The Ohio State University was not the first to perform their time-honored game day tradition of Script Ohio on their field. But since the band took the formation out onto the field, OSU has made it a point to make it one of the best things about game days. In general, no one comes close to The Ohio State University when you talk tradition. ESPN’s current Better Tradition poll’s comparing Script Ohio to Nebraska’s horseshoe walk has gotten me all worked up as there is not even a comparison. There are many things you can debate, but The Ohio State University traditions are not one of them.
Script Ohio has an extreme presence on the field and anyone who has been there in person will know why it is such a well-known tradition. When you see the band marching out and taking the field you can’t help but get excited and pumped up. There is a reason it is called the “Best Damn Band in the Land” and this game-day ritual has truly proven this title.
The 73 year running tradition consists of an explosive revolving block “O” that then curves into the grand formation of the cursive “Ohio ” lettering while in the synchronized and distinct movement patterns finishing with the colossal honor of the conclusive “dotting of the I” by the sousaphone player or, in rare cases, a well renowned member of the buckeye community. All the while the band plays the infamous “Buckeye Battle Cry” and the crowd claps and cheers accordingly.
The idea came to Eugene Weigel, the band director at the time, drawing inspiration from the exciting sky-writing he used to see during his visits to New York City. But Weigel did not get the opportunity to present this idea to the school because M*ch*gan beat him to the punch. In 1932, the dreaded school up North’s band took the field and formed the first ever Script Ohio at an Ohio State game. The Michigan Daily wrote “probably the most effective single formation was the word “OHIO” spelled out in script diagonally across the field in the double-deck Ohio stadium to the accompaniment of the OSU. marching song, ‘Fight the Team.’ Other Michigan band formations were ‘MICH,’ a block ‘O,’ and a block ‘M.’” So yes, that aweful school started the tradition, by becoming the first school to perform Script Ohio.
At least, that’s what Michigan fans say. While it’s true that the Michigan band was the first to perform a script Ohio, they were not the first to perform the Script Ohio. In fact, you must take into account the most infamous part of the tradition, dotting the I, which was not performed back in 1932. Former band director, Ted Boehm wrote, Buckeyes “submit that the script aspect is only one part of the overall event that is signified by the name.” All the important elements of the formation, where in fact, started in Columbus.
‘Dotting the I’ was first introduced in 1936 by a trumpet player and played no special part. All the drama and importance behind it began in 1938. The drum major was late to ‘dot the I’ and as a quick improvisation, sousaphone player Glen R. Johnson ran up and unknowingly performed the dramatic bow and kick that is now honored by all those who dot the I. Johnson will tell you how the crowd went crazy with his theatrical performance thus becoming a permanent part of the tradition.
Because a sousaphone player gathered the courage to step in to create this tradition, The Ohio State Marching Band only allows sousaphone players to carry out this honor. It is a rarity to see anyone carrying out the honor. This is considered the greatest to any non-band member and is considered a special event. A total of only ten guests have been given this privilege including legendary Ohio State coach Woody Hayes, golfer Jack Nicklaus, comedian Bob Hope, current president Gordon Gee, and most recently astronaut Senator John Glenn. Another special case was the 2002 National Championship game, in which all 13 seniors of the football team where the dot to the bands ‘I.’
This long standing tradition performed at every home game has been critically practiced, dramatically performed, and widely cherished by not just the band but to all Ohio State fans. Any team can (and every team basically does) run down a tunnel to get the crowd excited. Only one can say they have their school’s spirit artistically spelled out for all to see (even those flying by). Nothing gets you going like the Drum Major starting up their battle cry and storming the field announcing the game and staking our claim as THE Ohio State University.
The real tradition lies within the real Horseshoe.
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