If you’ve ever watched Ohio State play football, you probably noticed the Buckeye leaves on their players’ helmets. These stickers are part of a long-standing tradition that dates back decades. However, many fans may need to learn why the team is called the Buckeyes. The buckeye tree, Ohio’s recognized state tree, is referenced in the name.
The Buckeye Tree
The Buckeye, Ohio’s official state tree, also inspired the team’s name. Its leaves can be seen on the decals applied to players’ helmets when they score a big play — a tradition that began in 1968 under legendary coach Woody Hayes at the request of trainer Ernie Biggs.
In our climate, the buckeye tree (Aesculus glabra) is an easy-to-grow shade and lawn tree. It produces greenish-yellow spring flowers, pumpkin-orange leaves in autumn, and — most importantly — buckets of shiny brown nuts.
Fans like Brad Kern use them to symbolize Scarlet and Gray pride during football season. The Buckeye is an understory tree in its native habitat and needs deep, well-drained soil. Drought can damage it, so it’s best to plant it in a protected location like the back of the yard. It’s also susceptible to leaf blotch.
The Brutus Buckeye
Brutus is beloved within sports arenas, but he’s also known outside them as the embodiment of college football. He’s a champion of charitable endeavors; he’s a giant in the world of college mascots. He’s a part of who many students at Ohio State are, and that’s especially true for the individuals who make up his costume.
According to the university’s website, Ray Bourhis and other student organization members Block “O” convinced the athletic council that Ohio State needed a mascot in 1965. Live animals were considered, but a papier-mache buckeye was ultimately selected. The mascot debuted on Oct. 30, 1965, at the homecoming game against Minnesota.
Today, anyone on campus can try out to become a Brutus. The process includes attending workshops and clinics and a panel interview. Applicants must meet academic criteria and have an appreciation for the role. They’re expected to represent the school at sporting events and community events.
The History of the Name
When you think of Ohio State football, the first thing that comes to mind is probably Brutus Buckeye. He’s the school’s beloved mascot, a big part of OSU’s tradition, and he even plays a role in encouraging fan excitement through pregame rallies. But how did he come to be? It all starts with the buckeye tree, a native to Ohio.
The Buckeye is a famous symbol of the state, and it has given rise to other OSU traditions, including putting “buckeye leaves” on helmets for player achievements. The Buckeyes are one of the nation’s most successful college football programs. They’ve won eight national championships (including three in the 2014 season) 41 conference championships, and have produced some of the NFL’s best players.
And they’ve done it all under legendary coaches like Woody Hayes, Jim Tressel, and Urban Meyer. But what’s behind their enduring nickname? The answer might surprise you. It’s just a simple reference to the buckeye tree.
The Future of the Name
It’s no secret that college football fans are obsessed with their teams and the history behind them. But what you may need to learn is that there are a few quirks that distinguish some colleges from others. For example, some schools use animals as their mascots while others don’t.
But in the case of Ohio State, it’s all about the Buckeye. Ohio is called the Buckeye State because of the prevalence of buckeye trees when the territory was first settled in the 18th century. The Buckeye is a distinctive tree with a nutlike seed and a lighter color spot resembling a deer’s eye.
The Buckeye has become an iconic symbol of Ohio State, and the team is well-represented by its mascot, Brutus. Ryan Day, who has been in charge of the squad since 2022, has guided it to two Big Ten titles and one national championship.