The REAL Story Behind the Mirror Lake Jump for You Ohio State History Buffs

WashingtonStateBuck's picture
November 26, 2013 at 11:28a

Since this story is making the rounds and as 2013 Beat M*ch*gan Week is well underway, I thought I would share the real story of how the Mirror Lake Jump came about.

I was a trumpet player in TBDBITL from 1988-1991 and was one of the 8-10 band members who started what became known as the “phantom pep band” in 1990. The original idea was conceived by a fellow trumpet player in the band who remains a friend of mine to this day.

Like most great ideas back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, the concept of the “phantom pep band” was hashed out at the Varsity Club (VC). It was decided during the week leading up to The Game that we would meet Thursday night at the VC after band practice with our instruments in tow. While there, we would play school songs for the patrons at the VC and then begin the process hashing out the final “phantom pep band” game plan while drinking lots of pitchers of beer. For those that may not understand, we HAD to drink a lot during during this era. The late 80’s weren’t exactly the “glory years” of OSU football we live in now. That is unless you considered bowl trips to Memphis and playing along side Lee Greenwood in 38 degrees and freezing rain your idea of “fun”. Sorry Lee, but I would have been an even more “proud American” had I been at the Rose Bowl in sunny and warm California that year.

So, contrary to what you may read on the internet, it wasn’t started by then Athletic Director Jim Jones nor to my recollection was he with us. I can say with certainty that AD Jones wasn’t sitting next to me swilling pitchers of beer at the VC as the final plan took shape in between loudly singing the chorus of “Sweet Caroline” many times over on the VC jukebox (the definition of jukebox for younger Buckeyes can be found online). This idea also was not sanctioned by TBDBITL or Dr. Jon Woods. It was more like Animal House 101.

It was decided that we would start at the south campus dorms at Park/Stradley Hall, playing school songs and encouraging students to follow along with us as we made our way through campus. The end goal was that we would finish at the band’s practice field (used to be on the west side of the stadium at the time) where we would perform the Ramp Entrance for all of the students who were with us. Upon doing what can only be described as a very inebriated Ramp Entrance thanks to the bota bags of whiskey we were carrying with us to stay warm, we disbanded.

As 1990 was an absolute BLAST, we decided to do this again the following year in 1991, my final year in the band. However, this time students were expecting it. Hundreds of students at each dorm stop were already hanging out of their windows when they heard us coming playing the fight song and quickly started running out of the dorms to join us. The number of students was well into the thousands by the time we arrived at the stadium. Sadly, it was in 1991 that we started to notice campus property being damaged and cars being overturned as we rolled thru campus.  We tried to stop students from damaging things but that turned out to be an impossible task. It was clear this thing we had created the prior year had taken on a life of its own that we could no longer control. Sadly, we had a feeling that 1991 would be the final year we would be able to do the “phantom pep band.”

It was during the second year that for the first time I heard students chanting “Mirror Lake” after we did the Ramp Entrance at the stadium. Shortly afterwards, off went the huge crowd to Mirror Lake. We followed and ended up playing there as well. I later heard that a few students had jumped into Mirror Lake in 1990 but nothing like 1991. It was insanity although certainly not by present day standards. As expected on Monday following The Game, we were told by Dr. Jon Woods and campus police that TBDBITL could no longer be involved and that the “phantom pep band” was not allowed to continue and the rule was reiterated that all TBDBITL pep bands needed to be approved. However, the tradition of the Mirror Lake Jump during Beat M*ch*gan Week did continue on.

And the rest is history...

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Alhan's picture

Is this your personal story Washingtonstatebuck? I only ask due to the reference in there to younger "O-zoners" making it look like it came from a different site by that name (not that it couldn't mean you just wrote it there first). Props to helping start a great tradition if it was you!

In any case, great story! I enjoyed the read.

"Nom nom nom" - Brady Hoke

OSU_ALUM_05's picture

I wonder how _any great ideas start with .....
"So _e and _y buddies were sitting around the bar drinking pitchers of beer when we decided......."
Great post

Yeti's have feelings too.

WashingtonStateBuck's picture

Oops, sorry! Yes, it is my original story. I had posted it on The O-zone as well so that accidently stayed in there. I will edit that. Thanks! Go Bucks!

Alhan's picture

No problem. Its a great story!

"Nom nom nom" - Brady Hoke

buckguyfan1's picture

Thanks WSB! Cool to hear the REAL story!

1MechEng's picture

Cool write-up!
I transferred to OSU in Summer of 92. I distinctly remember the Phantom Band and the throngs of people waiting to go to the practice field and Mirror Lake during my first _ichigan week.
I was a resident in Drackett Tower, and remember the "bands" coming from every area (Morrill / South / North) to get the students, and then meeting near the oval/library. Once the crowd (of several thousand students) had arrived, we proceeded with decorating William Oxley Thompson courtesy of several bras donated from inebriated girls. Then someone led the group to the practice field to perform our own rendition of Script Ohio, followed by the requisite trip to Mirror Lake. It was bedlam, pure and simple.
That year, a number of the wooden beams for the garage parking gates were ripped off and carried around like trophies. The crowd TP'ed the trees around Mirror lake and the oval. (The dorms were out of TP for several days following this event!) One way to know how out of control it had become was when students tried setting fire to the TP hanging from the trees!
1992 was the biggest event I saw, as the University tried to reign it in over the next few years. IIRC, there was an edict put forth that any band member caught participating in phantom band would not get to perform that weekend.  
Thanks for bringing up the history and the memories!

Bolt's picture

I always thought the story went along the lines of...Woody Hayes at a young age was being baptized in the cold waters of Mirror Lake and then all of the angels fell from heaven and landed upon the lake to bless the now holy waters...which was the first Mirror Lake jump ever.

Jonnferrell's picture

Thanks, Bolt, for the real story.  I always loved the part where the voice came from heaven saying, "This is my beloved coach, in whom I am well-pleased."  Long live the Mirror Lake tradition!

"I miss Brady Hoke."

WashingtonStateBuck's picture

Great point, 1MECHENG on the edict. I forgot to mention that but that so true. Any band member caught participating in phantom band would not get to perform after that.  
I remember only two incidents when campus police showed up in the band room. The first was regarding the phantom band and the second time was when the stadium astroturf was being ripped up and replaced. Band members were finding any tool we could find to rip up pieces of the turf. They noticed pieces were missing. 
They were letting band members know that they were not allowed to cut up any of the astroturf from the field as it was all accounted for and was going to be auctioned off. 
As the police officer was telling us this my feet were resting on the entire '4' from the 40 yard rolled up like a piece of 6 foot carpet as sweat began dripping down my face. 
Got it out to the car after it got dark outside. 

Buckeyeneer's picture

Great story!

"Because the rules won't let you go for three." - Woody Hayes

THE Ohio State University

Bucksfan's picture

To this day, a few people show up with horns and play the fight songs at Mirror Lake.  It is unclear whether they are true TBDBITL members, or if they're former high school band warriors, or what.  But I always liked that they were there.

AC1972's picture

I can attest to all of this...I was a student at Ohio State at the time and my sister was in TBDBITL, she told me all the stories and I followed the phantom band across campus.
It would be absolutely awesome if the phantom band came back...

prevetbuck's picture

As a current member of the OSU Athletic Band (but not TBDBITL), I can say that even we are warned that we would be in deep trouble if we showed up to play... However, maybe that will change now that the university is basically taking over the whole thing (or trying to, anyway).

Doc's picture

_y now wife partook in 1992.  She says E. Gordon held on to her for dear life asking her not to let him go when the crowd got so big they were _obbing him.  I told her that wasn't the reason he was holding on to her ;)  I've been holding onto her ever since. 

CJDPHoS Member

The Official DDS of 11W

Baroclinicity's picture

Gee was there?  Crazy!

When you're holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

bishop072's picture

This is an awesome factoid. Thanks!

Go1Bucks's picture

I re_e_ber when being recruited in 1981, that we finished out the night in *irror Lake.  Best night ever along with all the partying along High Street.  Long walk ho_e dripping wet and cold.  Glad they _ade it tradition after that.
The beer was a _andatory require_ent. cheers!

Go Bucks!

EastSide's picture

We jumped in before the 1988 and 89 game. Not sure when it really started but I know before 88.

741's picture

This is a great article, but I can personally attest to the fact that a mob of students were led across the South Oval by members of TBDBITL (toilet papering everything in site en route, and pretty much demolishing a wooden kiosk on the Oval) to Mirror Lake and hundreds of students (if not thousands) jumped in on that Thursday night before the Michigan game in 1986.
I know this because I jumped in, and my clothes literally froze on my walk home from Mirror Lake to Morrill Tower. That was the only year I lived in the dorms, and the only year I participated in the jump.
I knew nothing about it in advance. To me, it happened spontaneously that evening, and I quite literally stumbled into the rally on my way home from the South Campus bars (in the heyday of Papa Joe's).

bucksfan92's picture

I was at OSU from '89-'92 and since I didn't live on campus and was at work by 3 pm every day I never even knew the jump existed until after I had graduated.  I really wish I had known because it is something I would have been doing for sure.  I missed out on so much not living on campus, and that is why I tell my younger relatives and friends who are thinking about living at home - don't do it!  live on campus and get the full experience.

TBDBITLinWIScantSON's picture

Um, who are you? Band name will suffice. I too (as a rookie in '90) was dragged into that night. I also remember a stern talking to by woods after that. 
Lee greenwood and marching with 50 HS bands did suck, but Beale street was pretty great.


4thandinches's picture

I would never have guessed this tradition was so young. I am glad to see that every generation is capable of starting a good tradition. 

I wasn't born a Buckeye but I became one as fast as I could. 

TBDBITLinWIScantSON's picture

I just found out I was present at the inauguration, and I just assumed it had been going on "forever". I was surprised it's relatively new also


buckeyedude's picture

I think this is a pretty cool tradition, which I've never had the pleasure of being a part of.
I did some shit that I regret when I was drunk in my 20s. But one thing I cannot understand is why anyone would want to destroy property at the school that they so claim to love?  
I guess I'm getting old.



Jordan Wagner's picture

Thanks for the great story!

Brutus's picture

Didn't go to Ohio State.  Couldn't find Mirror Lake with a map.  Yet I find this story to be awesome.

locko48's picture

Freshman daughter jumped Monday and Tuesday.  She loves Ohio State!!!