People who know Gary "Doc" Dickerson associate him with the band Rusty Vinyl or with Heidelberg University, where he has been teaching in the communication department since 1982.
Having grown up in Columbus, Dickerson earned his undergraduate degree at Ohio State University. His wife, Jan, also took courses at Ohio State. Now, the couple has two adult sons living in the Columbus area. Starting Sept. 6, the Dickersons will be serving as volunteer ushers at this season's Ohio State home games.
"I've got a lot of friends who have been doing this for a very long time, very close friends. It always looked like it was a lot of fun to be a part of that whole Ohio State football scene," Dickerson said. "As I get closer to retirement, I am looking for some activities I've been putting on hold for awhile, waiting for the kids to grow up and that sort of thing."
PHOTO BY MARYANN KROMER
Ohio State alumnus Gary Dickerson
shows his colors as he prepares to usher in Ohio Stadium.
Dickerson said he and Jan had applied for the positions about a year ago. One of his usher friends, Dan Dean, was officiating a baseball game at Heidelberg last spring, so Dickerson asked what more he needed to do to be part of the program. Dean told them they might need to re-apply, but he would look into it. Before long, the Dickersons got a call to schedule interviews.
"It was a big deal. We had to go down and interview for a volunteer position," Dickerson said.
They were told a crew of more than 600 people are needed to work at each game. The couple also had to participate in two training sessions. They will be assigned to a certain area and work there all season, but spouses usually are not assigned to the same section. The job includes a 50 percent discount on food at the concession stands.
For the first time, the university will have three home games at night. Dickerson said those might be a bit uncomfortable in October and November, but at least they will get to see all the games.
For many years, Dickerson was able to buy alumni tickets for two Ohio State games annually. When he stopped buying tickets, they became more difficult to get. At times, he went down for the unique atmosphere at the tailgate parties, especially in the parking area near the baseball fields. Dickerson said that crowd sets up big-screen TVs and brings in lots of food.
"I don't even know if those people go to the games. Maybe they just want to pay for the parking," Dickerson said.
The couple had to buy their own usher uniforms, including hats, special shirts and a light nylon jacket. They ordered the jackets extra large to accommodate layers for cold weather. Dickerson said they didn't mind the purchases because they plan to continue as ushers.
"This is something I have wanted to do," Dickerson said. "You get into all the games and get stadium parking. They do send you complimentary passes that you can share with friends at games they don't think will sell out. Jan and I both got two tickets each for the Kent State game that we gave away to our kids."
Ushers need to check in at the stadium more than two hours before kick-off, which Dickerson said is a challenge for noon games. They will need to get an early start to beat the heavy traffic going into the city on game days. Arriving early will allow them to get better parking spots.
Dickerson said they plan to camp out with their sons after the night games.
"That makes it easy for us. We don't have to drive back," Dickerson said. "They'll be able to tailgate with us. Since we have a parking spot there, it will make it easier to tailgate on the site. ... You don't tailgate before the game, because you can't imbibe."
Working at the stadium also will be nostalgic for Dickerson, who was a student while Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin was on the team. Jan is from Illinois, so she may be cheering for the opposing team at one game.
Dickerson said his most memorable game as a student was a contest against the University of Michigan.
"They still show it on Big Ten Classics - when Ohio State beat Michigan 12-10 and they never got past Michigan's 20-yard line. They kicked four long field goals," he recalled.
"It's kind of exciting at this stage of my life to take on a new adventure," he added.