GREATER COLUMBUS SPORTS COMMISSION BLOG
20 Notable People in the Last 20 Years of Columbus Sports, Part 2
Central Ohio has a long tradition of athletic greatness. The list of local superstars includes (arguably) the GOAT in golf (Jack Nicklaus) and track (Jesse Owens), as well as the only two-time Heisman Trophy winner (Archie Griffin).
As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Sports Commission, here’s Part 2 of our list (in alphabetical order) of 20 notable athletes, organizers and influential people in the last two decades of Columbus sports. Read Part 1.
When people think of the city’s great downtown sports venues, they tend to list Nationwide Arena, Huntington Park and Lower.com Field. And forget about the Greater Columbus Convention Center, which has hosted hundreds of sports events, including the Arnold Sports Festival, USA Fencing, US Chess and several major USA Volleyball events. All these events are organized and led by Page, ASM Global Regional general manager of the convention center since 2013 and excels at collaborating with local officials and national sports organizations. Page also led the $140 million renovation and expansion of the Convention Center and the building of the Goodale Garage that has allowed the Convention Center to host bigger and bigger events.
Price is the long-time Commissioner of the Ohio Valley Region (OVR) of USA Volleyball, the largest in the US. His leadership and collaboration with the Sports Commission have helped Columbus become the Volleyball Capital of the Midwest. The OVR has more than 22,000 members, with the girls easily outnumbering the boys. “Volleyball is one of the most-played sports in the country by girls,” Price said. Price and the OVR board are instrumental in growing the sport of volleyball for boys, girls and adults.
Arnold Schwarzenegger & Jim Lorimar
Lorimar, an attorney, former FBI agent, and sports promoter, met Schwarzenegger in 1970 during the Mr. World bodybuilding competition he organized in Columbus. “After the competition,” Lorimar said, “Arnold [who won] said this is best event I’ve ever been to and, when I’m done competing, I want to go into the promotion of the sport and I’m going to come back to Columbus and ask you to be my partner.” A man of his word, Schwarzenegger contacted Lorimar five years later. “We shook hands and that’s all we’ve ever had … as far as a partnership agreement,” Lorimar said. They co-organized the Mr. Olympia competition for several years, and then created the Arnold Classic, a one-day bodybuilding event in 1989. Since then, the Arnold Sports Festival has grown tremendously, and is now the world’s largest multi-sport event with 20,000 participants from 80-plus countries, 60-plus sports and more than 200,000 spectators.
Schnacke is the city’s “Mr. Baseball.” He joined the Columbus Clippers as an administrative assistant in 1977, was named General Manager in 1989, and added the duties of President in 2001. The Clippers have led their league in attendance six times during Schnecke’s tenure, a sure sign that Columbus is a baseball city. Schnacke has twice won the International League’s Executive of the Year Award and he was elected to the International League’s Hall of Fame in 2018.
As an Ohio State Senior Vice President and the Athletic Director, Smith oversees one of the largest and most successful college sports programs and he is one of the nation’s most respected and influential athletic directors. Smith played football at Notre Dame, and soon after began his career in athletic administration. He was named Ohio State’s athletic director in 2005. “I’m proud of our people and the culture we’ve built together.” Smith said. “It’s truly a great time to be a Buckeye and our future is bright.” In 2016, Smith was named Sports Business Journal AD of Year and earned the NACDA James J. Corbett Memorial Award.
Smith is one of the most accomplished basketball players in the history of the sport. At Ohio State, she set the school and Big Ten record for career points (by a man or woman), was a WNBA all-star and champion, and a three-time Olympic gold medalist. Smith retired in 2013, was the head coach of the New York Liberty of the WNBA (2017 - 2019) and is currently an assistant coach with the Minnesota Lynx. In 2021, Smith was named to the WNBA’s W25, a list of the 25 greatest and most influential players in league history.
After a nearly perfect 2006 regular season, Smith earned Ohio State’s seventh Heisman Trophy. He received 91.6 percent of the first-place votes, the most in history at the time. During the season, Smith threw for 2,507 yards and 30 touchdowns, led the Buckeyes to an undefeated regular season, including a win over Michigan (his third consecutive as the starting quarterback), and the Big Ten title. The season ended with a 41-14 loss to Florida in the National Championship game. Smith was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens and later played for the San Francisco 49ers.
It was a homecoming when Stewart was named Director of Athletics at Otterbein University in 2012. A Cardinals graduate, Stewart was a tennis standout. Under her leadership, Otterbein’s sports programs have flourished, the school completed a $2 million “Turf and Track” project in Memorial Stadium, launched the Roush Hall of Champions interactive display, and created a Student-Athlete Mentorship Program. Stewart recently added the title of Vice President for Student Affairs. Stewart was awarded the 2015-16 Division III Under Armour AD of the Year by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA).
Sullivan is President and Managing Partner of the HNS Sports Group and Executive Director of the Memorial Tournament. In these roles, he and his team have hosted the annual Memorial Tournament, as well as the 2013 Presidents Cup, 2016 U.S. Senior Open, and the annual Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship on the Korn Ferry Tour. Sullivan is a long-time member of the Sports Commission board and was named chair in 2019.
The most dominant team at Ohio State? That’s easy: the synchronized swimming team led by Vargo-Brown, who was named coach in 2013. The program has won 31 national titles, and Vargo-Brown has been part of 24 of these titles as an athlete, assistant coach and head coach. She has been voted US Synchro Collegiate Coach of the Year six times, has coached 35 individual national champions, 45 All-Americans and 56 Academic All-Americans. Vargo-Brown was an Ohio State All-American in 1984, and she was member of the 1982 and 1983 championship teams.
To learn more about what the Greater Columbus Sports Commission does, visit the About Us page.