Dix Stadium Players Lounge dedicated to Jason Bitsko


Photo courtesy of Nate Manley The Jason Bitsko Team Lounge dedicated to former Kent State offensive lineman Jason Bitsko, who passed away in Aug of 2014. The lounge was dedicated to him on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016.

Henry Palattella

The Kent State community was rocked by the death of Jason Bitsko in 2014.

Bitsko – who was on pace to be the Flashes starting center in 2014 – died in his sleep, during the week of preseason workouts, due to an enlarged heart. Kent State took another step towards immortalizing Bitsko Saturday, as the university’s athletic department dedicated the Dix Stadium player’s lounge in Bitsko’s name.

The lounge – which was built last year – is now formally called the Jason Bitsko Lounge. It is filled with lounge chairs, televisions and mannequins dressed in Kent State uniforms, and it now bears a plaque in the entrance with Bitsko’s name on it.

During the dedication ceremony, Bitsko’s family and former teammates were on hand to celebrate his life.

Kent State President Beverly Warren delivered a speech about Bitsko, along with football head coach Paul Haynes. Athletic Director Joel Nielsen and former offensive line coach Shawn Clark each had pre-recorded speeches that were played on the lounge’s main TV.

“Every player, from this day forward, will remember Jason Bitsko as the heart of Kent State University football,” Warren said during her speech.

“Jason meant so much to this football program,” Haynes said. “I think one of the biggest compliments you can get as a player is (you are) a great teammate. You can see that, right now, with all of his teammates that are here.”

Haynes also announced that Bitsko’s number 54 jersey is now in the College Football Hall of Fame. A different member of the Kent State offensive line wears number 54 each game, in honor of Bitsko.

“The thing that I remember most about (Bitsko) is that beautiful smile,” Haynes said. “He had an unbelievable smile, and (the plaque) is fitting because I called his smile the golden smile. Just like his golden smile lit up our locker room and out practice field, (the plaque) will light up this room.”

Henry Palattella is a sports reporter, contact him at [email protected].