Curious Cbus: Who Rings The Victory Bell At Ohio Stadium?

Sep 22, 2017

This story is part of the Curious Cbus project. You ask the questions, you vote for one of the questions and we answer.

What is the sound of victory?

When the Ohio State Buckeyes take on the University of Nevada-Las Vegas Rebels on Saturday afternoon, in their third home game of the season, everyone within a 5-mile radius of Ohio Stadium may hear the ringing of the Victory Bell.

Listener Marcia Baum asked about who’s responsible for the ringing of that bell. At last weekend’s Ohio State-Army game, we left the field to follow this story up the bell tower.

Decades Of Tradition

During the final quarter of the OSU-Army game, as fans decked out in scarlet and gray begin to make their way down the stairs of Ohio Stadium, members of the co-ed service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega are heading up to ring the Victory Bell.

“We are gathering here outside of Gate 32 and we’re about to head up the elevators so that we can ring that bell as soon as we win the game,” says Emily Long, president of the fraternity.

Long and other members of Alpha Iota chapter ring the bell for 15 minutes after every Buckeye victory. They ring it for 30 minutes for victories against Michigan, or as Long says, “that team up North.”

Ohio State University's marching band performs their "Script Ohio" formation in a 2008 game.
Credit alonglens/Flickr

Not surprisingly, it’s a popular tradition among the fraternity members. Ohio State senior Allison Susor has rung the bell 5 or 6 times.

“It’s my favorite activity, it really is,” Susor says.

Susor was born and raised a Buckeye fan – literally.

“My dad left my mother in labor to go get me a Buckeye outfit, because I was going to be born early and born before the Ohio State-Michigan,” Susor says. “So this is like a big deal for me.”

While the rush of excitement that comes with ringing the Victory bell never gets old, Susor says, the tradition itself is old.

“On October 2, 1954, Ohio State beat Cal Tech at home and that was the first time Alpha Phi Omega ever rang the bell,” Susor says. “It was donated by the class of 1954, if I’m not mistaken, and when they donated it, they said the community service organization would be the only people to ring it ever since.”

Alpha Phi Omega members Emily Long (left) and Allison Susor (right) before ringing the Victory Bell at the OSU-Army game.
Credit Erin Gottsacker

From The Top Of The Tower

Today, Alpha Phi Omega members maintain the tradition faithfully. After every home win, members gather in the southeast corner of the stadium, file into an elevator and ride up five stories before taking to the stairs.

“We go straight up, then you turn the corner and you’re in the bell tower and it’s very dark, very ominous,” Susor says.

With Ohio State close to victory against Army, Long, Susor and 10 other members of Alpha Phi Omega enter a dark boiler room. Everyone takes their places, forming a line so that each person gets to take a turn.

The Victory Bell at Ohio Stadium was donated in 1954 and first rang by the Alpha Phi Omega fraternity after a game against Cal Tech.
Credit Erin Gottsacker

At 2,420 pounds, the Victory Bell is heavy, and it takes multiple people to get the bell moving.

“It’s pretty large, and the rope is pretty thick – you need both hands,” Long says. “Sometimes you can be taken right up with it.”

That means the bell is also loud.

“The whole bell tower kind of shakes a little bit,” Long says.

As the clock outside the bell tower counts down the seconds until the end of the game, members of Alpha Phi Omega brace themselves.

Members of Alpha Phi Omega celebrate after Ohio State's victory against Army.
Credit Erin Gottsacker

The game ends: 38-7. At the moment Ohio State officially beats Army, members pull down hard on the rope – and the bell rings out.

“There’s not much more buckeye spirit that you can get than ringing that bell after a game,” Long says.

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