April 27, 2010
Athens, Ohio - Ohio's storybook season came to a spectacular conclusion this evening in the Baker Center Ballroom as a packed house came to celebrate the achievements of this special group of Bobcats.
The Voice of the Bobcats Russ Eisenstein welcomed those in attendance to what would be an entertaining evening filled with anecdotes, reminders, pledges and stories. Having been there for all the action this season, Eisenstein recalled a handful of memories he will always remember.
Former assistant coach Chris Holtmann, now the head coach at Gardner-Webb, gave the invocation and was warmly thanked by the players, staff and fans for his fine work while in Athens.
After dinner, Director of Athletics Jim Schaus talked about the day he first met with Head Coach John Groce and brought up the enthusiasm and intensity that have become trademarks of the Bobcats top dog.
President Roderick J. McDavis, Ph.D then thanked the team for the impact they had on the campus, community and Ohio graduates worldwide. McDavis also mentioned that he wouldn't mind speaking at this type of event next season.
"I could get used to this type of speaking engagement," McDavis said. "You men, that are sitting up here tonight, you will always be, champions."
Coach Groce was the next to speak and he deflected the praise to his players, staff, staff and most importantly, the fans.
"They're the reason that everyone wants to play us in December," Groce remarked. "The kids in the O-Zone are done with school and aren't on campus. The O-Zone is the reason that we have the greatest home-court advantage in the Mid-American Conference."
Groce also spoke about the many e-mails, phone calls and texts he received during Ohio's run and shared a few of the stories with those in attendance. He also spoke about the team's philosophy and goals this past year and the certain contribution of a beloved stuffed animal.
"Many of you know who this is [motioning to a Tigger doll], but this guy had a profound impact on this team during the season," Groce said. "Every day, we would ask our kids, tell our kids, 'Are you going to be a Tigger or an Eyeore?' We needed all of them to be Tiggers this year. We needed them to not get down when things were hard and remain optimistic that we would attain our goal."
Coach Groce then introduced senior Kenneth van Kempen who spoke about what it felt like to go out as the captain of this Bobcat team.
"I tried really hard to get in shape and get to a place where I could contribute this season," van Kempen stated. "I always wanted to get a championship and now, thanks to the people on this stage and all of you out there, I can say I accomplished that. Thank you!"
Finally, all attention turned to the large video screen where Ohio's special version of One Shining Moment was played. The wonderful production recapped a season that saw the Green & White capture their fifth MAC Championship and then shock the world by upsetting the nationally-ranked Georgetown Hoyas en route to their first appearance in the second round of the NCAA Tournament since the field expanded to 64 back in 1985.
All in all, a remarkable night that ended a fantastic season was a fitting tribute to the student-athletes, coaches, support staff, and fans that all had some part in the team's success during the 2009-10 season.