Sept. 3, 2005
As the old saying goes, the only two things that are certain in life are death and taxes. For many Buckeye fans, seeing Brutus Buckeye at football games may seem just as certain. However, this was not always the case.
Brutus turns 40 years old this year, and if that nut could talk, he probably would have some great stories to tell.
In 1965 Ray Bourhis, an Ohio State student, decided the Buckeyes should have a mascot to represent them on the field. He knew other teams used animals as their mascots, but the only animal he could come up with to represent the Buckeyes was a buck deer and he did not think it would be feasible to have a deer on the sidelines at football games.
Since there really was no animal that could represent the team, Bourhis figured he would have to do something directly related to the actual Buckeye name. He decided the best mascot for Ohio State was a costume of an actual buckeye.
Bourhis' student organization, Ohio Staters Inc., helped him make the papier-mch shell that was worn by the original Ohio State mascot. It weighed 40 pounds. By comparison, the current head is made of lightweight rubber, is covered with material similar to fake fur and weights approximately five pounds.
The original mascot was well received by the crowd, but had a different look than the mascot of today. He had no arms and the shell went all the way down to his waist. Essentially, he was a big buckeye nut with legs.
The mascot made its first appearance at the homecoming game against Minnesota in 1965. After only two weeks, it was obvious a couple slight changes had to be made. The first mascot was replaced with a 22-pound fiberglass shell that included big furry eyebrows. At 22 pounds, the new mascot was much lighter than the original and easier to haul around.
Buckeye fans loved the new addition on the sidelines of football games, but he did not have a name. The name was to be decided by a campus wide contest and on Nov. 18, 1965, the judges announced senior Kerry Reed had submitted the winning name "Brutus." Reed's prize was a $50 department-store gift certificate.
Despite the newer mascot being easier to haul around, it was still too big to just put on a bus or plane.
"I remember when I cheered during my senior year, the Michigan game was away," current cheerleading coach Judy Bunting said. "We had to rent a U-Haul just to get Brutus up there. That made for an easy target for Michigan fans and they broke into the U-Haul and spray painted him maize and blue."
Jamie Cleverley, who was Brutus from 1996-99 experienced a Rose Bowl victory and a trip to the Final Four, said his favorite game was his last appearance in Ohio Stadium when the Buckeyes beat Michigan 31-16 in 1998.
Cleverley had never given any thought to being Brutus until his high school, Worthington Christian, made the state championship game in basketball his senior year. One of the ushers noticed Cleverley was full of school spirit and painted red, and told him that if he was coming to Ohio State, he had to be Brutus.
"Being Brutus was so much fun for me," Cleverly said. "Getting to be with the fans, and see the loyalty and dedication they have for Ohio State was incredible."
For the first 10 years of his life, Brutus was cared for by "Block O," a student spirit organization. However, in 1974 controversy arose. After the Buckeyes won the Big Ten championship in 1974, third-year Brutus, Keith Burkes, was excited for the upcoming Rose Bowl trip. The problem was "Block O" could not pay for Brutus to come along.
After feature articles began to appear in The Columbus Dispatch, the public was outraged. The general feeling was Brutus needed to be at the Rose Bowl. The Ohio State Department of Athletics stepped in and saved the day. It paid for Burkes' way out to Pasadena. After that season Brutus' care was transferred from "Block O" to the OSU cheerleading program.
The first year in the cheerleading program brought the first major change to Brutus. The costume changed from a large buckeye with legs to a winking, smirking head that was basically just a mask. The original thought was to have a mask because it would not be as heavy, but the fans did not accept the new Brutus at all. The once friendly appearing nut had been replaced with a mascot that had a squinting eye and a vicious sneer. After just one home game, it was obvious the old Brutus needed to return.
In 1977, Brutus tried to trim down in size a little bit. The new Brutus was bell-shaped and wore a ball cap. He closely resembled the original. However, in an attempt to trim Brutus down, he ended up weighing much more. That fall Sandy Foreman became the first female performer in what was one of the toughest seasons ever to be Brutus. She received the unenviable task of lugging around the new 80-pound costume.
Despite weighing too much, and being too hot, that particular Brutus did have an interesting feature; the person who was in costume actually used seat belts to control the movement of his eyebrows. The wiggling eyebrows were a big hit among fans in Ohio Stadium.
Prior to 1981, the first alternate on the cheerleading squad always took over the role of Brutus. However, in 1981 it was decided to have a separate tryout to see who would be the mascot. The costume also underwent another big makeover.
The large head was loved by most fans, but it simply was not easy on the person under the shell. The old version was too heavy, and too big, to be able to conveniently travel to road games. To remedy the situation, Brutus took on more of a human form. Although the head and clothing have had minor modifications over the years, the change in 1981 has lasted, and has greatly impacted the way Brutus interacts with fans. Along with a smaller body and head to make getting around much easier, the change also gave Brutus arms so he could point at the action on the field and lead cheers along with the cheerleaders.
"The great thing about Brutus is that he is loved by 2-year-olds and 82-year-olds," Bunting said. "The same cannot be said about every mascot, but Brutus has been loved by fans of all ages for 40 years now."
Happy Birthday Brutus!
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