Ohio State marching band to stage prerecorded performances for football games

Joey Kaufman
Buckeye Xtra
The Ohio State Marching Band performs Script Ohio prior to the NCAA football game against the Michigan Wolverines at Ohio Stadium in Columbus on Nov. 24, 2018. [Adam Cairns/Dispatch]

Ohio State’s marching band will not be at football games this fall, but it will conduct pre-recorded pregame and halftime routines.

The performances will be broadcast by the school on a livestream during games, including Saturday’s season opener against Nebraska.

Known among fans as The Best Damn Band in the Land, or TBDBITL, it performs on the field at Ohio Stadium prior to kickoff, launching into its iconic Script Ohio formation, and at halftime, carrying out various themed shows.

Marching bands, cheerleaders and mascots are prohibited from attending games this season across the Big Ten, which is limiting capacity due to the coronavirus pandemic. That also leaves Brutus Buckeye impacted.

Only about 1,600 people are expected to be in attendance at Ohio State home games this season, including players, coaches, officials, staff, media members and families of players and coaches.

The Buckeyes will have a maximum of 656 guests of the team, along with 400 for visitors.

On a Zoom call with reporters on Monday afternoon, athletic director Gene Smith said seating the band would be the highest priority for the school if it is permitted to add more people to the stands this fall. There are more than 200 band members, including a pair of drum majors. 

Varying stadium capacity limits across the 11 states in the Big Ten's geographic footprint prompted the league to put in place a strict limit on attendance, according to Smith.

"We just felt like we needed to be consistent and not have a crowd competitive advantage," Smith said.

To this point, allowing families of players and coaches has been the first priority for schools.

In an interview with The Dispatch last week, Smith admitted it will make for a surreal scene, with the stadium lacking its much of its usual pageantry in the pandemic-affected season.

"It's just going to be weird,” Smith said. “I don't know how else to describe it." 

To make up for the absence of fans, the school has offered cardboard cutouts of fans that can be placed in the stadium.

Assistant athletic director of ticketing Brett Scarbrough said they had sold 4,300 cutouts as of Monday.

At the end of games, the team will still sing “Carmen Ohio.” In previous years, they have gathered in the south stadium end zone for a rendition in front of the band.