When the Ohio State football team invaded enemy territory last weekend, they were not alone. Not only were they accompanied by thousands of Buckeye faithful who made it possible to get an ‘O-H-I-O’ cheer going around The Big House yet another year, the Ohio State Marching Band was also in attendance. This marked the fourth road game of the year for TBDBITL, a very busy season but one that has allowed tens of thousands of people, OSU fans and opposing fans, to see the band who would not normally see them due to not being able to attend a game in Columbus.
The band departed Columbus on Friday and headed north to Sandusky, Ohio where they performed a concert at the Kalahari Waterpark and Conference Center. A group of students from high schools in the Sandusky area had the privilege to spend part of the day with TBDBITL director Jon Waters where they got to learn about the band. Things got even better for those students when they got to play with the band on stage for part of the concert. I thought this was a very classy move on the part of the band, giving these high school students and their families a memory they will cherish forever while also doing a great job of recruiting for the band.
After spending the night in Toledo, the marching band never stays in that state up north, the band boarded their buses early Saturday morning for the drive to Ann Arbor. After an early morning practice and lunch, the band marched into the stadium and set up shop on the sideline; OSU is one of the few Big Ten schools to give opposing bands proper seats in the stands as opposed to bleachers or chairs on the sideline. Prior to the game, the band joined the football team for the now traditional ‘quick cals.’
The band then took the field for their traditional road pregame show featuring a floating ‘OHIO’ while playing the fight song, a salute to the opponent with ‘Hail to the Victors’, and concluding with the incomparable Script Ohio. As expected, the band was met with a chorus of boos from all of the Wolverine fans but that didn’t faze the band, in fact I can say from my time in the band that the boos just serve to get the band more fired up for their performance. Following the OSU band’s pregame performance, the Michigan Marching Band took the field for their traditional pregame show.
At halftime, the OSUMB once again took the field first where they reprised their Gettysburg show from the Indiana game last week. In general TBDBITL always tries to take a patriotic themed show to Ann Arbor in an attempt to minimize the booing from the Michigan fans and to get them to pay more attention to the show; while this doesn’t stop all the booing, it does have some effect.
Now that The Game is over, the band, like the football team, is preparing for its first multiple game postseason thanks to Ohio State earning its first berth in the Big Ten Championship Game which will be followed by a bowl game. One of the first pieces of business for the band to take care of is to determine who will be dotting the ‘i’ in the postseason Script Ohios. During the regular season, the ‘i’-dotter for each game is determined based on seniority. The fourth year sousaphone player who has marched the largest number of ramps, meaning that they have performed in the most number of games as a regular and not an alternate, will get first choice of which game they want to dot the ‘i’ in. Then the remaining fourth year sousaphone players will make their choice based on seniority with any remaining i-dotting opportunities then going to fifth year sousaphone players. In the postseason, things work a bit differently with the i-dotters determined by a ‘dot-off’. For the ‘dot-off’ the eligible sousaphone players with perform their i-dot routine (strut and bow) for the rest of the section who then votes on who did it best. Since road games normally feature a double Script Ohio, the best two sousaphone players get the opportunity to dot at the bowl game. This year the existence of the Big Ten Championship Game meant that four sousaphone players were chosen in the ‘dot-off’ with two dotting this Saturday and two dotting at whatever bowl game OSU goes to.
The Big Ten as a conference excels when it comes to marching bands, almost assuredly having the best collection of bands in the country. The fans at this year’s Big Ten Championship Game will have the rare treat of seeing what are probably the two best bands in the conference on the same field. Under director John Madden, not the former Oakland Raiders coach and NFL commentator, the Spartan Marching Band has achieved an excellent reputation and is known for its quality sound and highly skilled and entertaining drum line. Of course TBDBITL is obviously no slouch itself and the battle on the field and at halftime should rival or likely surpass that which will occur between the football teams during the game.