The color black is one of the most popular, yet on the Ohio State Buckeyes, the color black is something that freshmen players are hoping to shed and avoid as quickly as possible. The origins for this mindset go back to head coach Urban Meyer's first season in Columbus in 2012.
Even before Meyer was named as Ohio State's head coach, he abhorred the old college football traditions of hazing by upperclassmen to incoming freshmen. Wanting to welcome new players into the fold as part of a larger football family, Meyer instituted a concept of a black stripe that would be applied to the helmets of freshmen football players. Upperclassmen would be designated as a "big brother" to a freshman, and would be responsible to help and acclimate their designated "little brother" into the program.
How would a freshman know if they were doing the right things, on and off the field, as the season approached? The designated big brother would make a public announcement to the team, by ritualistically removing the black stripe from the helmet, symbolizing that the freshman should now be considered ready to contribute to the team.
In the words of Meyer, “I wanted to put them through a ritual to become a member of the team, but not allow hazing,” Meyer said. “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."
So far this season, three players have had their black stripes removed from their helmets — offensive tackle Isaiah Prince, running back Mike Weber, and wide receiver K.J. Hill. Prince was the first of the players to have the black stripe removed, while Hill was the latest. By the time of this publication, it is possible that other players may also have had their black stripes removed.
Who will be next? It is certainly a popular guessing game for Buckeye fans and media members. No matter, Buckeye freshmen players are hungrily working towards the moment when the black stripe will be removed, and will be able to avoid going to practice "Back in Black."
— Written by Chip Minnich, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a diehard Ohio State fan. Minnich also writes and podcasts for menofthescarletandgray.com, a site dedicated to Ohio sports with a special emphasis on the Buckeyes. Follow him on Twitter @ChipMinnich.