Great, odd and downright screwball moments in 100 years of Ohio Stadium history

Oct. 10, 1936. Pitt shutout Ohio State 6-0, but the score wasn’t the thing that would impact future games in Ohio Stadium.  Someone came up with the idea of the band spelling out Ohio in script on the field. It became rather popular. Park could always appreciate Script Ohio. His father was in the Ohio State band.

Nov. 25, 1950. This is the epicenter of Ohio Stadium history.  A blizzard hit before and during  the Michigan game, with blowing snow and winds at 30 miles an hour. Vision was impossible, offense hopeless. Michigan won 9-3 without getting a first down. The two teams combined for 45 punts.

Sept. 29, 1951. Ohio State beat SMU 7-0 with a new man in charge. His name was Woody Hayes.

Nov. 23, 1968. Ohio State mashed Michigan 50-14, and went for a two-point PAT after the last touchdown. Legend has it that Hayes was later asked why he’d go for two in a blowout, and his answer framed a classic and bitter rivalry: “Because I couldn’t go for three.” There’s no evidence he actually said that following the game, but it made a great line in a lot of his after-dinner talks later. Bo Schembechler arrived at Michigan for the next season. The Ten Year War was dawning, with Ohio Stadium its Gettysburg.

Sept. 30, 1972. Two weeks earlier in the season opener, freshman running back Archie Griffin got the ball once, and fumbled. Hayes hated fumbles nearly as much as he hated Michigan and Griffin would later say he wondered if he would ever see the ball again in his career. He was listed as fifth string for the North Carolina game. But with the Buckeyes’ offense sputtering early, Hayes followed the advice of assistant coach Rudy Hubbard and gave Griffin another chance. Griffin rushed for 239 yards and a star was born. A half-century later, he remains college football’s only two-time Heisman winner.

Nov. 18, 2006. The only time Ohio State has ever played Michigan in a 1-2 match, and the top-ranked Buckeyes won a 42-39 classic that was tinged with mourning. Schembechler had died the day before. Patko remembers something else about that game. There had been trouble with the natural grass turf that season, requiring it to be replaced twice. “That field they ran on as No. 1 vs. No 2 was two-weeks old,” he said.

Nov. 26, 2016. No. 2 Ohio State over No. 3 Michigan 30-27, in the only overtime game in the history of the series.

So, happy birthday. It opened before Yankee Stadium, before Augusta National, three weeks before the Rose Bowl. The ‘Shoe lives on, in so many ways the beating heart of Ohio State.

To mark the special birthday, and with the help of Patko and Park, here are 11 things big and small to know about Ohio Stadium. Or The ‘Shoe to its friends:

1. The first game was a 5-0 win over Ohio Wesleyan on Oct. 7, 1922. The 605th was a 49-10 romp over Rutgers last Saturday. Overall, Ohio State is 475-111-19 in its stadium, with 21 of those 111 defeats —19 percent — coming against Michigan. That included the dedication game in 1922 that ended with a 19-0 thud. But there have been no Ohio Stadium losses to the Wolverines the past 21 years.

2. When it comes to football stadia, the Big Ten is a senior citizens’ community. Wisconsin’s Camp Randall is 105 years old. Nebraska’s Memorial, Illinois’ Memorial and Michigan State’s Spartan Stadium turn 100 next season, and Purdue’s Ross-Ade the year after. At that school up north, Michigan Stadium won’t turn 100 until 2027.

3. Smith picked farmland near the Olentangy River for his new creation.  “They had to wait for the crops to be cleared that year,” Patko said. Once the project began in late summer of 1921, the work was feverish. Smith designed a railroad spur to bring in materials, and workers labored through the night beneath huge lights. The irony is that it would be 64 years before the Buckeyes played a night game in Ohio Stadium.

4. About the Olentangy.  It flooded the place in the 1950s. The field sits low and needs protecting, and there is now something called a slurry wall, and also a pumping system. "Without that wall and the pumping station," Patko said, “we’d be six feet under water.”

5.Patko’s favorite point in Ohio Stadium is the 70-foot high rotunda on the north end, with three stained glass windows. It is the go-to spot for pictures. There are also the signature arches, some original, some emulated in later renovation. Patko had visited Rome and left with several inspirations eventually seen in his Ohio Stadium drawings.

6. So why did the original horseshoe design bend inward at the open south end? One reason was Smith’s wish to give every fan a better view of the field. Another had something to do with the demand of a certain sport. And it wasn’t football. “Track was as important as football back then. 

7.For more than 60 years, there were dorm rooms on the stadium’s west side for students in a work-study program. Their advantage was obvious for sold-out games. They were already in the house, sort of.

8. CLANG! CLANG! CLANG! A 2,420-pound Victory Bell was placed in the southeast tower of the stadium in 1954 and rung after Ohio State beat California. It’s still there, and it’s the responsibility of the Alpha Phi Omega co-ed fraternity to ring the ball after every win.

9. There has been soccer in Ohio Stadium. Lacrosse. The Rolling Stones. Also commencement speeches by four U.S. presidents and Neil Armstrong, two years after he landed on the moon.   

10. Ohio Stadium was put on the list of National Register of Historic Places in 1974. Few college sports venues are on that list. P.S. The Big House isn’t one of them.

11. With Park's help, here are some of the days in the life of Ohio Stadium:


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