Feb. 10, 2019
ATHENS — The day was filled with tokens of remembrance from Ohio University’s past, as current students and alumni reflected on the memorable moments in the Convocation Center since its opening on Dec. 3, 1968.
With a basketball doubleheader, a concert and Bobcat fans on hand, OU celebrated the Convo’s 50th anniversary on Saturday, Feb. 2.
The 1968-69 Ohio men’s basketball team was the center of the “#Convo50 Celebration.” During the men’s basketball game against Akron, the crowd stood to commemorate players John Canine, Larry Coon, Tom Corde, Bob Howell, Ken Kowall, Craig Love, Greg McDivitt, Mike Miller, Bernard “Buck” Rumpke, Gary Wolf and assistant coaches Dale Bandy and Mike Schuler. Garry Hunter, the twin brother of the late Larry Hunter, was also in attendance. Larry Hunter was a sophomore on that ‘68-69 team and served as head coach of the Bobcats from 1989-2001; he died last year at the age of 68.
At halftime of the women’s matchup against Ball State, former players and coaches were recognized for their on-court contributions in the “Roundhouse on Richland.” They were Nicole Antoinette-Smith, Tenisha Benson, Kiyanna Black, Destini Cooper, Alesia Howard, Yamonie Jenkins, Quiera Lampkins and Lindsay Wight.
Following the honoring of OU men’s and women’s basketball alumni, a video showcasing the history of the Convo played on the center-hung videoboard. The video displayed memories of the Convo’s historic moments, highlighting the arena’s past sporting events, concerts and the arena’s significance within the community.
Robert Clifton, a marketing and sales intern for Ohio University Athletics, said the video showcased moments that speak to the magnitude of the arena’s 50-year celebration.
“Just being around everybody, whether that’s talking to locals who have been coming to games since they were little kids, or possibly talking to one of the coaches, you hear about stories from the past, but I’ve only been here since 2015,” Clifton said. “I would say (the celebration) was eye-opening. It’s crazy it has been 50 years.”
Saturday’s retro-themed festivities also included a throwback music playlist, which played classic songs from the 1970s and ‘80s. The afternoon also featured a performance from international entertainer Krystal Rui — better known as Red Panda. Rui performed her unicycle bowl-flipping act during the halftime of the men’s basketball game.
The showcasing of the Convo’s celebration spawned a sense of inspiration for current players, as they witnessed the recognition of the arena’s origins and met the ‘68 team. Jordan Dartis, a senior guard for the Bobcats, said the celebration forged thoughts of his own legacy as a player, and his future after his last days at OU.
“Knowing it’s the Convo’s 50th anniversary and seeing the first team to play in the Convo, they gave us their words of wisdom and how to carry on the OU tradition,” Dartis said. “Going through four years here, I know what it takes, so, hearing their stories and seeing how they did it, it was warming. I think it made me and my team more confident in ourselves to do what we’re able to do.”
Dartis continued, as he addressed the impact the celebration had on the Athens community, especially those who have supported the Bobcats and embraced OU’s tradition.
“Having it be the 50th anniversary just means so much to the people because it carries so much tradition,” Dartis said. “There’s fans that still come to the games and are season ticket holders ‘til this day, so imagine how many memories it’s brought back to them. I think the celebration itself was so big because it’s Athens. And when something carries so much tradition like that, then it’s a burst of love. When the day I’ll have to leave, I’ll have my own reminiscing days about how much I really love the Convo, but I’ll definitely enjoy it now.”
For the former players and coaches who wore the Ohio uniforms, the celebration was also a reflection of their contributions to the university and the moments that have taken place at the 13,080-seat arena. Though few people outside of the 1968 men’s basketball team have witnessed the Convo’s long and remarkable history, Saturday’s festivities showed the impact the arena’s presence has had on OU students and alumni and the Athens community.