Brad McDavid will be wearing purple at the Rose Bowl on Tuesday, but he might feel a stirring of scarlet and gray in his heart while watching Ohio State sousaphone players dot the 'i's' in a double Script Ohio.
McDavid is the marching band director at the University of Washington — Ohio State’s bowl opponent — but he is also a central Ohio native, a 1985 graduate of OSU and a former sousaphone player in the Ohio State band.
He has dotted the "i" four times: three as an undergraduate and once with the alumni band.
McDavid, 56, is in his 25th season at Washington, a tenure that makes it a stretch to say his loyalties on Tuesday will be divided. But the Rose Bowl certainly will be meaningful.
“People ask me who will I be rooting for and, obviously, that’s an easy answer,” he said. “But to be sharing the field with my alma mater — yeah, that will be very special.”
The fact that his two schools are meeting in the Rose Bowl brings McDavid’s experience full circle.
While watching the OSU band march in the Tournament of Roses Parade in 1969, McDavid developed a goal: “My parents said, when I was 6 years old, I pointed at the sousaphone section marching down the street and said that’s what I wanted to play someday.”
And he did, demanding to play tuba when instruments were introduced to him at Centerburg Elementary School in Knox County. Several of his band directors at Centerburg were OSU graduates, strengthening his resolve to become a Buckeye band member.
His mother, Judy McDavid, said she and her husband, John, took Brad on several college visits, “but it was really useless to take him anyplace else. He had no other dream.”
The McDavids still live in Centerburg.
Brad McDavid first dotted the "i" against Northwestern in 1983, his fourth year in the OSU band. He did so again that season during the Michigan game and once more in 1984, his fifth and final year.
McDavid and his fellow fifth-year band members were thrilled, he said, when the Buckeyes landed in the 1985 Rose Bowl despite having two losses.
“We wanted desperately to go, but we had kind of given up on it."
The unique atmosphere of the Rose Bowl made the day memorable, he said.
“When you march down Colorado Boulevard (in the Rose Parade) and then on the field when you cross that big rose emblem, it is an emotional experience."
McDavid began his career teaching and directing the band at Licking Heights High School. He spent several years at a high school in Tempe, Arizona, and one year as a graduate assistant at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana., then returned to Ohio State to work as a graduate assistant under director Jon Woods in 1992 and '93.
He was hired at Washington in 1994, when the Huskies hosted the Buckeyes in their home opener in Seattle.
“I won’t kid you, that was tough,” McDavid said. “One day, I’m sitting there planning shows with Dr. Woods, then Washington calls — and the next thing you know, I’m staring at the Buckeyes across the field.”
In 2003, when Washington played Ohio State on Alumni Band Day at Ohio Stadium, fate afforded McDavid an unusual opportunity.
Because the Huskies — having brought only a small pep band — didn't march that day, he obtained permission from his bosses to participate in the OSU Alumni Band pregame show.
“I wore my purple band shirt, along with gray pants and a scarlet beret,” he said.
He dotted one of the two "i's" in the double Script Ohio.
The trip to the Rose Bowl this season has proved especially meaningful for the Washington band.
On Nov. 22, while traveling in a caravan of buses from Seattle to Pullman, Washington, for the Huskies game at Washington State, 47 band members were injured when one of the buses overturned on an icy stretch of Interstate 90. All but one have recovered enough to make the Rose Bowl trip, McDavid said, although several will not march.
"We call it our Thanksgiving miracle," he said.
For the Rose Bowl, McDavid and Ohio State Band Director Chris Hoch have worked out several collaborations.
The bands will hold a joint rehearsal Monday and, on Tuesday at the end of their pregame performances, join together to play “God Bless America."
“I’ve known Brad for years, and I’m excited to be out there with them,” Hoch said. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity.”
The OSU band will perform a dual Script Ohio during its pregame show, but Washington won't perform its Script Huskies, McDavid said. The latter tradition is performed only once a year, at homecoming; plus, time won't allow for it on Tuesday.
“It takes a lot longer to do seven letters than four,” McDavid said with a laugh.