I've been torturing/educating some friends by describing some of my favorite Ohio State football traditions. I decided to cherry pick the best from that email series to create a blog post. I'll start with the goofy mascot, Brutus, then tell you how the stadium was built, what happens when we play those weenies from michigan and finally give some props to the band. Hopefully even you non-football fans can enjoy...
Brutus Buckeye Brutus was first designed and, er, built (?) by an art student in 1965. I say built because the first Brutus was a giant paper-mache ball. The name "Brutus" was voted on by the student body. Brutus changed shapes and costumes over the years and the current costume was introduced in 1981. This site has Brutus costumes through the years. Though you have probably seen Brutus quite a lot (such as in ESPN ads like the one below), the university is very protective of when Brutus makes public appearances. The costume is never rented out and the cheerleaders who make appearances get some nice perks. We have a friend who had Goldy Gopher (Minnesota) at his wedding but that would not be happening with Brutus.
Ohio Stadium 100+ years ago, an OSU game generally drew a few thousand fans. But in the late teens, a football sensation named Chic Harley increased the popularity of the local team many-fold. Chic led the team to their first winning streak ever against michigan if I recall correctly. His exploits led to a proposal to build a 66,000 seat stadium, a size that was considered outlandish at the time. (You may know the stadium currently seats about 104k and is 4th largest in the country behind mich, tennessee and penn state.) The stadium cost about $4M to build or roughly the cost of the current scoreboard. Now you know why Ohio Stadium is sometimes referred to as the house that Chic built.
The Michigan rivalry Where to start? It has been called by ESPN and others the greatest rivalry in sports. Legendary coach Woody Hayes would not buy gasoline in "that state up north" when he was on recruiting trips. Woody did not even say the name of the state so you'll see lots of pet names on the Buckeye boards such as meat chicken, mchg*n, scUM, ann arbor tech, etc Ohio State plays the michigan fight song the last few minutes of every practice to remind everyone what is at stake. Players on the team who defeat Michigan get a pin resembling yellow football pants, a gold pants pin. Last year's RS seniors were some of the only people ever to own five pairs. Hopefully this year's seniors will achieve the same.
The week before the game, known simply as "michigan week" has a few traditions of its own. Aside from the usual rallies and decorations, the most memorable one is the mirror lake jump. The marching band wanders around campus playing tunes and drawing a crowd. The festivities end at Mirror Lake where the braver students jump in. Neither Christine or I ever made the plunge though we have followed the band down there. Jumping in wasn't the focus of the event when we were in school but I heard that 12,000 people jumped in last year. Some science-minded students took a sample afterwards and noticed a distinct increase in various compounds found in urine... Now I'm glad we didn't jump in.
I must finish with this.
TBDBITL The marching band, known as The Best Damn Band in the Land (TBDBITL), has long been beloved by students and alumni. The band is 225 members strong (brass and percussion only please) and has been around since 1879. 90 minutes before kickoff, a final rehearsal/pep rally known as the "skull session" is held in the old basketball arena. These events are standing room only. Jim Tressel started bringing the team to Skull Sessions on the way to the stadium. He also addresses the crowd which, as you can imagine, really gets people excited. You know that crazy Tressel...
Once in the stadium the band of course has many traditions. The most notable is marching from a Block O into a "script Ohio" while playing "Le Régiment de Sambre et Meuse," culminating with the dotting of the "i." The most senior sousaphone member of the squad who gets to be the dot. It is seriously a big deal around there. A few celebrities have also dotted the i such as John Glenn and Jack Nicklaus.
That's it for today! Check in for a triathlon recap tomorrow.