list for the Ohio State’s 2002 national championship team reunion consists of three or four names, but it won’t stay that short for long.
The defensive captain of the 2002 Buckeyes, which secured its place in OSU football lore with a 31-24, double overtime win against Miami (Fla.) in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, isn’t ruling out appearances from former OSU coach Jim Tressel or tailback Maurice Clarett.
OSU’s 2002 national championship squad will reconvene at Ohio Stadium for the Buckeyes’ Nov. 24 game against Michigan where they it will be recognized by the university and conduct other celebratory activities on its own.
Former OSU safety Mike Doss, the defensive MVP of the 2002 national championship game, told The Lantern Thursday that he has been planning the event on behalf of the entire team. Former quarterback Craig Krenzel, safety Donnie Nickey and cornerback Dustin Fox have been “in constant communication to make everything go.”
Doss told The Lantern that he, Krenzel, Nickey and Fox might be the only four players committed to the event for now, but more members of the 2002 team are expected to join in the festivities.
Tressel could be among the attendees too, Doss said.
“I don’t think it would be an issue with coach Tressel coming back and reuniting with his players of the past knowing that he was our coach,” Doss said. “Knowing what kind of impact he had on us. What kind of impact we had on him and his career, I don’t think that would feel uncomfortable for him at all because we love coach Tressel, we support him as OSU supports each and every one of us.
“Right now you’ve got three or four guys … Just the little bit of hints that we’ve reached out, that I think everyone would be committed and involved as much as they can.”
OSU athletic director Gene Smith shared similar sentiments during a radio interview on WBNS-FM 97.1 about a possible return to Ohio Stadium for Tressel, saying it wouldn’t be awkward at all if Tressel came back.
Tressel was forced to resign as OSU coach May 30 after it was discovered he was aware of players violations that occurred during the 2010 season, failed to report the violations and fielded ineligible players during the 2010 season, which was later vacated.
Tressel did not immediately respond to The Lantern‘s Thursday request for comment.
Doss said he and his three teammates planning the event wouldn’t accept a celebration of their national championship that didn’t include Tressel, as well as Clarett.
Clarett ran for 1,237 yards and 16 touchdowns during the Buckeyes’ championship run. After the season, Clarett sued the NFL in an attempt to declare for the 2004 NFL Draft.
Later, Clarett pleaded guilty to aggravated assault with a concealed weapon and served three-and-a-half years in a Toledo prison.
Doss said Tressel and Clarett’s transgressions are separate issues from the on-field accomplishments of the 2002 championship team.
“Coach Tressel was a part of that team. He was the nucleus,” Doss said. “Maurice Clarrett – one of the best tailbacks to play at Ohio State for one season and a career. You know, he was a phenomenal player for us that year. We would not accept anything presented to the university if both of those guys weren’t included.
“We all communicated to ourselves that anything that was going to be organized has to include each and every one that was involved. Period. If that was going to be an issue then we would have respectfully declined. But the university embraced coach Tressel and Maurice.”
Clarett did not immediately respond to The Lantern‘s Thursday request for comment but indicated he would attend the reunion on Twitter.
From his account, @ReeseClarett13, Clarett said, “indeed my friend….,” in response to a question regarding whether he would attend the event.
Clarett said in a later tweet: “me and Tress have been cool since before I went to prison. A lot of ppl don’t know that. I couldn’t do it (without) him.”
Doss said the timing for a reunion is right for several reasons, but most of all because the 2002 championship is the university’s only one in the last 10 years, as well as for nearly 40 years prior to that.
Aside from university recognition, Doss said he, Krenzel, Nickey and Fox are working on preparing a dinner reception and a tailgate prior to the noon kickoff against the Wolverines.
There is also interest in returning to show support for the current team, as well as first-year coach Urban Meyer and his staff, Doss said.
The Buckeyes’ opponent that day was a factor too.
“It’s coach Meyer’s first Michigan game,” Doss said. “It’ll be an opportunity for a lot of support to be there for the coaching staff and it’s Michigan – that’s all you have to say.”