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Ohio State Traditions

Story: Priyanka Jain, Design: Nithika Badam, Images: Kevin Fitzsimons, Sports Illustrated, and Ohio State University

During the first home football game,  countless fans watch alumni form four Script Ohio’s with The Best Damn Band in the Land (TBDBITL). For many, the quadruple Script Ohio is their favorite Ohio State tradition, whereas others cherish when every Buckeye in the stadium joins arms and sways while singing Ohio State’s alma mater, “Carmen Ohio.” There are numerous traditions around Ohio State that have blossomed directly from the student body. In addition to the aforementioned traditions, the favorites among students also include the Buckeye Memorial Grove, Brutus Buckeye and Light Up the Lake.

“Carmen Ohio”

“Carmen Ohio,” the alma mater of Ohio State, brings students, faculty and alumni together during every large university event. In 1902, Fred Cornell, a varsity football player and member of the Men’s


Buckeyes always sing “Carmen Ohio” after every home football game.

Glee Club, adapted these famous lyrics to the tune of a popular religious church song called Spanish Hymn. However, there is some discrepancy as to when and why. Cornell once said that he wrote the song after suffering a tough loss of 86-0 against the school up north, but there are also records of the University Glee Club wanting Ohio State to have its own alma mater. Finally, 20 years after writing the song, Cornell declared that he didn’t remember when or where he wrote “Carmen Ohio.”

Buckeye Memorial Grove

A group of football managers called the Scarlet Key created Buckeye Grove in 1929 when they planted 11 buckeye trees to honor the original football players. They later decided to add five more trees to honor each player who had been chosen for the All-American team with each of the names and years written on plaques in front the trees. Originally planted in the formation of a football lineup, the trees resided at the southeast end of Ohio Stadium until 1997 when the trees (90 at the time) were moved to the hillside east of Morrill Tower. In addition, the new grove included some picnic tables and a map to help locate specific trees. Currently, the Ohio Staters, an organization of students, faculty and staff who help promote the traditions and welfare of students at Ohio State, maintain the Scarlet Key and approximately 200 trees in the grove.

Script Ohio

Before every football game, The Best Damn Band in the Land marches to spell “Ohio” in cursive or script text. The Ohio State Marching Band first displayed Script Ohio on October 10, 1936. Originally, a trumpet player dotted the i, but the tradition quickly changed later that season at the Michigan game when a sousaphone player was chosen to do so instead. Thirty years later, on September 24, 1966 at the game against Texas Christian University, the alumni band reunited with that year’s band to form the first double Script Ohio. The first triple script occurred on September 11, 1971 with that year’s marching band, an alumni band and a volunteer band. On that same day, 400 alumni set up the framework for the continuing alumni club, “TBDBITL.” Then, on September 10, 1977, the original quadruple Script Ohio was performed, in which the OSUMB split to form two scripts, and the alumni formed the other two. Finally, on September 3, 2011, The Best Damn Band in the Land and a huge alumni band marched to form the first “true” quadruple Script Ohio, in which the marching band created one script on the south side and the alumni band formed the other three. As the band forms Script Ohio this year, they will be celebrating the 80th year anniversary of this famously true tradition.

Brutus Buckeye                                                                         

Brutus Buckeye always boosts morale at home football games!

Brutus Buckeye always boosts morale at home football games!

Ohio State’s famous mascot Brutus Buckeye started out as a buckeye nut in 1965. Students Ray Bourhis and Sally Huber believed that a mascot would inspire more school spirit. There are records that the Ohio Staters, of which Ray was a member, payed for the materials to create a buckeye nut mascot out of paper-maché. They soon realized after Brutus’s first public appearance that paper-maché lacked durability, so they constructed another one out of fiberglass. That same year, the Ohio Staters held a mascot naming contest that officially named Brutus Buckeye as Ohio State’s official mascot. Brutus is still one of the most celebrated figures on campus even 51 years after he was created.

Light Up the Lake

The Ohio Staters started decorating Mirror Lake in 2003 with enough holiday lights so that every single student at the university would be represented by a bulb. During the lighting ceremony, every attendee  receives a candle and sings Carmen Ohio by candlelight. Near the end of the song when everyone lifts their arms to spell out “O-H-I-O,” the lake lights up and brings everyone together during the cold and stressful week before finals.


In addition to many great traditions, Ohio State is rumored to be home to ghosts that haunt many of the buildings and landmarks where students walk, sleep and study everyday.

Oxley Hall

Built in 1908, Oxley Hall was the first female residence hall on campus; however, in 1967 the dorm was closed after parents allegedly refused to let their kids to live there due to ghost stories.That same year, the building was given to the University Research Foundation, but it was kept empty and not remodeled for the Department of International Affairs until 1989. In the early 1980s before the remodeling, a security guard standing in the courtyard next to Mack, Canfield and Oxley Halls saw lights flicker in Oxley at 3 a.m.. Since the doors and windows were locked, the guard was bewildered as to how anyone could have entered the building. Campus security later found doors opened that no one had unlocked. Another instance occurred when Bill Wahl, a former manager of community and visitor relations, went down to the basement of Oxley with a colleague and the lights suddenly went out. When the two ran back to the light switch, they found that it had been turned off. No one else was seen or heard there at that time.

Mack Hall

The site where the Christmas tree mysteriously disappeared in 1980.

The site where the Christmas tree mysteriously disappeared in 1980.

During the winter break of 1980, a security guard patrolling outside Mack and Canfield Halls suspected that someone was watching her. As she turned around, one of the balcony doors in Mack Hall inexplicably slammed shut.  Hoping to find an explanation, the guard toured the dorm with the hall director and found a ladder that had somehow been moved from the 3rd floor to the 2nd floor. When they walked towards the room with the suspicious balcony they saw tinsel on the floor leading outside the room. They entered the dorm room and immediately realized that a Christmas tree was missing. The tinsel trail stopped strangely in the middle of the hallway, but the tree was never seen again.

Mirror Lake and Pomerene Hall

When Professor Clark, the head of economics and sociology, returned to campus after making a failed investment in oil stock, he approached Dr. William Oxley Thompson, then-current Ohio State President, for help and advice. Now, there are two different theories of what happened during this meeting. The first ones states that Clark asked Thompson for financial help, but the president dismissed him. However, the other says that his wife, Mrs. Clark, asked the university to help him. Both stories, however, end with Clark shooting himself on the hill where Pomerene Hall now stands. This left his wife in distress, vowing to never  let the university rest. After her death 20 years later, students would report seeing a woman floating across Mirror Lake. In addition, students claim to hear footsteps in Pomerene Hall that, when followed, lead to no one. Lastly, there are reports that the computers in the Office of Disability Services on the ground floor have been turned off and on without anyone around. It is said that whoever walks in is then greeted with an electronic “hello”.

Hayes Hall

President Rutherford B. Hayes sadly passed before the completion of Hayes Hall in 1893. The building served as a residence hall from 1915-1920. One evening, two students returned to the building late and were locked out. The students tried yelling and throwing pebbles at their friends’ windows, but nothing seemed to work. Luckily, an old bearded man came to their rescue and let them in, saying he was “the curator of the building.” The following day the students told their friends about this mysterious man, but no one knew who he was. A few days later, they found a picture on the wall of the man who let them in. It was a photo of Rutherford B. Hayes.

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