GLENDALE, Ariz. — The two head coaches hadn’t even met at midfield when a couple of Ohio State players sprinted to the locker room.
Ryan Stamper made sure nobody else made it. Ohio State’s director of player development corralled the next players walking off the field and offered a reminder. It was time to sing “Carmen Ohio” for a final time this season.
Of course, nobody was in the mood. Ohio State had just lost 31-0 to Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl. The Buckeyes’ trip to the College Football Playoff was not only short but deflating. Nothing went right on the offensive side of the ball, and the defensive plays that were made went unrewarded. After a three-hour bleed, the Buckeyes had to stay on the field as confetti rained from the ceiling, music pulsed from speakers and Clemson players climbed onto the podium.
Still, in front of the student section and the band, the Buckeyes gathered. The chimes sounded, and players and fans sang the alma mater. It was an emotional scene, and a bittersweet one. Nobody wanted to be there. However, seniors looked appreciative afterward that they got one last chance to sing it.
“The fans came all the way out here, and there were a lot of players singing that song for the last time,” said defensive end Sam Hubbard. “It’s not the way we wanted to sing it, but we owe a lot to the fans.”
Added left guard Billy Price: “You represent the state of Ohio and the university. It’s a tradition. It’s what we do. I’m very proud to represent Ohio State.”
Staying for the alma mater might seem like a foregone conclusion, but it hasn’t been. The players skipped it for the first two losses of the Urban Meyer era, including an Orange Bowl loss to Clemson. Against Virginia Tech in 2014, Meyer had to pull his players from the locker room tunnel back onto the field to sing it.
Ever since then, however, there have been no such issues.
“No matter what, we take pride in this university – win, lose or draw,” left tackle Jamarco Jones said. “There’s a lot of great players who have done this before us. We never want to disrespect what they did and the path they made for us. It’s just a respect thing and out of love for our university.”