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 1 of our list (in alphabetical order) of 20 notable athletes, organizers and influential people that left their mark on Columbus sports over the past two decades. Read Part 2.
Brian Ellis
Think of Ellis as the architect of the Arena District, one of the country’s premier mixed-use developments, with a heavy emphasis on sports venues: Nationwide Arena, Huntington Park and Lower.com Field. That’s quite a lineup. All three were developed by Nationwide Realty Investors, under the leadership of President and COO Ellis. The Arena District also includes 2.5 million square feet of office space (including the offices of the Sports Commission); 300,000 square feet of retail, restaurant, and entertainment space; multiple hotels; and more than 1,200 residences. The development of the Arena District has helped lead the rebirth of downtown Columbus and made the city a sports and meeting destination. Ellis was an original Sports Commission board member and served as Chair for 14 years
Andy Geiger
Geiger was The Ohio State Athletic Director from 1994 to 2005. His final few years coincided with the early years of the Sports Commission, and Geiger was the first to commit to financially support the Sports Commission (in 2002). He understood the economic impact and image enhancement sporting events would bring to the city. Geiger was also a builder, and during his tenure at Ohio State, the Bill Davis Stadium (baseball), Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium (track and field) and the Schottenstein Center were constructed to name of few. These venues have been utilized for high school state championships and other non-Ohio State sporting events that have helped make Columbus a sports hub. He was the first Sports Commission board chair. 
Dee & Jimmy Haslam and Pete Edwards
When the city was in danger of losing the Columbus Crew to Austin, Texas, the Haslams and Edwards stepped up to #savethecrew. “Throughout our conversations, it’s been overwhelmingly clear that Crew SC belongs in Columbus, and we are thrilled to have reached an agreement in principle to assume an ownership position in Major League Soccer and to operate Columbus Crew SC,” the Haslams and Edwards said in a joint statement in late 2018. The news had Crew fans cheering and hoisting a few in honor of their three saviors. Jimmy Haslam is the Chairman of the Board of the Pilot Flying J truck stop chain; the Haslams co-own the Cleveland Browns; Edwards is an orthopedic surgeon and was the long-time team doctor for the Crew.
Frankie Hejduk
Hejduk was a fixture at right back for the Crew, from 2003 to 2010, captained the team that won the franchise’s first MLS Cup in 2008, and was named the Crews’ Brand Ambassador in 2012. Hejduk was also a member of the United States Men’s National Team (85 caps), played in the 1998 and 2002 World Cups, and is a wonderful and fun-loving ambassador for the sport he loves. 
Ken Hitchcock & John Tortorella
Hitchcock coached the Blue Jackets to their first-ever NHL playoff appearance (2009), and Tortorella took the team even further, as they won their first playoff series (2019) under his leadership. Hitchcock is the fourth winningest coach in league history (849 wins, including 125 with Columbus) and Torts is 14th (673, including 227 with the Blue Jackets) and counting, as he was recently hired to lead the Philadelphia Flyers.
Dixie Jeffers
The coach of the Capital University women’s basketball team has a long list of accomplishments: Two Division III national championships, four Final Fours, 741 wins, a total that makes her one of only 13 Division III coaches (female or male) to win 700 games. Jeffers was inducted into the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007, and she retired in 2021. “Dixie’s tenacity and dedication put Capital’s women’s basketball program at the forefront of the sport – not only for Division III but for women’s college basketball on all levels,” said Dave Kaufman, President of Capital University.
Cardale Jones, Braxton Miller & J.T. Barrett
Jones became an instant Buckeye legend in 2014 when the third-string quarterback came off the bench to make his first-ever college start in the Big Ten championship game against Wisconsin. Miller was supposed to be the starter that season, but a pre-season shoulder injury sidelined him for the year. Barrett took over, played well, and then suffered a broken ankle late in the win over Michigan. Next QB up! Jones was the MVP of the 59-0 win over the Badgers; then threw for 243 yards and a touchdown in the 42-35 victory over favored Alabama to lead the Buckeyes to the national championship game. Again, Jones came up big, throwing for 242 yards and a TD. He ran for another score in the 42-20 win over Oregon, cementing his legendary status.
Kelsey Mitchell
Mad ballhandling skills, the ability to hit the three and take it to the hoop led Mitchell to some amazing accomplishments at Ohio State: She was a three-time Big Ten Player of the Year, four-time All-American, the NCAA’s second-leading scorer (3,402 points), all-time three-point leader (497) and the first freshman to lead the nation in scoring (24.9 points per game). Mitchell was the second overall selection in the 2018 WNBA draft by the Indiana Fever and has consistently been among the league’s Top 10 scorers.
Nadine Muzerall
When Muzerall was hired as coach in 2016, the goal was to turn around the fortunes of the struggling Ohio State women’s ice hockey team. Mission accomplished. The Buckeyes won the 2022 national championship with an exciting, back-and-forth, 3-2 win over Minnesota Duluth. This was the team’s third Frozen Four appearance during Muzerall’s six-year tenure, and the first national championship for the Buckeyes. Muzerall was a two-time All-American at the University of Minnesota, where she scored the game-winning goal against Brown in the 2000 national championship game.
Rick Nash
Score! Nash was selected number-one overall by the Blue Jackets in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft for his goal-scoring abilities. And score he did, for nine seasons. Nash holds the Blue Jackets record for games played (674), goals (289), assists (258), points (547) and game-winning goals (44). Nash was traded to the New York Rangers in 2012, returned to Columbus after he retired and is currently the Blue Jackets’ Director of Player Development. Nash was a member of the Canadian Olympic teams that won gold in 2010 and 2014.
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