The unlikely history behind "Script Ohio:" One of college football's most iconic, longstanding traditions

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The Ohio State University has numerous memorable traditions surrounding its football program, yet few compare to "Script Ohio." The tradition that started in 1936 is still stronger than ever and continues to be the staple formation of "The Best Damn Band in the Land."

Interim Director of Marching and Athletic Bands Christopher Hoch said "Script Ohio" is a tradition that he is very proud to be a part of.

"We're going to be celebrating 80 years of 'Script Ohio' starting next year," Hoch said. "So for me personally, every time I get to conduct 'Script Ohio' or be a small part of it, it's never lost on me what a huge tradition this is and what an honor it is to be a small part of it."

Hoch said the band strives to blend both equal parts tradition and innovation when it comes to keeping "TBDBITL," as a leader in the marching band world. However maintaining tradition is equally as important.

"It's one of those things where it's important to continually push ahead and move forward and try to be leaders in the marching band world as far as our show design and what we do at halftime," Hoch said. "But it's equally as important to maintain the traditions that we've upheld for in this case, 80 years."

Hoch wouldn't place "Script Ohio" as the number one tradition in college football, but humbly stated its importance to OSU.

"We have so many great traditions at Ohio State," Hoch said. "The marching band, of course, is a huge part of Ohio State's tradition. But we call the 'Script Ohio' the signature of college football. We're very proud of our place in that tradition, and very proud of the 'Script Ohio' but it's just one more tradition that makes college football across the country great."

Remarkably, the very first "Script Ohio" was performed first by its biggest rivals. In 1932, the University of Michigan performed the first ever "Script Ohio," according to Ohio State University library archives.


Courtesy of The Ohio State University library archives

Ohio State's "Script Ohio" was designed by Director Eugene Weigel and was performed on Oct. 24, 1936 by 120 band members in a game versus Indiana. Ohio State won that game 7–0 and continued the tradition ever since.­­

Flash forward to today, where a full script requires 192 members of TBDBITL and has taken years to perfect.

This Saturday, the great tradition will be on full display vs. Michigan State and one lucky band member will be capping his band career with a very prestigious honor—dotting the "i."

"The honor of dotting a full single script by yourself and being the person out there on the field for everybody to see is really a major honor for those students," Hoch said.

Neil Steffens just happens to be the lucky sousaphone player that will be dotting the "i" vs. MSU. He said that while this isn't the first time he has performed the honorable duty, this time will be very special.

"You see all your friends do it your first year, your second year, your third year, and it's great to see their day, that's their time to shine," Steffens said. "It's pretty cool to see them do it before me, then I'm the last one to do it at home, because it will be my very last home game marching with the band. Being able to dot the "i" is going to be an awesome experience."

The first person to ever dot the "i" was trumpet player John W. Brungart of Coshocton, Ohio. Four games after a sousaphone player, Glenn R. Johnson, dotted the "i" and began a tradition within a tradition that has stood since.


Courtesy of The Ohio State University library archives

The "i" dotter, for a full "Script Ohio" can only be a fourth-year sousaphone player, which Hoch said is a major honor.

Steffens graduated two years ago and said to dot the "i," he had to perform for two additional years with the band after graduation to fulfill the "i" dotter requirement. It will be his second time dotting the i, but the first time in such a charged atmosphere.

"I'm getting pretty nervous thinking about it," he said. "There is so much adrenaline going on at the moment. You practice it so many times where you get that strut down, and you get the bow and you can kind of do it without thinking."

Senior outside linebacker Joshua Perry, who is playing his last home game for the Buckeyes on Saturday, said he has a soft spot in his heart for the band and the traditions they bolster.

"It's just really fun to watch those guys play and do what they do," Perry said. "It's obviously motivating. You just go out here and hear the songs 'Hang on Sloopy' and you hear the fight song, and everything and you just get a little bit of extra juice knowing you're at home. You've got the greatest band, the best damn band in the land, there behind you."

Giustino Bovenzi is SI's campus correspondent for Ohio State University. Follow him on Twitter.