Time and Change: Buckeye Grove, A Natural Museum Honoring Football Greats

By Avery DePaola on December 7, 2019 at 8:30 am
The archway leading into Buckeye Grove

Time and Change is a weekly series highlighting the history of some of Ohio State's storied traditions.


Buckeye Memorial Grove was established in 1929 as a dedication to Ohio State’s first football team. An organization known as the Scarlet Key, made up of a group of football team managers, planted the first eleven trees in a football formation. Five more trees were planted to represent every player named to the All-American team.

Under each tree laid a concrete nameplate including the name of the All-American and the years that they played football at Ohio State. One of the first and most notable trees in Buckeye Grove belongs to Chic Harley whose playing career was interrupted by World War I.

Chic Harley's name plate in Buckeye Grove
Chic Harley's name plate in Buckeye Grove

Buckeye Grove is limited to football All-Americans, but athletes such as All-American basketball player, Jimmy Hull had a Buckeye tree in his honor planted across from the original site of Buckeye Grove.

Based on a Columbus Dispatch article dated in 1945, Scarlet Key members would place Buckeye trees on the campus of every Ohio State opponent, but the organization eventually disbanded. Responsibilities for Buckeye Grove then shifted to Ohio Staters, Inc. post-World War II.

Ohio Staters launched a relocation of Buckeye Grove after construction and space concerns. Ohio Staters had big plans for Buckeye Grove including: benches, walkways and a fountain to bring more attention to the historical area of campus. They planted over 100 Buckeye trees in Ohio State’s greenhouse that would eventually make the move over to Buckeye Grove when needed.

In 1966, plans were made to move Buckeye Grove to the hillside of Ohio State’s power plant. The trees were given new nameplates in the shape of the state of Ohio and a once neglected Buckeye Grove was rejuvenated. 

Pathways of Buckeye Grove
Pathways through Buckeye Grove

In 1997, Ohio Staters moved the 90 trees in Buckeye Grove closer to Morrill Tower to enhance the experience of walking through Buckeye Grove and to replace the damaged name plates. This project was estimated to cost $250,000.


Buckeye Grove is currently home to 199 trees belonging to players as early Chic Harley to Nick Bosa with Michael Jordan being added later this year. In a ceremony before the Spring Game every year, new trees honoring All-Americans from the previous season are planted.

A tradition under Urban Meyer, the losing team in the year’s Spring Game are tasked with mulching and cleaning up Buckeye Grove which potentially may or may not continue under Ryan Day.

Football team cleaning up Buckeye Grove
Football team cleaning up Buckeye Grove

Buckeye Grove has become a popular place for students isolated on West Campus, I’m very familiar as I spent my freshman year cooped up in Morrill Tower. To students hammocking from the trees or studying in the grass during the week or fans taking a pass through before game day on the weekends, Buckeye Grove is a place of history and remembrance for Buckeye greats.

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