Despite regulations, Ohio State tradition for Michigan week continues

By Matt Slovin, Managing Editor
Published November 29, 2013

COLUMBUS — So much of the tradition surrounding the Michigan-Ohio State game is many decades old.

And yet the controversial one that caused quite a stir on Ohio State’s campus this week is proof that the rivalry is still evolving, and new rituals can be started at any time.

Since 1990, Ohio State students have been jumping into Mirror Lake — located just off the university’s Oval, its equivalent of Michigan’s Diag — the week before The Game. When the Big Ten forced the annual game to after Thanksgiving, the jump was moved from around midnight on Thursday to the same time on Tuesday of “Michigan Week.”

According to The Lantern, the tradition began when no more than 100 students completed a parade across campus by jumping in. By comparison, according to Dave Isaacs, manager of communication and media relations for Ohio State’s Office of Student Life, approximately 15,000 wristbands were given out by Tuesday evening. Ohio State has 44,201 undergraduate students for this semester, according to its official website, meaning roughly one-third of the student body planned to participate in the jump. (The Columbus Dispatch reported the actual number was closer to 3,000 participants, according to police.)

The wristbands are the result of a contentious decision, new for this year, by the Office of Student Life. Though Isaacs insisted the event is not university-sanctioned, he said the administration knows how important it is to the students. That’s why, instead of shutting down the Mirror Lake jump entirely, it erected a chain-link fence around the area and put new policies in place to try and ensure only students were allowed to participate, citing safety concerns.

Students disgruntled with the new procedures took to social media to plan a jump for the Monday before the typical Tuesday time.

The Dispatch reported that several thousand Ohio State students and fans knocked down the newly built fence and jumped early.

But the crowd that showed up for the unsanctioned but regulated event on Tuesday was much larger — so large, in fact, that some students said that the security at the entrance gates to the lake stopped checking the wristbands that had been the cause of so much strife in the first place.

They came smelling of alcohol, screaming “Fuck Michigan!” and “U-S-A!” and “We don’t give a damn for the whole state of Michigan ‘cause we’re from O-hi-o!” They came draped in flags, in costume, in scarlet and gray and, in some cases, wearing clothing entirely inappropriate for sub-freezing temperatures. With the windchill, it felt like 23 degrees on Tuesday.

To an outsider, the event seemed almost cult-like — a truly fanatical experience. The students spoke of the value they place on tradition at Ohio State. One said that, if nothing else, every student there shares a common bond of a hatred of Michigan.

And so in that spirit, a newly established school tradition, which one student mistakenly believed had been going on since his grandfather attended Ohio State, continued, even though it looked a little bit different.