Oct. 26, 2006
Ohio State’s alumnus and professional golfing great Jack Nicklaus will dot the “I” during Script Ohio at Saturday’s game. Nicklaus is just the fifth non-band member to be accorded that honor. The others are: Ohio State President Novice G. Fawcett, actor/comedian Bob Hope, Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes and OSU ticket director Bob Ries. Script Ohio will take place at halftime.
The “i”-Dot Tradition
If it were not for the mind of Eugene Weigel, the sousaphone might still be viewed as nothing more than the instrument at the back of the band. Instead, because of Script Ohio, sousaphone players from all over the country choose to attend Ohio State and try out for the band, just for a chance to dot the “i”. Very few get the opportunity to dot, but those who do remember it forever…
History of the “i”-dot
At its first performance, the Script Ohio’s “i” was dotted by a trumpet player, with no special attention or honor being given to the movement. When the trumpet player, John Brungart (1933-36), dotted the first Script Ohio “i” October 10, 1936, the march from the top of the “o” to the top of the “i” was just another movement to complete a formation. Brungart simply took his place in a complex single file line drill. Over 60 years later, the honor of dotting the “i” is known throughout the world.
Because director Eugene Weigel provided several new floating formations throughout the 1936 season, the first Script Ohio was seen by bandsmen as just another formation. No charts were used–Weigel simply placed members in their spots. “We knew that we did something different, not started a tradition,” Brungart said, “I wasn’t picked to dot the ‘i’, I was just in the right place at the right time.” Script Ohio was performed two more times during the 1936 season, both with Brungart dotting the “i”.
During a field rehearsal in the fall of 1937, Weigel had a spur-of-the-moment idea, and shouted to Glen R. Johnson, a sousaphone player, “Hey, you! Switch places with the trumpet player in the dot.” After several run-throughs with the exchanged positions, the script was ready to be performed. At the game on October 23, 1937, the marching band, led by drum major Wesley Leas, performed with Script Ohio with Johnson dotting the “i”. Johnson was in the band from 1937-40, and during all of those years he dotted the “i”. From that time forward, the i-dot became the province of the big horns. The familiar kick, turn, and bow by the sousaphone player at the top of the “i” was an innovation introduced by Johnson at a game in 1938. “(The turn) was an impulse reaction when drum major Myron McKelvey arrived three or four measures too soon at the top of the “i”,” Johnson explained, “so I did a big kick, a turn, and a deep bow to use up the music before Buckeye Battle Cry. The crowd roared when this happened, and it became part of the show thereafter.”
Having become the object of attention, occasionally the lucky musician dotting the “i” was identified for public notice. In the 1950’s, several i-dotters at the Rose Bowl were named in nationwide news releases. Many have been interviewed by local TV stations and national networks during the week before their “dots”. The media attention given to the i-dotter has only intensified the thrill this privilege gives.
Several prominent individuals and couples have been honored by being allowed to dot the “i”. This is considered the greatest honor the band can give to any non-band person, and is an extremely special (and rare) event.
Honorary “i”-dotters with the OSU Marching Band include: Bob Hope, Woody Hayes, OSU President Novice Fawcett and his wife, Retired ticket director Robert Ries, and now Jack Nicklaus. OSU president Gordon Gee, his wife, retired directors Dr. Paul Droste, Jack Evans, their wives, and Heavyweight Champion Buster Douglas have also dotted the “i” with the OSU Alumni Band. Additionally, all thirteen seniors of the 2002-2003 National Championship Football team dotted the “i” at the National Championship celebration.
Band members and band staff have maintained that the privilege of dotting the “i” is ‘Not For Sale’ — the tradition is reserved for sousaphone players and, on very special occasions, persons near and dear to the marching band, The Ohio State University and the State of Ohio.