“I only came to dot the ‘i'”

Chelsey Long dots the ‘i’ at the OSU vs. Illinois Game. Photo courtesy of Crockett Photography.

As you approach the northeast corner of Ohio Stadium, specifically near gate 10, it is likely that you will notice many cars with bumper stickers that proudly display the acronym, “TBDBITL.” “TBDBITL,” or, “The Best Damn Band In The Land,” notoriously represents the Ohio State University Marching Band.

As a Buckeye, the Ohio State University Marching Band does more than just provide a few minutes of routine halftime entertainment while you sit and anxiously await the game to resume, as others scurry around you, making trips to the concessions or the restrooms. Instead, it’s almost as if the band demands full attention during its performance. At Ohio State, the band’s performance is as much anticipated by the fans as the actual football game.

In the band center, you can often find Zacke Naughton sitting at one of the many music stands in the room, in front of the large mural-like wall of Script Ohio. Naughton came to Ohio State from Illinois for one reason. “I always tell people that I only came to Ohio State to dot the i,” Naughton said.

Naughton was half-heartedly watching Ohio State play in the Fiesta Bowl during the 2002 season with his family in Illinois. Not being a diehard football fan, Zacke was uninterested in the game. It wasn’t until the Ohio State University Marching Band took the field that Naughton really began to show enthusiasm. The band cranked out an impressive performance, including a double Script Ohio. Naughton, who had recently begun playing the tuba, had noticed that the sousaphone player had the privilege of “dotting the i.” He thought to himself, “Hey, that was really cool. Maybe I’ll have the chance to do that someday.” That very thought ten years ago is what led him here, to The Ohio State University, where he currently plays the sousaphone.

i-dotter Jocelyn Smallwood practices her ‘dot’ at the Skull Session before the OSU-UM game. Photo courtesy of Crockett Photography.

This didn’t come without great sacrifice, however. Naughton left his friends, family, and security of home in Illinois to attempt to earn a position in the Ohio State University Marching Band, which is never guaranteed. In order to ensure his success, he moved to Ohio alone and rented a studio apartment a month before school began. During his early stay in Ohio, he practiced playing the sousaphone religiously, every single day. He worked on his music while executing his marching, with high hopes of becoming a member of TBDBITL.

With hours and hours of hard work under his belt, that goal was achieved.

While there are numerous aspects of the band’s performances that gain praise and respect, the historically most noteworthy part of the performance is the band’s formation of Script Ohio, where a sousaphone player “dots the i.” Script Ohio originated in 1936, under Eugene Weigel’s direction. His idea for Script Ohio was inspired by sky writers, as well as scrolling texts at the Ohio Theatre. Naughton said that Weigel wanted the Ohio State University Marching Band to have a definitive trademark. He definitely achieved that goal.

The actual tradition of dotting the i, however, occurred merely by chance. John Brungaurd, an E flat cornet player, happened to be in the right place at the right time, so they say. He was the last person in the line and just filled in somewhere on the field, accidentally dotting the i. In 1937, the “i dotter” position was changed. Weigel replaced the e flat cornet player with a sousaphone player, being that the sousaphone was much more noticeable.

There are prerequisites that must be met as a sousaphone player, to even be considered for the honor of dotting the i. To begin, you must have been in the Ohio State University Marching Band for four consecutive years, and during all four of those years, you must have played the sousaphone. Next, there is a ranking system. For instance, a sousaphone player’s likelihood of dotting the “i” is based on how many games they have marched and how many the number of performances they have been a part of.

Zacke Naughton is a 3rd year in the OSUMB, and will dot the ‘i’ in the 2013 season.

When the “i” is actually dotted in Script Ohio, there is an overwhelming sense of pride that overcomes Buckeye fans. There is something so powerful about seeing Script Ohio on the field, created by Buckeyes. Whether you are a current Buckeye, alumni, or merely a fan, there is no denying the power of this sight.

This feeling is achieved each week, due to the immense efforts by every single band member. As an Ohio State University Marching Band, a spot on the field is never promised. Tryouts are mandatory for every band member each year, and it isn’t uncommon that a fourth year member be cut. Once a member, the spot as a “regular” can be challenged and taken every week, so there is intense pressure to be flawless at all times.

It is because of these high standards that the Ohio State University Marching Band is “TBDBITL.” The Ohio State University Marching Band and Script Ohio are both nationally recognized and it is without question that all Buckeyes are extremely proud to be represented by the great and talented organization that is our marching band. Dotting the i is not just the final step in completing a visual for a stadium. It is symbolic of The Ohio State Buckeyes and everything they stand for.

About: Taylor Stockwell

I'm Taylor Stockwell and I am senior at THE Ohio State University. I am graduating with a degree in Communication Analysis and Practice. I'm an Ohio native with a deep appreciation for traveling, adventure, education, and athletics.