It seems kind of pretentious, but OK. I'm used to that from NFL players.
Still, the first time I heard an NFL player introduce himself before a game as being from “The Ohio State University,” I wondered: Is there more than one?
Should I be confused if he had just said Ohio State? Should I think he played his college football at Ohio State-Marion?
Well, no, I'd have known he meant the big school in Columbus, Ohio — and not the ones in Lima or Mansfield or Marion. Just like I know the University of California is the one in Berkeley, not the one in Irvine.
So, why, several years ago, did all these Buckeyes start saying they were from The Ohio State University?
I checked some blogs, most of which are notoriously inaccurate but fun nonetheless.
The popular explanation seems to be that they're a bunch of insufferable snobs. I'd be good to go with that, but there appears to be more to the explanation.
Others thought it was because The Ohio State University alums wanted to make sure nobody thought they were from Ohio University. Oddly, it seems OU grads are equally concerned that folks not think they went to OSU.
Another, perhaps more compelling argument, was that Ohio State was tired of being confused with the other big-time OSUs, such as Oregon State and Oklahoma State.
I'm sympathetic, but, at the same time, I'd like to note that Southern Cal's Trojans don't seem very concerned that their USC will be confused with the University of South Carolina.
So, I dug deeper.
If you go back into your Ohio history, as I have studiously done, you'll find that in 1878, the state legislature actually changed the name of the school from the Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College to “The Ohio State University.”
Leave it to the politicians. If they'd just left well enough alone, the Buckeyes would have been the OAMC Buckeyes, alleviating any chance of confusion.
Still, until from 1977 until 1986, the university's logo contained the OSU initials, and that's when chancellors swung into action. A new logo was introduced, moving away from the initials and back to the school's official 1878 name, “The Ohio State University.”
The reason for the change apparently was two-pronged.
According to the school's own website, the change helped to avoid confusion with the Oregon and Oklahoma schools.
Perhaps even more importantly, however, the use of “The Ohio State University” made it clear that it was intended to be the leading institution of higher learning in the state, “both in size and in financial support from the legislature.”
Still, NFL players didn't begin using the school's full name in their standard pregame introductions until the 1990s. It's said to have started with a few former Buckeyes, like The Cris Carter and The Eddie George, emphasizing “The” as sort of an inside joke between Ohio State alums.
Unfortunately, it caught on.
John Nelson spent 27 years with the Associated Press in New York, covering sports all over the world. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.