Athletic department centennial celebration delayed for Obama

The Ohio State athletic department was prepared to kick off its centennial celebration commemorating 100 years as a department and as a member of the Big Ten conference this week. That was until President Barack Obama announced his plans to visit the OSU campus on Saturday. The athletic department’s yearlong celebration was slated to begin at the Buckeye baseball and softball home games. Fan festivities were planned, with several baseball and softball alumni scheduled to attend. In an email to The Lantern, OSU athletic director Gene Smith said he and several members of the committee involved in the celebration planning decided that it was best to postpone the events to minimize traffic concerns in the area around the Schottenstein Center. “The presidential visit is complex with security,” Smith said. “Our priority is to ensure the games themselves go smoothly, softball and baseball, and make it as easy as possible for the fans to enjoy the contests our student-athletes compete in.” Janine Oman, assistant athletic director for sport performance and head of the committee overseeing the centennial celebration, said everything was set to begin this week, but the unexpected circumstances forced a change in the schedule of events. “We were originally planning on doing kickoff games this weekend,” Oman said. “However, the president is coming right at the same time.” While the games will still take place Saturday, the fan activities will be rescheduled due to the arrival of the president and his subsequent speech Saturday morning at the Schottenstein Center. Oman said the first kickoff games will take place Sept. 21 at the field hockey and women’s volleyball games. Austin Stewart, a first-year in international studies, said he was unaware the athletic department was planning a celebration set to begin this week. With the president coming though, he said it’s probably a good idea that it has been moved back. “The president is gonna take a lot of attention away … that would be with the 100-year celebration,” Stewart said. While he admitted he is not really a fan of the president, Stewart said he would rather go see him speak Saturday than attend the anniversary festivities because of the rare experience it presents. “It’s the president of the United States coming to campus. That doesn’t really happen all that often,” Stewart said. “I would probably rather go see him just because that’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” Obama will speak at the Schottenstein Center Saturday at 1:25 p.m., with the doors opening at 10:30 a.m. First Lady Michelle Obama will join her husband in support of his campaign. The public event on OSU’s campus is the official beginning of the 2012 election, and Obama has a rally planned at Virginia Commonwealth University later on Saturday. This rally marks the second visit Obama has made to OSU’s campus in about two months. Republican candidate Mitt Romney has also been in central Ohio in the past week. Romney spoke at Otterbein College last Thursday about the economy and his plan to bring the nation back to a world leader.