Skull Sessions

Part One:

In 1932, Ohio State music director Eugene J. Weigel decided he wanted to enhance the Buckeye band’s performance. By having members completely memorize music before each week’s game, Weigel felt that the bandsmen could concentrate more on the marching maneuvers without sacrificing the music.

Weigel then scheduled a final rehearsal of the music before game time so the band could play and think through the show one last time – one last “Skull Session.”

In the old Rehearsal Hall there was room for a few hundred parents and fans to sit in on the skull session and listen. Eventually, watching this rehearsal became so popular that tickets were issued to bandsmen to make sure their parents had seats.

After a new basketball arena was built in 1957, director Jack Evans requested its use for the last rehearsal before game time. OSU Athletic Director Richard Larkins was happy to oblige, as he was eager to show off the new facility. The Skull Session was later changed to a concert/pep rally atmosphere, and that tradition continues today.

While in Columbus for the weekend, we were told on several occasions by local fans that we needed to check out the “Skull Session”. So, about two hours before kickoff, we walked into the now old basketball arena (a new one opened a few years ago). Hanging from the rafters were banners from old basketball titles, including the 1960 national championship (a team which included John Havlicek, Jerry Lucas, and a sub by the name of Bobby Knight). A crowd of around 10,000 was on hand, just to watch the band practice.

But it was more than a practice. The football team, all dressed in suits, paraded through the gym. A local high school band performed. A young conductor of around age eight or nine led the “Best Damned Band in the Country”. The band, while running through its playlist for the game, even played the CU fight song (nice touch).

The highlight, of course, was the senior sousaphone player “practicing” his run out to dot the “i” in script Ohio. The event was fun, entertaining, and got the fans pumped up for the game.

Everything you would want from a college football tradition.

Part Two:

Dateline: Monday, September 26th.

Place: Dal Ward Center, Special Teams meeting room

Event: Skull Session

After the debacle at the Horseshoe, Colorado special teams coach J.D. Brookhart gathers up the disheartened Colorado special teams unit. “We spend 35 minutes at practice on special teams,” said Jon Embree after the Ohio State game. “We play young guys but there are no excuses. They are out there and we expect them to execute. We just keep emphasizing what we need to do to make it better.”

J.D. Brookhart takes to the podium, and clears his throat …

“Before we take the field, we need to go over the poor play at Ohio State. In honor of the Buckeye band, we’ve decided to have a ‘skull session’ to review what took place, so we can keep similar plays from happening again:

“Skull session Play No. 1 – The opening kickoff. A 45-yard return to start the game? Really?;

“Skull session Play No. 2 – The first punt of the game. A rugby style kick. Now I know that after the game, Coach Embree said: ‘Right now our hang time is not good enough to do what we want to do from a pure coverage standpoint against a returner like that. We were doing that to allow our coverage unit to get down the field and minimize the return’, but a 20-yard kick? And a potential fumble recovery missed? That particular error set up the Buckeyes at our 43-yard line. Next thing you know, it’s 7-0;

“Skull session Play No. 3 – Ensuing kickoff returned to the 19 yard line. We were last in the nation the past two weeks in kickoff returns. Don’t you think it’s time we at least got to the 20?;

“Skull session Play No. 4 – Early in the second quarter. We’re already down 10-0, but the defense forces a punt. Rodney, instead of letting the ball bounce into the endzone, you fair catch the ball at the five yard line. What’s up with that? I know that you were nervous playing before the home folks, but isn’t every junior high returner taught the same lesson: ‘Stand at the ten yard line. If the punt forces you to back up, let it go’? Instead, we’re at the five. A three-and-out leads to a short field, and now its 17-0;

“Skull session Play No. 5 – Ensuing kickoff returned to the 17 yard line. See Skull session play No. 3;

“Skull session Play No. 6 – CU scores! Momentum! And our kickoff goes … out of bounds? With the penalty, the Buckeyes get to set up camp at the 40 yard line. We’ve now kicked the ball out-of-bounds on a kickoff in every game? Really? I didn’t know that;

“Skull session Play No. 7 – Our defense forces another punt! Only 15 seconds remain, but you never know, so we call time out. The OSU punt carries 11-yard line. No problem. Ohio State only has one time out left. If there is no return, we’re still okay. Even if the ball is downed at the one yard line, we can still run out the clock. But wait – Speedy tries to fair catch, and fumbles! Really? Another three points for the home team, and all momentum from the touchdown and defensive stop are gone;

“Skull session Play No. 8 – Not only do we not return the second half kickoff past the 20-yard line, but we’re called for a holding penalty, setting up the offense at the nine. Predictably, the O goes three-and-out, and the Buckeyes are given a short field. Game over. 24-7 early in the third quarter;

“Skull session Play No. 9 – Kick return once again fails to get past the 20-yard line – and another penalty putting the ball back at the ten. Am I detecting a pattern here?;

“Skull session Play No. 10 – After Will Oliver hits a 47-yard field goal – Well done, Ollie! Six-for-six to start the season! You’re excused from the rest of the session – the following kickoff is returned 90 yards to set up another easy Ohio State score. So our options on kickoffs are to kick it out of bounds, or let the opposition have a long return? Are there no other options? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?;

“Skull session Play No. 11 – Our next kickoff return only makes it to the 15 yard line. But hey, at least there was no penalty this time!

“Okay, so here’s what we are going to do. Like the Ohio State band, we are going to work on all of the above plays until we get everything corrected. We are going to be perfect from here on out. We are going to practice so well, we can play this ‘music’ without notes. Are you guys with me?? …

“What’s that?

“Oh, our 35 minutes are up for today. Let’s start again fresh tomorrow …”.



2 Replies to “Skull Sessions”

  1. You know, when I read that I was thinking the same thing.

    “We spend 35 minutes at practice on special teams,”

    I got about a sentence past that when it registered. I read it again.

    “We spend 35 minutes at practice on special teams,”

    Houston, we have a problem……….

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