(As told by Ohio State Marching Band member Mike Johnson)
Editor’s note: Mike Johnson is a fifth-year senior in the Ohio State University Marching Band. The Hillsboro, Ohio, native fulfilled a longtime dream by being the sousaphone player dotting the “i” during Script Ohio twice during the last two seasons.
1. Our marching band is often called The Best Damn Band in the Land. With 225 musicians, it’s believed to be the largest all brass and percussion band in the world.
“The attraction to be in the band is all the tradition. The fans' appreciation for the band here is something that I don’t think you’ll find too many other places. The fans really love the band, which is something quite different than most people experience in high school, when some people get made fun of for being in the band. Band is kind of a religion up here. Also, just wanting to dot the 'i' was a huge attraction to coming here. From about seventh grade on is when I wanted to dot the 'i'.”
2. Script Ohio was not an instant classic, but is now considered one of the best traditions in college football. Script Ohio occurs during the pregame show or halftime, and the routine that forms ‘O-h-i-o’ is played to a French march.
“The first Script Ohio was done in 1936. The original Script Ohio was just another formation on the field for halftime. It’s meant to look like just a big pen is writing in script on the field. We do it in single-file. The big bow and the big turn by the 'i' dotter was actually an accident. One year the drum major went out too early to take the sousaphone player to the top of the 'i' so he had to make up time for it, so he did a big bow and a kick, and the crowd went nuts. Seventy-five years later it’s become almost a religion here in the state of Ohio.”
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3. The “i” in Ohio is occasionally dotted by a celebrity – Bob Hope, John Glenn and Jack Nicklaus are a few – but usually it’s a senior sousaphone player in the band.
“Of the 225 members in the band (over 350 tryout) only 192 march any given time. The rest of them are alternates, and every Monday an alternate can challenge a regular in the band. From week to week not every sousaphone player is marching. Based on how many times you’re an alternate and how many times you’re a regular you start to accumulate a rank within the band. When a new season begins, all the fourth- and fifth-year sousaphone players, going down from the top of the rank to the bottom, pick which game they want to do.”
4. The “i” dotter struts out to the spot and takes a bow. The perks include having your name and photo shown in the stadium during Script Ohio and the chance your big moment will be on "SportsCenter."
“Dotting the 'i' my first time actually exceeded the hype. I remember everything about it except the actual strut. Strutting out to the top of the 'i' is a little hazy, but after that everything is pretty crystal-clear. It was really cool to take it all in. Probably one of the coolest parts of it is when you’re in Script Ohio standing there playing the school alma mater and getting to see 105,000 people in the stands doing O-H-I-O. It was a pretty cool experience.”
5. If you’re coming to Columbus, Ohio, for the Ohio State-Nebraska game, just don’t come for the game. The skull session for the band before the game at St. John Arena is a pretty big deal, too.
“Skull session is a pregame pep rally two hours before kickoff, which is kind of cool. It’s in our old basketball arena, which is across the street from the stadium. It’s free to the public and normally about 7,000 people show up. It’s called the skull session because it’s the last chance for us to get the halftime show basically in our skull -- in our head -- since we learn a new halftime show every week. It’s kind of our dress rehearsal before the game. Since Jim Tressel was our coach and now Urban Meyer has continued the tradition of the football team making an appearance at the beginning of the skull session to say a few words and get the crowd pumped up.”