Celebrating 100 Years of Ohio Stadium

Ohio Stadium under construction
Ohio Stadium under construction (1922)

The ‘Shoe is celebrating a century! As Ohio Stadium turns 100, University Archives is giving campus visitors a peek inside its history, traditions, milestones, pageantry … and even some lesser-known curiosities. “A Walk in Our ‘Shoe: 100 Years of Ohio Stadium” is a free exhibition that will be on view in Thompson Library Gallery from Aug. 20, 2022, until February 26, 2023.   

“Ohio Stadium has long been a gathering place for so many people,” Tamar Chute, university archivist, says of the engineering marvel that opened in 1922 and can hold more than 102,000 fans for football Saturdays and countless other events. “The exhibit is a chance to share the diverse stories that surround the field experience in the ‘Shoe, from raucous football rivalries and record-breaking track meets to commencement ceremonies, star-studded musical concerts, marching band wonders, and so much more.” 

Here’s a quick look at just a few of the highlights of the Libraries’ exhibition: 

A black and white photo of a young woman in Ohio Stadium. She is holding a trophy in one hand and a bouquet in the other.

Marlene Owens’ Homecoming Trophy 

The daughter of world-famous Olympic athlete Jesse Owens, Marlene made history in her own right at Ohio State. In 1960, she was crowned the university’s first African American homecoming queen … and her dad handed her the trophy in front of a crowd of more than 83,000 in Ohio Stadium. Owens reportedly said when presenting the trophy, ”Remember darling, it could only happen in America,” a comment echoed in newspapers across America.  

A black and white photo of Woody Hayes in Ohio Stadium. He is wearing a dark baseball cap, glasses, a collared shirt and a striped tie.

Football Coaches’ Case 

Three Buckeye football coaches, each heralded for their contributions, will be spotlighted. Chute said the three are being acknowledged because of their influences on the sport, their community and the university.  

  • John Wilce (1913-1928), led the Buckeyes onto their new field when Ohio Stadium opened. He also earned his medical degree during his coaching tenure, later serving as director of Ohio State’s student health services for more than two decades. 

  • Woody Hayes (1951-1978), was one of the most decorated coaches in college football history. Under the legendary Hayes, his team won 205 games, captured five national titles, won 13 Big-10 championships, and played in eight Rose Bowls. Off the field, Hayes embodied the spirit of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay to “pay it forward”, supporting charities such as Children’s Hospital and Easter Seals. He was as proud of his players’ high graduation rate as he was of their success on the field. 

  • Jim Tressel (2001-2010), saw his team win the 2002 national title. Now president of Youngstown State University, Tressel published the book The Winners Manual in 2009, donating its proceeds to benefit the William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library Renovation Fund. 

An article from a 1972 alumni magazine that includes a photo of Professor Williams holding the molds for his ashtrays.

The Unwanted Ashtray 

To celebrate Ohio Stadium’s dedication, an industrial engineering professor designed an aluminum ashtray mimicking the new horseshoe-shaped stadium, aiming to sell the memento to fans for $1 each. Michigan spoiled the day with a 19-0 win, and not a single sale was made. Left with a large supply of ashtrays, the professor began giving them away to any student who took his foundry course. The custom continued, more replicas were cast in the foundry over the years, and an estimated 600,000 stadium-shaped ashtrays have been distributed.  

A black and white photo of four young men engaged in various activities in a dorm room in Ohio Stadium.

Stadium Dorm Rooms  

In an early move to increase access to higher education, Ohio State opened barracks-style housing space in the stadium’s southeast tower. According to Chute, during the Depression, many students dropped out of the university because they couldn’t afford tuition and housing. In 1932, Dean of Men Joseph Park devised the idea to house male students inside the stadium in cooperative housing; in exchange, the students were expected to work in the dormitory.  

An old, yellowed flyer that reads "The Ohio Stadium: A Magnet to Draw the Spark of Loyalty!"

The Magnet Campaign 

We all know it as the horseshoe-shaped stadium, but a closer look also reveals its magnet shape. “In a brilliant 1920 marketing campaign appeal to the public to raise construction funds, the stadium was publicized as ‘the magnet that will draw the rest of the world to Columbus.’”