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Block O keeping its presence felt

The raucous and highly engaged students who make up Block O may not be able to attend football games this season, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be making noise.

When Ohio State’s football season kicks off Oct. 24, a limited number of individuals will be in the stadium as the university continues to follow protocols to reduce the spread of COVID-19. In lieu of in-person support, Block O members have spent the summer and fall creating new ways to support Ohio State’s athletes and students.

“At our base, we’re just students who really love Ohio State athletics, and we love our football program, so the past few months have been a rollercoaster,” said Nick Wead, a junior economics major and president of Block O.

“COVID has changed how we approach everything. We’ve had to think of different ways that we can ensure safety is the number one priority while maintaining some social engagement that people, especially freshmen, are hoping to get this year.”

Block O boasts a 2,500-plus football student section along with sections for 10 other sports teams. The organization also is philanthropic, supporting BuckeyeThon and the Spielman Fund, for example. It’s also a major source of involvement and sense of community for students.

“The common misconception is that Block O is just a student section,” said Catie Cleveland, a junior public health major and vice president of Block O. “To all those involved, it really is that family and community on Ohio State’s campus.

“We have a huge emphasis on building community this year because of how hard it is to be with your friends, let alone make new friends. We have a large freshman population in our organization so we’re trying to create a community for them so they can foster relationships and make those connections.”

One way Block O is creating social connections is through a new mentorship program in which the 18 executive board members mentor seven freshmen each during small gatherings while following Safe and Healthy protocols.

Cleveland is part of a Block O group working on ideas to help members and other students enjoy game days with required guidelines. But while some of their efforts are still being formalized, Block O is doing, or has done, plenty of other things to support the campus community and the football team.

Some include:

  • Card stunts. Block O's celebrated card stunts will continue. It has already created a virtual card student using photos people submitted from games and a slideshow for social media. The group also is working with the university to set up card stunts in the seats of the student sections before the games, which would stay up the whole game.
  • Social media. Block O regularly posts to its social media accounts to get fans hyped up. In fact, a Count Down to Kickoff is already underway. You can find updates on the new ideas and efforts as they come to fruition. 
  • Rivalry Week Virtual Run. Prior to playing “That Team Up North” last year, about 800 students signed up for the inaugural Rivalry Run. Along with food trucks and other attractions, 500 students completed a one- or three-mile night run. This year, the group is planning a virtual run open to everyone before The Game on Dec. 12.
  • Virtual engagement with coaches and former athletes: Last spring, Block O was able to facilitate an Instagram live takeover with men’s basketball coach Chris Holtmann. Holtmann took students on a tour of his basement and gave a talk. The group hopes to do similar virtual events such as with coaches and former athletes, including a possible Women in Sports night to foster leadership skills and promote networking opportunities.

Published: October 16, 2020

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