Former Ohio State football coach Earle Bruce will take his place in one of the most memorable traditions in college athletics as he dots the “i” in Script Ohio on Oct. 1, during pregame of the Ohio State-Rutgers homecoming game. Bruce is being recognized for his service to the university and for his longtime support of its Marching Band.
“The Ohio State University Marching Band has been an important part of my life and held a special place in my heart for many, many years,” says Bruce, now 85, who served as head coach from 1979 to 1987. “I am proud to be an honorary member of the band, and being offered this unique opportunity to dot the ‘i’ for the signature Script Ohio is incredibly special to me and something I never even imagined. I think this is the greatest honor I’ve ever received.”
The recognition, considered the greatest the band can extend to a nonmember, is being presented by the “i-dotters” — the senior sousaphone members of the Ohio State Marching Band. The students visited Bruce at his home in July to surprise him with the invitation.
“We chose Earle Bruce to be an honorary i-dotter because of his amazing work with the football team and his love for the band,” says fourth-year student Cy Aalaei, a sousaphone player who will dot the “i” when Ohio State plays Michigan on Nov. 26. “He demonstrated his excellent leadership and commitment to our team, but the moment he felt like a true Buckeye, as he fondly recalled with us, was when he first heard the band as a freshman at Ohio State.”
In 1950, Bruce arrived to Ohio State as a student and played on the freshman football team. Freshmen did not dress for games at the time, so during the 1950 season opener, Bruce was watching as a spectator.
“I was sitting in the stands with my fellow players when the band entered the field,” says Bruce. “They marched up and down the field, and the drum major threw his baton in the air — and I jumped up and said, ‘I’m a Buckeye!’ That’s when my love for the band truly began.”
While a torn meniscus prevented Bruce from joining the varsity team, Woody Hayes offered Bruce a position on the coaching staff, which he held until he graduated in 1953 with a degree in physical education. After holding high school coaching positions around Ohio, Bruce returned to Ohio State from 1966-1971 as an assistant under Hayes before ultimately succeeding him as coach in 1979.
As head coach of the Buckeyes, Bruce led Ohio State to an 81-26 record, including five bowl wins and four first-place finishes in the Big Ten. Along the way, Bruce continued to place great stock in the role of the band for the team and for the university. As a result, Bruce was granted lifetime honorary membership in the TBDBITL Alumni Club in 2005.
“While coaching at Ohio State, I considered the band to be an extension of our team,” says Bruce. “I saw a lot of similarities between the band and our football team — they are hardworking, dedicated, tough and successful.”
“My father took me to my first Ohio State football game in 1985 when I was nine years old, and ever since then, I’ve known Earle as a coach and as a leader,” says Christopher Hoch, director of Marching and Athletic Bands and assistant professor in the School of Music. “However, I’ve come to know him as much more than that, particularly because of his immense love and respect for our Marching Band. His contributions to Ohio State are profound and deep-rooted, and I’m thrilled that we can honor him through our university’s greatest tradition.”
Since his tenure with the football program, Bruce has continued to serve the university community, most notably through his advocacy for Alzheimer’s research. Bruce lost his father and younger sister to the disease, while his older sister currently has it. With his late wife, Bruce established the Earle and Jean Bruce Alzheimer’s Research Fund in Neurology through Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center, and every year, he hosts the sold-out “Beat Michigan” tailgate and the Athletes Against Alzheimer’s Radiothon to benefit the fund.
The invitation to be an honorary i-dotter has only been extended to a select few individuals over the history of Script Ohio, which celebrates its 80th anniversary this October. Previous honorary i-dotters have included comedian Bob Hope (1978), Hayes (1983), golfer Jack Nicklaus (2006), and Sen. John and Annie Glenn (2009). The most recent was Marching Band director emeritus Jon R. Woods, who dotted the “i” upon his retirement in 2011 after 38 seasons with the band.
The Ohio State vs. Rutgers game begins at noon on Saturday, and Script Ohio will begin about 15 minutes before kickoff. Bruce will also be recognized at Skull Session, the band’s free pregame pep rally at St. John Arena, which will begin at 9:40 a.m.
Information for this story was provided by The Ohio State University.