The Drive To Retire Dennis Hopson’s Jersey Number

Written February 15th, 2012 by MaliBuckeye

Fox Sports Ohio was gracious enough to invite us to write a bit about the #Hop2theRafters movement, and published the following article yesterday.

In an era defined by highlights, by “Oh! Did you see that!!” tweets and texts to friends, every fan is convinced that the others they know need to recognized the greatness of their favorite star or team.

2096 for #32

But, as quickly as the excitement builds, it also dissipates; athletes who are all over today’s timeline or emailed YouTube clips are soon out of the public conscious as “Next!” becomes “Now.”

Sure, there are those who transcend the sport – the hall of famers, the heroes of a championship team, the persons responsible for iconic moments in a franchise or team history — those names are readily offered up by the fanatics and casual fans.

Most, though, end up in the “Hey, what happened to?” file, the “I remember that guy…” area of conversations between people who are deeply knowledgeable about the sport, or the discussions where followers of an earlier area are defending their favorites against the young guns of the modern day.

What does it take to be recognized, though, by the institution itself?  For some Ohio State basketball fans, that question has been answered in their quest to have the University retire the number of the career scoring leader, Dennis Hopson.

One of the comments that people often make about the internet is that it gives everyone a platform. For some, this is a bad thing, but for many others it’s created the ability to connect and create change at very high levels.

In the case of the ‘Retire #32′ movement, the latter has never been more true.

In the fall of 2011, two separate fans/writers in two different online venues reflected on Dennis’ impact on Oho State sports and beyond. Grant Edgell from the Buckeye House Call wrote in October how his brief interactions with Dennis on Twitter took him back to an earlier time where he was watching the hoops team as a youngster in Ohio.

“Dennis was the first Buckeye I ever remember rooting for in any sport. During the 1985-86 season I was nine years old and fell in love with OSU watching Hop at the old St. John Arena. That was enough to inspire me start putting pen to paper.”

Then, Eleven Warriors’ Jeremy Birmingham wrote about Hopson in November, particularly how he’d fallen out of the minds of many OSU basketball fans,

The school’s all-time leading scorer isn’t ignorant to the fact that his time at Ohio State has been, in some ways, glossed over because of the way the school chooses the faces that represent it. He sees it himself, but says that other people often remind him of it.

Those fans don’t just remind him of it, but a few chose to find ways to do something to help acknowledge his investment in the University’s history.

When basketball season tipped off this year, there were conversations among Buckeye fans that were similar to the ones outlined above- “Man, I remember Hopson…” during live online chats during Ohio State games.

Spurred somewhat by nostalgia and by current Ohio State star William Buford’s run at the career points title, again people began to wonder why the University hadn’t given Dennis Hopson the ultimate recognition of having his name and number in the rafters.  Chris Hunt, a writer at The Buckeye Battle Cry decided to begin using social media to let people know about the idea and created an online petition so that people could support the cause,

After I wrote an article about Jay Burson I read more and more about Dennis. The more I got to know him and become his friend online, the more I realized that he deserved this. I seriously found it unbelievable that the career leader in scoring for almost 25 years now ISN’T retired and decided to take matters in my own hands. He is the MOST humble person for a legend.

Inspired by the article from Jeremy Birmingham, the Twitter hashtag #Hop2theRafters was born and a number of Ohio State bloggers and fans began publicizing the petition in hopes of influencing the University to add one more jersey above the court.

Ohio State’s criterion for retiring numbers is pretty straightforward, however. In an email, Associate Athletic Director for Communications Dan Wallenberg outlined what is necessary for this to occur, that a player either be acknowledged as a national player of the year or exemplify “extraordinary Ohio State, Professional and service to the sport and community post-graduation, selected at the discretion of the director of athletics.”

Wallenberg also commented on the one exception to the NPOTY rule, Buckeye legend John Havlicek,

Mr. Havlicek was selected based on his extraordinary accomplishments at Ohio State and with the Boston Celtics and the honor to which it brought to Ohio State. Because Mr. Havlicek played with Jerry Lucas, who earned two National Player of the Year honors, it was impossible for him to earn National Player of the Year. That also was taken into consideration (by then AD Andy Geiger).

With Evan Turner soon to be added to the Ohio State pantheon, Wallenberg said that there have been past discussions about the jersey retirement processes for all sports, but that they have been primarily informal at this point.

And yet, the hope persists that fans across the country will be able to influence the University into making another exception.  Edgell pointed out in an article from January that Hopson’s best year was “derailed” by the excellence of David Robinson at Navy; although, like most awards, this may also have been due to the amount of television exposure Robinson had.

If you look purely at the numbers, Hopson’s season stacks up against the Player Of the Year winners from that era, and bests Robinson’s in several key categories.

So, while the argument may have some merit; it seems, though, as if Ohio State has chosen to rely on outside evaluation of their student athletes in order to determine the level of acknowledgement they deserve.

Which is one of the things that inspired Birmingham to get involved in the movement,

I think it’s time that Ohio State embrace more of its past on the hardwood. I know Dennis is in the Ohio State athletic Hall of Fame and has other accolades, but as the basketball program continues is ascension into the nation’s elite, it’s time to reach into the past and celebrate it, and no one player who isn’t recognized with his jersey in the rafters deserves it more than Dennis Hopson.

And the inspiration isn’t limited to writing articles or imploring folks online to get involved, Hunt is working with the current students in Ohio State’s Buckeye Nuthouse student section to wear shirts encouraging the University to retire #32, and has created a site where Buckeye fans can donate funding to support this endeavor.

Another member of the online community who has chosen to support this financially is Chris Holloway, a writer at Our Honor Defend. Holloway points to the passion of the folks who have chosen to take up this effort as being inspirational for his getting involved, as well as his belief that

…there will never be another like Dennis Hopson. Every year we start the watch to see if any of the team’s current seniors will come close to the record. None of them do.

And, in an era of “one and done” stars, it’s unlikely that any ever will.

Hopson himself is not one to argue that the University is treating his memory unfairly, although he does seem to indicate that this action would be a way for Ohio State to reflect not only his efforts, but also his esteem for his alma mater,

Not having my number retired is something I think about….I am proud to be a Buckeye.

It’s something that others are thinking about too, and are talking and writing and working to see that the University finally recognizes him in the way that his accomplishments deserve.

3 Comments

  1. DaleNo Gravatar
    February 15th, 2012 at 9:19 am

    What’s the big deal with Dennis Hopson? If the University felt his number should be retired then it would have. Let those who know decide. Why would funding be necessary? For students to buy T-shirts? I’d be embarrassed if I didn’t get my number retired in the normal procedure instead of having the public “BEG” to have it retired. You are just going to make Dennis Hopson look like a beggar.

    [Reply]

    JimNo Gravatar
    February 15th, 2012 at 9:39 am

    Why do you hate democracy, Dale?

    [Reply]

    WVaBuckeyeNo Gravatar
    February 15th, 2012 at 11:31 am

    seriously. None of what you said makes any sense. Do you not have a favorite player in some era that could deserve to have the public be reminded? Thats what we are doing.

    [Reply]

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