College basketball: Former Buckeye Curt Moody still leaving his imprint on the game he loved

Adam Jardy
Architect Curt Moody, in 2013. Moody, of Moody-Nolan Inc, is a prominent architect in the Columbus area. Not only did he graduate from Ohio State University but he also designed the Ohio Union and the Recreation and Physical Activity Center on campus. (The Columbus Dispatch / Eamon Queeney)

Before Ohio State agreed to play Cincinnati and put an end to a nearly century-long stalemate, one former Buckeye had already laid the groundwork for Wednesday night’s game.

Literally – he laid the groundwork. A product of Columbus North, Curt Moody turned down nearly a dozen Division I scholarship offers to walk on at Ohio State because the school offered his desired major of architecture. Now more than three decades removed from his four years in uniform, Moody and the architecture firm he founded, Moody Nolan, oversaw the renovation of Cincinnati’s Fifth Third Arena, which will be officially unveiled for this game.

Oh, and for good measure, Moody Nolan also designed Value City Arena.

“When I was in school, we played in St. John Arena,” Moody told The Dispatch on Tuesday evening. “Then later on in life I find out that it’s going to be replaced and my firm and I would be selected to design it. That was not necessarily something that I would have dreamed was ever in the cards, let alone that we also then get hired to design Cincinnati’s re-do of their arena. Then after the re-do, the first time those schools come together is in our new arena that we just recently completed.

“That’s a story all in itself, that these two schools are going to play each other again and both facilities are facilities that a former player actually did the work.”

It’s a remarkable journey for Moody, who needed a phone call from his prep coach to Ohio State coach Fred Taylor to get a shot to make the roster. Then came one year on the freshman team, back when first-year players couldn’t play for the varsity team, before three years on the varsity from 1971-73. He was there when the Buckeyes took an 11-game winning streak into the regional final of the NCAA Tournament before an 81-78 overtime loss to Western Kentucky two days after a one-point win in the first round.

“We had a bad pass at the end of the game that locked it up for them,” Moody said. “We did take the Big Ten and we all got rings for winning the Big Ten championship, but we were hoping to go a little further in the tournament than we did.”

He didn’t play much for his career, totaling three appearances and scoring two points, but he graduated with degree in architecture and headed to the real world. It was a path that ironically led him back to where his schooling started.

“There’s only a few student-athletes that went into architecture and even fewer that ever had the ability to go back to their school, design that building and then design one of their major competitors’ facility, especially knowing the history of that connection,” he said. “I don’t think there’s many stories out there like that.”

The fact that Ohio State and Cincinnati haven’t played an on-campus regular-season game since 1921 and at Cincinnati since 1920 wasn’t lost on him.

“When I played, we didn’t play Cincinnati,” he said. “Cincinnati was off limits after the Oscar Robinson days. We never knew, as student-athletes, anything about the politics of the two schools just not playing each other, being two large schools in the state. Definitely during college I didn’t understand that. Later, of course, started understanding more that there were some politics involved with those two schools.”

Fans in attendance at the game will see significant changes to the arena, Moody said. Once a rectangular building that looked like a two-store grocery story, he said, Fifth Third Arena has been completely gutted and rebuilt. Premium seats and suites have been installed along the sides of the court rather than the ends and multiple enhancements to the fan experiences have been made, all branded throughout with Cincinnati’s official colors.

“We reconfigured the bowl and then we put new suites in, we put new concessions, new lockers,” he said. “Then we recreated a whole new front façade. We actually worked on all sides of the building, but on the entry we basically opened it up to the plaza because we created a brand-new plaza out in front of it, an entry plaza, and we created a New York-style multimedia screen over the ticketing area on the outside so that if they choose on overflow they could have students in the plaza much like the Cleveland Cavaliers did and others in pro sports.”

Now, Moody and his firm are working on another important arena for Buckeyes fans: Moody Nolan is studying the potential re-do of his home venue, St. John Arena.

The details unfortunately aren’t his to share.

“You’d have to talk to the athletic department,” he said. “At this point it hasn’t been released. It’s a study. They’re evaluating that and that’s pretty much all I can say about it.”

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