Ladies and gentlemen, the pride of the Buckeyes, the Ohio State University Marching Band. No words were ever more true than those.
Recently the Ohio State Marching Band delivered an incredible halftime show titled, 'A Tribute to Video Games'. That show has gone viral on YouTube and according to Reelseo.com, has now had more than 12 million views since the October 7th performance. That excitement paired with the anticipation of the upcoming Ohio State/Michigan game has spurred me to pen this article.
In this edition of Time and Change, I review the relationship between the Ohio State football team and the marching band and what a special environment they create together each Saturday home game in Ohio Stadium.
It was at a pep rally in 1968 that the nickname "The Best Damn Band in the Land" (TBDBITL) was coined by none other than head coach Woody Hayes.
When I played for Woody and then Earle Bruce, the relationship between the team and the band was special, but not as nearly developed as it is today. We didn't run out on to the field through the band as they do today, we didn't walk through and make an appearance with the band during their pre-game "Skull Session", nor did we sing with the band after the game.
Sometimes on a special occasion, like the Michigan game week, the band might come and play at one of our practices, but that was about the extent of it. Regardless, the band was always a sense of pride and motivation for the team. Nothing felt better than hearing the band play "Fight the Team" after we scored touchdowns or seeing the whole stadium sway and sing "Hang on Sloopy" with the band at the end of the third quarter, when we were leading by three touchdowns.
While I was a student athlete at The Ohio State University I was lucky to have created a friendship with my R.A. (residence advisor) at Steeb Hall, Craig Kossuth. Craig had been a two-year member of TBDBITL as T-Row Trumpet player and he and I used to tease each other quite frequently regarding which team practiced longer and harder, the marching band or the football team.
Craig was so proud to have been a member of the band and shared with me many of the long hours and tasks that the band members endure in order to deliver an impeccable show each Saturday afternoon.
Similar to the football team, the band practiced 2-plus hours a day. They watched film of previous game performance and tryouts and they had "Challenge Day" every Monday.
"Challenge day ensures we have the best band on the field every Saturday delivering the Best performance," Kossuth said. "There are 12 members and two alternates to each row in the band and each Monday those alternates can challenge any member of their row in a competition to see who knows and plays that week's music better. It kept us on our toes."
The NCAA now limits the football team to 20 hours of practice a week, but when I played football in the late 70s and early 80s, we spent around 50 hours a week divided between practice, meetings, film work and study table.
"Seriously and all teasing aside, I don't know how you guys did it," Kossuth said. "I used to see how beat up you'd get and wonder how you accomplished your studies after such a long physical day."
Just like many of the former football players with whom we have spoken in this Time and Change series, Craig has incredible memories of his TBDBITL days.
"I will never forget my first ramp entrance into Ohio Stadium," Craig said. "Coming out of that tunnel in front of 90,000 fans, being a member of the Best Damned Band in the land and then hearing "The Pride of the Buckeyes, the Ohio State University Marching Band, caused a chill to run down my spine."
Craig also played for the band at the 1976 Orange Bowl and the 1977 Sugar Bowl. "They were some of the greatest experiences in my life," Kossuth said.
It was during John Cooper's tenure that the "Tunnel of Pride" was first seen. Created by former Ohio State quarterback Rex Kern and then Director of Athletics. Andy Geiger, the Tunnel of Pride started in 1995 when Notre Dame visited Ohio Stadium for the first meeting between the two teams in nearly 50 years. Former Buckeye football players formed a tunnel, along with the Ohio State University Marching Band for the team to run through as it runs onto the field. This a tradition has now continued every other year when Michigan visits Ohio Stadium.
Each year, as a former player, during the Tunnel of Pride I get a tear in my eye and the hair raises on the back of my neck as I get to relive the experience with teammates and the band in front of 107,000 screaming fans.
When Jim Tressel took over as head coach of the Buckeyes things began to change even more.
Personally, I will never forget during the postgame trophy ceremony when the Buckeyes won the National Championship in 2002 and Tressel said on the national broadcast that "We've always had the Best Damn Band in the Land. Now, we have the Best Damn Team in the Land."
Tressel was instrumental in expanding the relationship between the band and the football team when he began his career as head coach of the Buckeyes in 2001. During his first days he met with the band director at that time, Dr. Jon Woods, and asked to start a new tradition where the team sings the Alma Mater with the band at the end of each game.
I spoke recently with the new Band Director of the Ohio State University Marching Band, Dr. Jon Waters. Waters was quick to praise Tressel and also new Buckeye Head Coach Urban Meyer.
"Coach Tressel fully understood the wonderful relationship between the band, the fans, the cheerleaders, the athletic department and the football players themselves," Waters said. "Coach Meyer has kept those traditions going and truly values the role that the band plays... He will occasionally come to our band meetings and give a pep talk to the members. It is a wonderful relationship.
"It is incredible to watch Coach Meyer and his wife, Shelley, as they sing Carmen Ohio with the team after each game. They joy and happiness they exhibit for each other, the band, the team and the tradition is inspiring."
Urban Meyer, just like Tressel wants to help his players understand there is more to their college experience than just football. He wants to educate his players on the traditions of the school and most importantly make his players proud of the University they represent.
As a former player, I can tell you that each and every one of us is proud of the university we represented, The Ohio State University. Just as important, we are proud of the band, the traditions and environment they create and the excellence with which they perform. It mirrors the goals of the football team and it is a true sense of pride for all alumni, just as we as the Buckeye Football Team always strove to be.
While the relationship between The Best Damn Band In The Land and the Ohio State Buckeyes has changed over the years, the pageantry, tradition and pride has not. While time may change some things there are some things will never change.