Remembering Traditions

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If there’s one thing we're certain about in 2020, it’s that everything is uncertain. Just ask any corporate advertisement ever (watch this video for a laugh). 

New announcements about fall at Ohio State are coming out every day, and it seems like many of our favorite campus activities are being postponed, moved online, or even cancelled altogether. Many universities are cancelling athletics too, meaning we’re likely to miss our favorite tailgates and homecoming in Columbus.  

Current Buckeyes may miss out on many of the things we loved about our Ohio State experience. But in the midst of these unfortunate cancellations, we suggest looking back on better days. In remembering our traditions, we reassure ourselves that someday they will return, for us and future generations of Buckeyes to enjoy.  

We’d like to remind you of 4 traditions that made coming back to campus feel like coming home. 

The “O-H! I-O!” Chant 

Nowadays you can shout “O-H!” just about anywhere in Columbus and get an “I-O!” in response from some passing stranger. Not so in 1942, when U.S. Navy sailors aboard the USS Lexington in the Pacific Ocean began chanting “O-H-I-O S-T-A-T-E” to the tune of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” Several of those displaced Buckeye fanatics returned to Ohio and enrolled at OSU in the fall of 1946. 

One of them, Matthew Sidley, joined the cheerleading squad the following autumn. On Nov. 1, 1947, during a losing effort against Indiana, Sidley decided to teach the “O-H-I-O S-T-A-T-E” cheer to fans at Ohio Stadium. The full nine-letter chant proved too difficult for the student body to keep up, so they eventually settled on chanting “O-H-I-O” and leaving it at that. Although the Buckeyes lost on that fateful day in 1947, the new cheer was so energizing to the players that linebacker Dick Flanagan called it a turning point in Ohio State football. 

(The cheer squad tried to bring back the original “O-H-I-O S-T-A-T-E” chant in 1982, but the same complications arose. O-H!) 


The Spring Game 

Every April, the football program concludes spring practices with an intrasquad scrimmage that divides the Buckeyes into Scarlet team vs. Gray team. Although the university sells tickets and the game receives media coverage, there’s been surprisingly little documentation of its history. According to the website Eleven Warriors, the earliest footage is from 1998, and the athletic department only has records going back to 1988. That’s especially crazy because newspaper reports date back to at least 1943, when the spring game MVP was Jim Tressel’s father, Lee. 


Buckeye Grove 

Every year, in a ceremony before the spring game, one Buckeye tree is planted at the southwest corner of Ohio Stadium for each All-American the previous season. The grove moved to its current location between Ohio Stadium, Morrill Tower, some nearby tennis courts and the Recreation & Physical Activity Center (RPAC) in 2001 due to Ohio Stadium construction, but the tradition dates back to 1934. As of this past April, the grove contained 186 trees, each one with a plaque honoring a different Buckeye All-American. 

This past spring, on the Friday after the spring game, the players, coaches and administrators from the losing Scarlet team in the spring game (including Braxton Miller) had to spruce up the grove. Urban Meyer instituted that extra dimension to the tradition when he came on board in 2012 as a way to raise the stakes in the spring game and accomplish a good deed at the same time. 

Mirror Lake 

Peoples Temple leader Jim Jones is famous for leading his small band of followers in a mass suicide in 1978. Twelve years later, a different, more benevolent Jim Jones led a different group of followers on a march around Ohio State campus on the Thursday before the Michigan game, culminating with a leap into Mirror Lake, a man-made pond on the Oval. 

Although fewer than 100 people participated in the original 1990 jump, by 2009 that number had swelled to 12,000. It became so popular that when the Big Ten schedule was revised so that the Ohio State-Michigan game would fall on Thanksgiving weekend - significantly complicating the prospect of getting students together on the Thursday before - the jump was moved to Tuesday night of Michigan week, where it remains to this day. 

The Mirror Lake jump is not sanctioned by OSU, and in fact the university discourages students from participating due to legal and health risks. Still, it’s one truly wild tradition that you can participate in without suffering a loss of reputation or livelihood - at least until the Office of Compliance and Integrity decides to issue a report on Mirror Lake etiquette.