What I Dot

By Sarah on October 8, 2012 at 3:00p

When teams, especially ranked ones, enter an opposing stadium, it's not uncommon for the home crowd to greet their visitors with a cacophony of boos. Ohio State is no exception, but when Nebraska came to town this past Saturday, the fans didn't voice their loudest displeasure for a 74-yard pass from Taylor Martinez to Kenny Bell or the extremely questionable roughing the passer penalties.

Just like Ohio State's running game, Nebraska couldn't stop Script Ohio.Nick Ater dots the i in front of a record crowd, Nebraska kickers

Instead, the Buckeye faithful were most upset with Nebraska when their kicking practice at halftime threatened to obstruct Script Ohio, a tradition so rich the modifier "incomparable" is often included in its description.

For a school that boasts "The Best Damn Band in the Land", you don't mess with the marching band, a sentiment shared by the writers on this site.

Luckily, the show would go on and the i was dotted just as many Ohio State fans, whether they're musically inclined or not, have fantasized of doing one day.  

The sousaphone player who managed not to run over Brett Maher was Nick Ater, a 4th year criminology major from Clarksburg, Ohio. Nick, who graduated from Adena High School—the same alma mater as the first lady of Ohio State football, Shelley Meyer—has been a member of the Ohio State marching band since his freshman year. He also dotted the i the previous week at Michigan State.

Thanks to Nick—who in full disclosure is a relative of mine via my mom and his dad being first cousins—for talking to us about his time in TBDBITL, the demands of the marching band and how it feels to dot the i.  

How long have you played the sousaphone? Have you always dreamed of dotting the i?

I've been playing the sousaphone since freshman year of high school. Yes, I have dreamed of dotting the "i" since I was in the eighth grade.

Tryouts for TBDBITL are known for being intense and highly competitive. What goes into auditioning and how did you prepare?

Tryouts consist of four eight-hour days. When you have never made the band before, you are required to attend the first two days, which are called "Candidate Days." These days are to prepare you mentally for going up against veteran members who have much more experience. The last two days are for everyone, and they are a grueling set of days that really separate the good from the bad. The idea of the four long days is to check your drive and your stamina. Part of the two days is a music audition, which in itself counts for 50% of your overall score. So to prepare, be a well-established player, be in good physical shape, and know whether or not you really want to be in the OSUMB.

Once you've made the band, it's time-consuming work. What's a typical game week look like for the band? What about on game day? 

A typical game week is: learning new music and 30+ charts of drill (which no other collegiate marching band does in one week's time); memorize music for the show and pre-game performance; and get your uniform dry cleaned, purchase new gloves and spats, and wash and bleach your cross belts. This is all for our Saturday uniform inspection, which directly affects our grade. Friday is Gray day, which is our last rehearsal before game day and when we typically do our music checks. The music checks are to make sure everyone has their music memorized and if they don't, they have an option to appeal to a director and possibly pass or fail. If someone fails three times, they are dismissed from the band.

What are some of the obligations, such as other events where you may have to play, for the band during the non-football part of the year?

Every now and again we have an offseason pep band, but other than that the Athletic Band typically takes care of all the the other events.

And a dry-cleaned uniform.Nick with his sousaphone 

How is it decided who dots the i? When did you find out you were going to be doing it for both the Michigan State and Nebraska games?

To dot the i, you must be at least a 4th year in the marching band and be a sousaphone player. The band has a militaristic ranking order among the rows, and that is how we decide who gets what game. Example: 1st in the class will get first pick, 2nd gets the next pick, and so on. I decided to do the Nebraska game around the beginning of April.

What are the duties of the i dotter for the week leading up to the game?

The i dotter of the week always has shirts made up, so I have been busy getting those distributed and also trying to work on knowing the counts for the script (being that sousaphone players don't typically go that far through the script) and working on my strut.

What's been your best experience at an Ohio State game? What about your favorite road trip? How do opposing fans treat the band?

I would definitely say the Sugar Bowl, my sophomore year. It takes the best experience and road trip. Opposing fans are typically neutral; every now and then you get a fan who is really nice, and you'll get a fan who is really mean.

Other than Script Ohio, what's your favorite TBDBITL tradition?

Definitely Skull Session.

Over the last five years or so, it seems like the band has performed more complicated and exciting halftime shows. Have you noticed the same kind of evolution? During your four years, which performance do you consider to be the band's best?

The band prides itself on tradition through innovation. We try new things, and if they catch on they stay. So we try doing more modern drill and it has really gotten the attention of the crowd. But yes, I do notice the evolution. I would say to the crowd, they went especially crazy over the Halloween show we did in 2009. We did choreographed dancing to Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and the crowd went crazy. But they also really liked our Beach Boys drill from earlier this season.

What was it like dotting the i?

It was amazing. It went by very quickly, but it was fulfilling just the same.

How did you feel about Nebraska's kicker taking the field during Script Ohio?

He was completely classless to do that, but I didn't let it take away from my experience. I think everyone else is more bothered about it than I am. 


Comments Show All Comments

toad1204's picture

The way they're going the concession stands are going to suffer as more backsides keep the seats warm for the half time shows.  The Beach Boys (Miami) show was awesome with the surfer, but they out did themselves with the horse on Saturday.

Nothing like dancing on the field in 02... 

Boxley's picture

The halftime show is lighting up all over the internet. Great job by the band this week as always.

"...the man who really counts in the world is the doer, not the mere critic-the man who actually does the work, even if roughly and imperfectly, not the man who only talks or writes about how it ought to be done." President T. Roosevelt

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

NICE write up of TBDBITL and what they go through to make them the best!
I'm thoroughly surprised that nobody went out and kicked the kicker ass!

The best thing about Pastafarianism? It is not only acceptable, but advisable, to be heavily sauced

hodge's picture

loathe it when people outright disrespect marching bands, of any type.  I remember in high school, as our band was marching back to the bus after an away win for our football team, a few people thought it would be funny to try and run through our lines...Well, we were tired and since we were walking back to our bus, we weren't really concerned with looking perfect, so our instruments were hanging loose;  but this one guy decides that he's gonna be "cool" and run right in front of me, so I called all of the trumpets to "trail" (which wasn't even a legit call--needs to be called from attentior-- but whatever), and as my arm snaps parallel, I crack the doucher right in the gut with my arm and my trumpet...reminded me a lot of the cameraman who got hit with the sousaphone when he got too close to the bow after the player dotted the "I".
On an unrelated note, people seem blissfully unaware that a marching band will literally trample you if you're in the way.  I watched a girl trip at a competition and literally get knocked out as a line of about 15-20 people fell all over her.

toad1204's picture

A little part of me was hoping the trainder/ coach? wouldnt have moved them just so that they would have been close enough to feel the wrath as that big piece of brass came over his shoulder, but that wouldnt be so classy.  Glad we scored that final TD.

Nothing like dancing on the field in 02... 

buck-I.8's picture

I don't like to admit it, but I was on the battery of a competition band in HS, and we were always told to run over judges if they got in our way. Band members can easily do as much damage as a linebacker

drumsontheside's picture

From the back of the script I could barely see the players, but man the drummers were getting pumped up when the crowd started booing! It really made us feel like the crowd had our backs. What made it perfect is how as soon as Nick started the strut, all of the boos turned into the loudest i dot cheer I've ever witnessed! 
On another note, here's a message for TSUN:


bassplayer7770's picture

On another note, here's a message for TSUN:

Well done, Sir!

spqr2008's picture

We need to have the ability for multiple upvotes for this comment

yrro's picture

Glad you felt that way. I wanted to scream my head off at the players, but it felt wrong to boo with the band still on the field. I wasn't sure you could see them and was worried you'd think it was directed at you.

highwire's picture

I would just like to say thanks for providing me with my new desktop background!

Abe Froman's picture


Basking in the wake of mediocrity.....

gravey's picture

Dude.  WE ALWAYS  GOT YOUR BACK.  We love the band.  I've been to a lot of other universities and none of them can hold a candle to TBDBITL.

drumsontheside's picture

Thanks man! Well, our job is to always have the football team's back, and that relationship between team, students, band, fans, cheerleaders, and the rest of Buckeye Nation is what sets us apart from any other place. What a great time to be a buckeye!


Boxley's picture

Nicely done, or should I say, "Well played". 

"...the man who really counts in the world is the doer, not the mere critic-the man who actually does the work, even if roughly and imperfectly, not the man who only talks or writes about how it ought to be done." President T. Roosevelt

ccollins0325's picture

Thank you for this inside look at TBDBITL! Growing up in Columbus, the Skull Sessions were a treat. My father and I would go even when we weren't going to the game. We went often in the late 80's as my older sisters were friends with Richie Parks at West High School. 

buckeyeEddie27's picture

It sounds cliche' but i really did get goosebumps just looking at that pic ^^ up there.   so bad ass.

I know there's a game Saturday, and my ass will be there.

Poison nuts's picture

It's not cliché at all -- it gave me goosebumps too.

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

buckeye56's picture

Skull Session is by far my favorite part of a football Saturday.  I'm terrified what will happen with it if the plan to eventually tear down St. John Arena really happens.

smith5568's picture

Perhaps I am an asshole, but I never thought about the bowl ban robbing senior band members of their final bowl experience until now. That is such a shame.   

Bucksfan's picture

Because Nebraska is so new, there really wasn't anything about them to really get my blood boiling.  Their fans are really nice, and it's a top-10 program, their coach is a former Buckeye (but a hell of a grump).
Taking the field during TBDBITL's halftime show is an act of war.  Taking the field during Script Ohio is pretty much an unsolicited thermonuclear strike.  I can't think of anything else an opposing team could do in Ohio Stadium that would be more egregiously offensive.  It is pretty much unforgivable.
You want a reason for us to hate you forever, Nebraska?  You just got one.

BuckeyeVet's picture

Great article. Congratulations, Nick!  My neice, "Donk", will be dotting the "I" at the Michigan game this year, and we'll all be there cheering our heads off. Btw, Saturday has to be the best halftime show I've EVER seen you guys do! Congrat again to you individually and as a group!

"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read."          - Groucho Marx

"The recipient of Oyster's ONLY down vote".

kr66osu's picture

The kickers taking the field during Script (intentional or not) is why I'm perfectly OK with having scored 63 points.
Returning that punt for a TD was exactly what we needed to shove right back in Maher's face

Poison nuts's picture

Very cool to have something written on the band. I just had a nephew try out this year. Unfortunately, he didn't make the cut but he'll try again next year. In my mind & heart - the OSUMB is a equal partner in the tradition of Ohio State football. When I saw the video of the Nebraska kicker on the field - it made my blood boil...Not to try & make it a bigger deal than it was, but that was an epic form of disrespect that made me feel all the better about the game. Not that I ever had a problem with the score or last TD, but after seeing that video, I believe seeing OSU put 100 points on the scoreboard would have been fine by me...

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

SouthBayBuckeye's picture

I would venture to say that this was the first tim ethat the "asshole" chant was ever yelled during script Ohio. 

Banned from ATO since June 3rd 2PMish PST

jestertcf's picture

for those of you who haven't seen it, here is the OSU's band doing video game referances. 

~Because we couldn't go for three~

P-Rickles's picture

I mentioned how classless it was on cornnation.com and got LAMBASTED for it. I didn't care. I stuck to my guns. Come to find out that the conversation was linked on offtackleempire.com and was raked over the coals again for being an "a**hole" because I defended the tradition of Script Ohio instead of Nebraska's kickers. I wasn't even particularly vitrilolic in my exchanges, but it didn't matter. Apparently we're stupid for caring and it's just a band. So much for Nebraska fans being all class. I hate to say it, but maybe Longhorns fans are right: Nebraska fans have purple doo-doo that smells like rainbow sherbet (read: doesn't stink). Personally, I think they're terribly sanctimonious and, unlike Ohio State fans (see: TattooGate), can NEVER admit they are wrong and how DARE you for suggesting otherwise, you monster! "Through These Gates Pass The Greatest Fans In College Football," after all! It really left a sour taste in my mouth.

Brandt can't watch, though, or he has to pay $100.

1stYrBuckIClub's picture

@Sarah, if you're cousins with Nick, you may be related to a friend I went to pharmacy school with, Heather Mace Sowers... She had posted on Facebook to be sure and cheer for her cousin Nick that was dotting the I Saturday... And that's about as memorable of an I dotting as it comes.

Sarah's picture

Yup, she's the daughter of another of my mom's first cousins. 

buckeyedude's picture

I really appreciate the time that the band members must put into their craft.
How could the Nebraska kickers be so stupid as to not realize what they did was very disrespectful? The ONLY excuse I could give for them is if one of the coaches told them to go kick a few. And if that happened, then it makes it even worse.
Maybe Gene Smith should mention proper etiquette in the B1G to the Nebraska AD?



gobucks5413's picture

Was at the game Saturday night, and usually the drunk students are kind of out of it during half time...not so much on Saturday night. They were in it and were just as impressed as everyone else.
Was in East Lansing weekend before last, the Sparty fans absolutely loved the band.....section I was in gave a standing O.
Good work!

Boxley's picture

So many people do so much work for a game to be played and are usually not noticed. Great article, well deserved attention for the band.
There are thousands of people working very hard to make those 8 or so Saturdays a year a great time for all. Thanks to all of them for their hard work and dedication.

"...the man who really counts in the world is the doer, not the mere critic-the man who actually does the work, even if roughly and imperfectly, not the man who only talks or writes about how it ought to be done." President T. Roosevelt

BigBuck623's picture

I'm completely in favor of running up the score on Nebraska after their deliberate disrespect of TBDBITL. Meyer should have let Simon leave the locker room early to tackle the kickers if they wouldn't leave the field. Hey, they're just kickers, they shouldn't mind.

kgus's picture

we were chuckling about the picture of nick with one of our baritones. good call changing it!


osubuckeye4life's picture

I have the utmost respect and admiration for TBDBITL. I'll always have your backs!
TBDBITL is an esential part of College Football. Even fans outside of Buckeye Nation respect TBDBITL.
To be part of TBDBITL it takes an large amount of dedication and hard work. Thank you, we really do appreciate it!
Even times when the team is not doing so well, the band just brings a huge amount of energy. After the half time show I'm ready to run through a wall!! Bring on the second half LET'S GO BUCKEYES!
TBDBITL always brings 110% in every performance I've ever seen.
When I go to a game I stay in the stands (my bladder hates me), since I CAN'T MISS TBDBITL.
Thank you!