An Ohioan may recognize the photo above as one of the rides at the popular amusement park Cedar Point (photo from http://www.cedarpoint.com). We Ohioans know thrill rides well, and possibly the biggest thrill ride of 2003 was following the Ohio State football team. As the year winds down to a close, let's take one more look at the peaks and valleys that the Buckeyes experienced this season (note: dates may not be exact).
January 3, 2003 -- If we're comparing the year to a thrill ride, this date would resemble the top of the biggest hill. The 2003 Fiesta Bowl in itself was a roller coaster of emotions, and the payoff at the end was the most memorable of Buckeye victories. Even though some strange things would begin to happen as the 2003 regular season approached, the 2002 national championship would keep fans on a high throughout much of the year.
January 7, 2003 -- Coach Tressel is awarded as Division I-A Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association.
January 9, 2003 -- After losing in heartbreaking fashion in the Fiesta Bowl, Miami takes one back from Ohio State as Buckeye verbal commitment TE Louis Irizarry de-commits from OSU and says he will sign with Miami. Or so it seemed...
January 12, 2003 -- The Buckeyes score a huge recruiting coup as Ft. Lauderdale Dillard DE Stanley McClover commits to Ohio State. Or so it seemed...
January 15, 2003 -- Ohio State receives great news when it is announced that junior DE Will Smith and junior WR Michael Jenkins will stay in college instead of leaving early for the NFL draft.
January 17, 2003 -- Coach Tressel is awarded with the Bear Bryant Award for the college football coach of the year.
January 18, 2003 -- The "Celebration of Champions" takes place at a freezing Ohio Stadium in front of 50,000 fans. This was the day that the team was honored for their achievements in 2002, during which we saw the senior football players get to dot the "i" in a rendition of Script Ohio and Lane Avenue get renamed to "Champions Lane". The most memorable moment by far though was when senior LB Cie Grant showed off his vocal skills and sang Carmen Ohio to the fans in the stadium and at home. You can still find clips of Cie singing the song online.
January 22, 2003 -- Ohio State gets a commitment from standout Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary DT Sian Cotton.
January 24, 2003 -- Irizarry, later citing the belief that he was misled by the Miami coaching staff, elects to switch his commitment back to Ohio State, this time for good.
January 31, 2003 -- Lyndhurst Brush TE/DE Marcel Frost decides to turn down a previous commitment to Iowa to come to Ohio State and play DE.
February 5, 2003 -- In a signing day to forget, Ohio State goes 0 for 6 on players considering Ohio State who were announcing their decision on this day. The group included Massillon Washington LB Shawn Crable (selected Michigan), Louisville, KY Male QB Michael Bush (selected Louisville), Gardena, CA WR Devin Stearns (selected Cal), Alabama OL Aaron Sears (selected Tennessee), New Jersey DE Turk McBride (selected Tennessee), and Stanley McClover, who decided to sign with Auburn over the Buckeyes. OSU signed 15 players that day.
February 11, 2003 -- Article appears in the Dispatch detailing Mike Kudla's recovery from a life-threatening medical situation.
February 23, 2003 -- Word becomes public that Ohio State has received one of their earliest ever commitments as Mansfield Senior DB Jamario O'Neal (a sophomore at the time) commits to Ohio State for the 2005 recruiting class.
February 24, 2003 -- The Buckeyes pay a visit to the White House, where they and other college champions are honored by President George Bush. Ben Hartsock is approached by secret service representatives after attempting to make a snow angel on the White House lawn.
March 2, 2003 -- OSU LB/TE Redgie Arden is arrested for DUI in his hometown of Ironton.
March 11, 2003 -- Craig Krenzel wins the Socrates Award given to a college athlete who best embodies the Socrates Creed "mens sana in corpore sano" or "a strong mind in a strong body."
March 17, 2003 (?) -- Sidney Lehman Catholic head coach and ex-Buckeye Jeff Uhlenhake resigns from his position to join the Buckeye staff.
April 3, 2003 -- Spring practice opens at Ohio State, and an early sign of the spotlight OSU will be under in 2003 appears when it is announced ESPN will do a special broadcast from one of Ohio State's practices.
April 15, 2003 (?) -- LB Bobby Carpenter injures his eye after getting punched during an altercation.
April 18, 2003 -- ESPN comes to do a broadcast from Ohio State's special teams scrimmage. An estimated 2,000 people came out to watch the scrimmage, a few of whom even had their faces painted.
April 26, 2003 -- In front of over 57,000 fans, the Scarlet defeated the Gray in an offense-heavy spring game, 37-29. Bam Childress stole the show as he had three TDs for the Scarlet... On the same day, three Buckeyes are selected in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft -- S Mike Doss (Indianapolis) in Round 2 and DT Kenny Peterson (Green Bay) and LB Cie Grant (New Orleans) in Round 3.
May 7, 2003 -- Pickerington Head Coach Jack Johnson resigns after 30 years of being the head coach at the school to join a newly created position on OSU's staff.
May 19, 2003 -- Columbus Beechcroft S Sirjo Welch becomes the sixth player to commit to Ohio State for the 2004 signing class. Welch was a surprise commitment who was off the recruiting radar before the spring evaluation period.
June 16, 2003 -- Head Coach Jim Tressel is signed to a new six-year deal worth more than $9 million, set to keep him in Columbus through 2008.
The first half of 2003 was filled with mostly highlights, but July would bring plenty of controversy to the Ohio State football program. Check back tomorrow as we look at the ups, downs, and loop-the-loops of the crazy second half of 2003.