Q&A: Inside Norm Emmets, the Man Who Resurrected the O Zone

Retired high school teacher Norm Emmets taught for 44 years in the Groveport Madison School District. Since retiring from his teaching and coaching careers with Groveport, he’s been active with Ohio University and Ohio Athletics, the alma mater of his son, Rob. At each home football and basketball game for the Bobcats, Norm can be found in the front row of the student section, leading the cheers and chants throughout the game. It’s what Danny Lowe (better known as D-Lo), Rob’s best friend, started at OHIO.  

How did you start leading the O Zone here at OHIO?  

When my son went to school here with D-Lo, there was just hundreds upon hundreds of kids, and it was exciting. Over the last 15 years, there’s been ebbs, and there’s been flows. The O Zone used to be unbelievable; it used to be like Duke University. Before the chairs were there in front of the students, they could almost reach out and touch the players, just like Duke. I said to myself I don’t know how many years back, “Let’s try to get it going again.” So, I sat up on Court Street in a chair, just yelling at people, “Go to the game tonight!” The biggest thing is I continued D-Lo’s spirit. He had more spirit in him than you could ever imagine, and I take it every time I walk into this place. I always try to bring D-Lo’s spirit.  

Who is Danny Lowe? Why did you take over his responsibilities?  

Danny Lowe is the main student who founded the O Zone — not only that, but he was my son’s best friend here at OU. He was working on his graduate degree in sports administration [and] unfortunately passed away in the middle of a scrimmage game against the OHIO assistant coaches one day. They played in the Convocation Center, and he collapsed in front of the O Zone section. From what I understand, he started [the O Zone] back in 2000. He would be the first seat, first row to every basketball game at the Convo. It was bitter cold out there, and he was selling preseason tickets. I believe he went to the president of the university, and they had shirts for every game. They had it all together.  

Danny was the leader, and I said we got to keep it going.  

What kind of chants do you cheer on game day? 

One of the biggest cheers recently has been, “OU? Oh, yeah!” It’s a great cheer here. You got to have it at a certain point. The Marching 110, even all through the years, has always picked up the cheering. Whether there are students here, no students, the 110 you can count on. There’s a guy that likes to do the scoreboard cheer at the end of each basketball game. When you get the crowd going, they say,  

“Is that not the scoreboard?  

Yes, that is the scoreboard!  

Is that not an 88?  

Yes, that is an 88!  

Is that not a 77?  

Yes, that is a 77!  

Is that not the winning team?  

Yes, that is the winning team!  

Is that not the losing team?  

Yes, that is the losing team!  

Winning team!  

Losing team!  

Winning team!  

Losing team!”  

It’s a lot of fun, and it’s a great way to end the game.  

What has affected the fluctuation of student attendance over the years?  

You could say winning. But … in football, we didn’t have a great winning season this year. We had a good season, but we had a losing record. That was the best crowd noise (Ohio vs. Syracuse) for many years. Now, in basketball, it’s been kind of up and down. I think it’s just the kids because as I sit out here with these kids, the O Zone here, that’s really sold into what we’re trying to do. It’s just them when you get right down to it. 

If you could pinpoint one thing about Ohio sporting events, what would it be?  

Oh, there’s a number of them. The ride down from Dublin with my wife every game allows me to think of the great games and the great students cheering in here over the last 22 years. I go back to the first ESPN [broadcast]. We beat the other team [University of Pittsburgh] here at Peden Stadium, and it was on ESPN. So, going down, I think about all those things. But once I’m here, I got D-Lo inside of me.