Nothing beats the pomp and circumstance of a Saturday afternoon during college football season as fans from across the state and region converge in Athens, Ohio, to support their Bobcats. The campus traditions at Ohio University make every football game a celebration of University spirit.
The green and white colors of Ohio University date back to 1896. Before that time, the University's unofficial colors were blue and white. It soon became apparent, however, that these colors would be unacceptable for the new football team to wear.
The University's then-newly hired football coach, Samuel McMillen, suggested that Ohio adopt as its colors olive green and white, which were worn at McMillen's alma mater, Dartmouth College. The proposal was put before the student body for a vote and green and white became the colors of the school's uniforms in the fall of 1896.
Through the years, the olive green has evolved into a darker "hunter" green color. As a side note, McMillen never coached a game for Ohio University as personal problems prevented him from traveling to Athens in the fall of 1896
Ohio University's alma mater, entitled "Alma Mater, Ohio," was created by a special contest. In 1915, Kenneth S. Clark, a graduate of Princeton University, entered the contest to create an "alma mater song" for Ohio University and won the $150 first prize. Entries for this contest were received from all parts of the United States.
"Alma Mater, Ohio"
Alma Mater, Ohio
Alma Mater, brave and fair!
Alma Mater, we hail thee,
For we own thy kindly care.
Alma Mater, Ohio
When we read thy story o'er,
We revere thee and cheer thee
As we sing thy praise once more.
Ohio University's fight song, entitled "Stand Up and Cheer," has been sung as an "athletic song" since the early 1900s. The song's words and theme were adapted from a previous melody, originally composed by Paul McNeely.
"Stand Up and Cheer"
Stand up and cheer,
Cheer loud and long for old Ohio,
For today we raise
The Green and White above the rest.
Our teams are fighting
And they are bound to win the fray.
We've got the team,
We've got the steam,
For this is old Ohio's day!
Rah! Rah! Rah!
Until 1925, or 29 years after the school colors changed from blue and white, the Ohio University athletic teams were called the "Green and White." At that time, however, the school's athletic board decided the teams needed a nickname and a campus-wide contest was initiated. Many animal nicknames were proposed but after great debate, the Bobcat won for its reputation as a sly, wily, scrappy animal.
Former student Hal H. Rowland of Athens earned the $10 first prize for proposing the winning entry. The new nickname was passed by the board on Dec. 7, 1925, and was officially adopted by President E.B. Bryan.
The Bobcat mascot first appeared at Ohio's Homecoming game against Miami on Oct. 22, 1960. Smartly clad in a bright green sweater and a baseball cap on top of its paper mache head, the Bobcat was a gift to all of Ohio University from the men of Lincoln Hall.
That day, the Ohio football squad smashed archrival Miami 21-0 and went on to arguably the university's greatest football season ever. The Bobcats finished 10-0 that year and were voted the NCAA National College Division Champion.
Dan Nichols, class of '63, was the first Bobcat mascot and set a precedent for several decades that the person donning the costume must live in Lincoln Hall. The Campus Affairs Committee decided that the Bobcat mascot would be a permanent member of the cheerleading squad and would cheer at all football and basketball games.
The Bobcat mascot has changed its appearance many times since 1960 but remains a beloved representative of Ohio Athletics. Nowadays, the Bobcat can be seen at numerous varsity athletic events and visits countless special events in the community.
Ohio University unveiled its new mascot, Rufus, during a ceremony prior to the Bobcats' victory over Tennessee-Martin on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2006. The ceremony began with a video of the mascot interacting with football team members and Head Coach Frank Solich culminating with Rufus roaring into Peden Stadium on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
More than 500 people submitted nominations for the name of the new Bobcat in May. Fans then participated in a naming contest on www.ohiobobcats.com from June through August, selecting Rufus as the official name of the new Bobcat mascot.
Rufus was a popular choice for many Ohio fans because Lynx rufus is the species name for the bobcat. Other fans noted its connection with Rufus Putnam, who presided over the meeting to form the Ohio Company of Associates that resulted in the founding of Ohio University. Putnam was also on the first board of trustees at the University and was honored with the naming of Putnam Hall in 1926.
In addition to the Bobcat costume, which merely symbolizes Ohio's mascot, a live Bobcat was introduced to Ohio University's fans in 1983. "Sir Winsalot," as named in a contest by John and Liz Gillam of Athens, was owned by Ohio University graduate and Columbus resident Richard Widdis.
The animal was kept at the Columbus Zoo until his death. Waddis replaced "Sir Winsalot" with a new cat named "Paws," who can be found in the North America section of the Columbus Zoo.
THE MARCHING 110
One of the finest marching bands in the country, the Marching 110 represents Ohio University at athletic events, parades and festivals around the nation.
In 1923, an Ohio University student by the name of Homer Baird decided that Ohio needed a marching band. He organized the first meeting about such a group at Ewing Hall where over 40 musicians were in attendance. At this meeting, Baird was elected president and made arrangements with a local instrumental teacher named Raymond Connett to direct the band for free.
Gene Thrailkill took control of the marching band in 1966 and made drastic changes including the adoption of the athletic marching style, playing the popular music of the day and originating the "Diamond Ohio" formation to give the band its own trademark.
The name "Marching 110" originally referred to the number of band members in 1967 but the band has since expanded. The 110 now stands for the 110% effort expected of all members at all times.
In 1968, sophomore drum major David Fowler began the tradition of dancing to the new and popular rock tunes of the time. The first dance piece used by the entire band was called "Ain't Been Good" and the 110 still continues to perform the song.
The band's history also includes being the first marching band ever to perform in New York's Carnegie Hall (October 28, 1976) and playing at the Presidential Inaugural Parade and Ball in 1993.
Under the current direction of Richard Suk, the 110 opened for Hillary Clinton's speech at Baker Center in October 1996. "The Most Exciting Band in the Land!" also marched in the 2000 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and has performed in numerous college and professional football stadiums.
The University's biggest football weekend of the year is the annual Homecoming Game. Played in the afternoon, it follows a parade that winds through uptown and ends in the Peden Stadium parking lot.
Ohio was graced by a special guest in 2000 as "Today Show" co-host and Ohio alum Matt Lauer returned to campus to film a special segment. Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart Simpson, was honored in 2002 and actress Piper Perabo (Coyote Ugly, Lost & Delirious, Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle) returned to campus for Homecoming festivities in 2003.
PEPSI TAIL-GREAT PARK
Every Friday afternoon of home game weeks, the park across from Peden Stadium is transformed from its traditional use as a site for picnics, frisbee-playing and the Marching 110 practice field to become Pepsi Tail-Great Park. The park features entertainment areas for children, live music, the smells of charcoal grills and, of course, tailgating.
Parking passes for Pepsi Tail-Great Park can be purchased from the Ohio Athletics Ticket Office at 800-575-CATS or 740-593-1300.
SALUTE TO THE STUDENTS
Win or lose, after shaking hands with the visiting team, Ohio University football players head for the student section to thank them for attending.
The salute features the Bobcats raising their helmets while the band plays the alma mater.
The loudest Ohio tradition is just in its fourth season. An 1800s-style military cannon was designed and built to help celebrate Bobcat touchdowns and extra points.
Residing in the north end zone, the cannon is also used at other times during the game, including the team's initial entry onto the field.
THE BAKER CANE
On October 7, 1995, President Emeritus John C. Baker (1945-61) returned to Ohio University for the celebration of his 100th birthday. Accompanying him on the trip was a cane that had been lent to him in 1956 by Carroll Widdoes, then head football coach, to speed Dr. Baker's recovery from a broken leg.
However, fearing "that it might be university property," Dr. Baker made a point - 39 years later - of returning the cane to the Department of Athletics, his gesture signifying the commitment to "honesty and integrity" that he hopes the Ohio athletics program will continue to uphold. The cane is displayed here as a symbol of that commitment.