In college football, the word “lose” is rarely associated with a positive outcome. Lose your playbook, lose the ball, lose the game—these are all bad things. But at the Ohio State University, a freshman’s biggest win can be losing his black stripe.
The tradition isn’t so much an OSU thing as it is an Urban Meyer thing. While he was head coach at Bowling Green, Meyer introduced the practice of having all members of the freshman class wear a thin, black stripe on their helmets. The symbolism was simple—freshmen had to do the right things before they earned the privilege of having their black striped removed.
“I wanted to put them through a ritual to become a member of the team, but not allow hazing,” Meyer told The Columbus Dispatch in 2012. “They had to earn it the right way, not through hazing and silly, dangerous stuff. They had to earn the right on the football field and by being accountable.”
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Meyer has carried the tradition with him ever since. The idea is for upperclassmen to aid the freshmen in getting their black stripe removed by showing them the right way to conduct themselves on and off the field. When a player finally does earn the distinction of having his black stripe removed, it’s a cause for celebration. Check out some recent clips of OSU freshmen getting their black stripes stripped from their helmets:
Eli Apple, now a cornerback for the New York Giants, was the last member of OSU’s 2013 Class to get his black stripe removed. “It was a moment I’d been waiting for since I got here last spring. Everyone was getting their black stripe off, and I was the only one who had their black stripe,” Apple told Cleveland.com shortly after getting his stripe removed. “For me to get an opportunity to show out and get my black stripe off, it meant a lot to me.”
The vast majority of freshmen at Ohio State won’t get playing time during their first season on campus. Having the tangible goal of getting their black stripes removed gives them something to aim for each and every day, resulting in a stronger team atmosphere. While a simple black stripe might not seem like much, there’s no doubt the tactic has helped get young Buckeyes to buy into the program.
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