There’s no doubt that The Ohio State University (OSU) is one of the greatest schools in the nation. It’s great for both its academics and sports.
Everyone who attends OSU is, in some capacity, a Buckeye. Even those who didn’t attend may grant themselves the designation of being a Buckeye based solely on their love for their team. This connection could be through a family member, friend, or just growing in or around Columbus, Ohio. But what does it really mean to be a Buckeye?
What is a Buckeye?
Before I answer the question of what it means to be a Buckeye, I want to address what a buckeye is.
If you are from Ohio, then you probably already know that the buckeye is a nut that falls from a buckeye tree. Even if you aren’t from Ohio, you probably could have figured that one out. Although buckeye trees are most common in Ohio, they also extend into parts of Western Pennsylvania.
There are other variations of the buckeye tree that are found in Tennessee, Alabama, and even in parts of California.
When the nut first falls from the tree it is in a soft, prickly, light green casing. Once the casing is removed, the buckeye is revealed. It’s a really beautiful smooth medium brown colored nut that looks similar to a chestnut, but with a small tan spot.
The word buckeye comes from the Native American word, “hetuck”, which translates to “eye of the buck” because I guess they resemble deer eyes?
Although the raw nut is toxic to humans and some animals, they are high in protein and the Native Americans figured out a way to cook the toxins out of them so they could be eaten; however, today, the most common use for buckeyes are to make necklaces, keychains, or just a good luck nut to carry in your pocket.
What Being a Buckeye Means to Me?
If you grew up in Columbus, Ohio you know that The Ohio State University plays a huge role in the community.
The University has one of the leading cancer research hospitals in the world. It is considered “Best of the Best” in veteran-friendly schools and is ranked number 3 nationally in industry-sponsored research. It also consistently has one of the best sports programs in the nation.
Throughout Columbus, you’ll find OSU academic, athletic, administrative, and medical buildings. There’s always some reminder of the importance of the University in the community.
My First Experience
In the fall of 1987, my friend Erik Falaska invited me to an Ohio State Football game. I was 12 years old and at the time I really didn’t really understand the meaning of being a Buckeye. My dad grew up in New Castle, PA, and wasn’t much of a college football fan. He followed the Pittsburgh Steelers so that is all I knew when it came to football.
Erik’s dad worked for OSU during the home games. I’m not really sure what he did, but I remember that we didn’t have seats in the stadium. Instead, we were on the field level!
At the time Ohio Stadium, aka “The Shoe”, had a track around the football field. During the game, Erik and I really didn’t care about watching it but rather we walked around the track taking in the incredible feeling of being on the field in a packed stadium of 90 some thousand. Needless to say, it made for one memorable experience.
We also spent a lot of time underneath South Stands collecting commemorative cups that would fall from the bleachers. Back then South Stands were a massive and removable set of metal bleachers. In 2001, The Shoe underwent a renovation that removed the bleachers and added permanent South Stands.
When the game ended, Erik and I ran out on to the field with his dad. I remember running into one of the football players; this guy was probably the tallest and largest man I’ve ever seen. He towered over me like a giant, but rather than fear, I felt a sense of pride. This man represented a team that millions of people around the nation adored. And I had the privilege of being on the field with him.
Earning the Right
Although I didn’t graduate from OSU, I did take some classes there and have earned my academic right to be considered a Buckeye, but going to OSU didn’t define me as a Buckeye.
Being a Buckeye goes so much deeper than being a student or a fan of one of the sports teams.
What defines me as being a Buckeye is sharing camaraderie with other people who share my same affliction and love for the traditions, ideas, and spirit.
It’s an appreciation for the University and everyone who plays a part in making it great. And it’s a love for all the teams that represent The Ohio State University.
Are You a Buckeye or Just a Fan?
Regardless if you went to OSU or not, anyone who shares a love for the University and its teams can be considered a Buckeye.
If someone grew up with a family member or friend who never went to OSU but loved the team, that love can easily rub off. Thus, turning you into a Buckeye by affiliation.
Living in Columbus, I knew a lot of people who were fair-weather Buckeye fans. They would root on the Bucks when they were on top but disassociate themselves when the Bucks would have a rough year.
Other people may wear the Buckeye gear and tout that they are fans, they may even know about the players and statistics, but they lack the spirit that goes into being a Buckeye. Those people may be Buckeye fans, but they are not true Buckeyes.
Five Signs of a True Buckeye:
- They always have great stories to share about their experiences being a Buckeye.
- If they can tell you how to walk (or stumble) from the Varsity Club, through the tunnel between St. John Arena and the French Field House (and tell you what is yelled while in the tunnel), and finally making it across Woody Hayes Drive to the stadium, they are a true Buckeye.
- If they recognize coach Earl Bruce having lunch with his family and get excited to see him; 20 years after he retired, they might be a true Buckeye.
- Knowing the words to Across the Field, The Buckeye Battle Cry, and Carmen Ohio is a sure sign you are talking to a true Buckeye. Although this is not a requirement it’s certainly a bonus!
- If you plan your wedding around a Buckeye home game, you might be a true Buckeye!
Being a Buckeye comes from the heart. You wouldn’t abandon your kids if they don’t do well in sports. But rather continue to encourage and cheer them on no matter what.
Some of my best memories were spent with my kids tailgating on Woody Hayes Drive and Lane Avenue. I’ve even had the pleasure of meeting and hanging out with the greatest OSU President ever, Dr. Gordon Gee.
Being a Buckeye is so much more than the shirts we wear or the games we watch. It’s truly about the love for The Ohio State University and the people you share it with. Go Bucks!