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Script Ohio at Ohio State University

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COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 20: The Ohio State University Marching Band spells the word 'Ohio' during an intermission in the game between the Ohio State University Buckeyes and the University of Michigan Wolverines on November 20, 2004 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State defeated Michigan 37-21.
Brian Bahr/Getty Images
Of all the traditions in Ohio State’s great football history, none is more widely recognized than Script Ohio, the formation performed by the Ohio State Marching Band each and every game day. It is one of the great spectacles in college sports.

But while most every college football fan knows Script Ohio, and has likely seen the formation on television dozens of times, what they might not know is that this great Ohio State football tradition was first performed by the marching band from … the University of Michigan. Yep, it’s true.

Origins:

Script Ohio dates to 1936, when then-band director Eugene Weigel, searching for ways to make his band’s performances more memorable, poached an idea he had seen performed, four years earlier, by the Michigan Marching Band. It seems unspeakably wrong now, but in a 1932 visit to Ohio Stadium, the Michigan band performed a formation which The Michigan Daily described as featuring “the word ‘Ohio’ spelled out in script diagonally across the field in the double-deck Ohio stadium to the accompaniment of the Ohio State marching song,”

So, yes, the Michigan band was the first to perform Script Ohio.

Well, Not Quite:

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.

As former Ohio State band director Ted Boehm has written, Buckeyes “submit that the script aspect is only one part of the overall event that is signified by the name.” In fact, according to Boehm, most of the most important elements of the formation—including the dramatic dotting of the “I"—originated in Columbus.

So, take that, Michigan

TBDBITL:

Ohio State’s marching band proudly calls itself “The Best Damn Band in the Land.”

The band includes 225 marching members—192 regulars and 33 alternates—and, according to Ohio State, is intended to replicate traditional British Military brass bands.

All of the band members are important, of course, but few members of TBDBITL get to experience the greatest thrill in Ohio State lore: Dotting the “I.”

Dotting the "I":

The tradition of dotting the "I" dates back to 1936, but the drama attached to the moment did not arrive until 1938, when sousaphone player Glen R. Johnson improvised his dramatic dotting because his drum major was late to his place. Explained Johnson: “So I did a big kick, a turn and a deep bow to use up the music.” According to legend, the Buckeye crowed loved Johnson’s innovation. It has remained ever since.

Not Just Anyone can Dot the "I":

Because Johnson, a sousaphone player, invented the tradition we now know as dotting the "I,” only sousaphone players are generally eligible to dot the "I” in the modern era. Specifically, according to Ohio State officials, “a sousaphone player must at least be a fourth-year member,” though they add that fifth-year sousaphone players are also eligible, provided that all of the fourth-year players have already had their chance.

There have also been a few select honorary dotters. Among them are legendary Ohio State coach Woody Hayes, golfer Jack Nicklaus and comedian Bob Hope.

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