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Football Traditions

According to folklore, the Buckeye resembles the eye of a deer and carrying one brings good luck. “Buckeyes” has been the official Ohio State nickname since 1950, but it had been in common use for many years before. A small shiny, dark brown nut with a light tan patch that comes from the official state tree of Ohio – The Buckeye Tree. The first recorded use of the term Buckeye to refer to a resident of the area was in 1788, some 15 years before Ohio became a state. Col. Ebenezer Sproat, a 6’4″ man of large girth and swashbuckling mannerisms, led the legal delegation at the first court session of the Northwest Territory in Marietta. The Indians in attendance greeted him with shouts of “Hetuck, Hetuck” (the Indian word for buckeye), it is said because they were impressed by his stature and manner. He proudly carried the Buckeye nickname for the rest of his life and it gradually spread to his companions and to other local settlers. By the 1830s, writers were commonly referring to locals as “Buckeyes.”

Buckeye Leaves

The tradition of placing Buckeye Leaves on the Ohio State helmets started in 1968 when Woody Hayes and longtime trainer Ernie Biggs changed the look of the Ohio State uniforms. The new look included names on the back of the jerseys and a wide “Buckeye stripe” on the sleeves of the jersey believed to be the first of its kind in the sport of football.

Victory Bell

Located in the southeast tower of Ohio Stadium, the Victory Bell is rung after every Ohio State victory. It was a gift of the classes of 1943, 1944 and 1945. Resting 150-feet up in the southeast tower, members of Alpha Phi Omega ring the bell after victories, a tradition that began after OSU beat California Oct. 2, 1954. On a calm day, it is said the bell can be heard five miles away. The bell weighs 2,420 pounds and cost $2,535 to install.

Scarlet and Gray

Ohio State’s official school colors since 1878, Scarlet and Gray were chosen by a group of three students in a lecture room in University Hall because “it was a pleasing combination…and had not been adopted by any other college,” noted selection committee member Alice Townshend Wing.

Brutus Buckeye

One of the more visible symbols of Ohio State athletics is Brutus Buckeye, the school’s mascot. In 1965, an art student designed and introduced the first Brutus, while the name was chosen in a contest. The mascot began as a hardened papier mache affair that looked like a bowling ball with legs. In 1975, a radical new Brutus was designed with a prune-like head and a man’s body. That attempt was booed off the field and was re-worked, giving way to a mascot comparable to the beloved present-day Brutus.

The original choices for Ohio State’s mascot included a ram, an elk, a moose and the leading candidate, a male deer. Due to the skittish nature of deer, the idea of a mascot was tabled until January 1941 when “Chris,” a German police dog owned by an assistant cheerleader, made an appearance at a basketball game. The dog’s career was short-lived and OSU remained without an official mascot until the 1960s.


Buckeye cheerleaders are a constant source of support at all athletics events. The squad took second at the 2001 College Cheerleading National Championship, its highest finish since winning the 1993 title, and has placed first in the east region in 13 of the last 16 years. The cheerleaders make appearances all over the state throughout the year.

Gold Pants

A gold charm replica of a pair of football pants is given to players and coaches following wins over Michigan. The tradition started in 1934 when first-year coach Francis Schmidt told those wondering how OSU would fare with its nemesis from Ann Arbor: “They put their pants on one leg at a time just like everybody else.” Schmidt’s Buckeyes then went and defeated Michigan four-consecutive times, all by shutout.

Buckeye Grove

Since 1934, a Buckeye tree has been planted in honor of each of Ohio State’s All-American. Trees are usually planted in a pregame ceremony at the spring game. With the renovation of Ohio Stadium in 2001, the Buckeye Grove is now loated at the southwest corner of the stadium.

Senior Tackle

A last practice of the year tradition since 1913 where the seniors hit the blocking sled one final time. For many years it was held following the last practice prior to the season finale with Michigan. But depending upon the Buckeyes’ bowl obligation, it has sometimes been moved to the last home practice before the team departs for its bowl obligation.

Tunnel of Pride

The brainchild of ex-OSU quarterback Rex Kern and current Director of Athletics Andy Geiger, the Tunnel of Pride actually started in 1995, when Notre Dame visited Ohio Stadium for the first meeting between the two teams in nearly 50 years. In an effort to generate even more emotion, excitement and enthusiasm than already existed, Kern and Geiger reached out to former Buckeye football players who were attending the game and asked them to form a tunnel for the team to run through as it came onto the field. Thus a tradition was born, which is now continued every other year when Michigan visits Ohio Stadium.

Captain’s Breakfast

Started in 1934, this annual event is held on homecoming weekend. All past captains are invited back for a breakfast and to welcome in the new captains.

The IlliBuck Trophy

The winner of the Ohio State – Illinois game has received the Illibuck trophy since the tradition began in 1925. Illibuck was a live turtle, but has been a wooden replica since 1927. Also representative of the rivalry is the peace pipe. Members of two junior honorary societies, Bucket and Dipper of Ohio State and Sachem of Illinois, annually meet at halftime of the Fighting Illini-Buckeye game to smoke the peace pipe and present the “Illibuck” trophy to the winning school from the previous year.

The Michigan Game

The annual Ohio State-Michigan football game was No. 1 on a list of the 10 Greatest Rivalries In Sports compiled by the editorial staff at in 1999. There simply is no greater rivalry in college athletics.


First recognized in 1912, Homecoming began as “Ohio State Day.” It was initiated by Professor (and later OSU President) George W. Rightmire. Homecoming was designed to bring the alumni back to the university and celebrate. The celebration has been noted, among other things, for the decorating of Greek chapter facilities and university dormitories. The parade is another tradition Buckeyes’ hold high. The parade did not become a time-honored tradition until it joined the schedule permanently in 1965. In 1926, student supporters wishing to pull a practical joke on the university, convinced the community that Maudine Ormsby was to be honored as queen. She was so popular on campus, she won the vote. Maudine, pictured at the right, actually turned out to be a cow, the only cow ever elected as homecoming queen.

Block O

An Ohio State University and Ohio Stadium tradition, Block “O” is celebrating its 65th anniversary this year. Known for spreading spirit, starting cheers and performing card stunts, Block “O” was founded in 1938 by Clancy Isaac. After seeing a cheering section at the University of Southern California, Isaac decided that it was something Ohio State needed. Sixty-five years later, Block “O” is Ohio State’s largest student organization on campus and has gained local and national recognition.