Written By: Bill Syken

One of the few things you can count on during a college football season is that Ohio State is going to be pretty darned good. It was certainly the case during the 2020 season, with the Buckeyes in pursuit of a national championship as they have been so many years before.

When you have a big school and a demanding fan base, a championship is an annual expectation. It’s true in Columbus and many other college football towns around the country.

In 1948 LIFE visited Columbus to capture that kind of unbridled enthusiasm for story titled “Frenzied Football.” While much has changed about college football in decades since that story was reported—for instance Ohio State’s conference, the Big 10, now has fourteen teams—certain aspects are quite similar.

Examine these images from 1948 and one immediate difference that will stand out to those know Ohio State football is the stadium. Back then, Ohio Stadium was still open at one end, as it was originally designed. Bernard Hoffman‘s magnificent photo for LIFE captures the grandeur of the fans’ procession to the stadium’s open arms. But “The Horseshoe,” as the stadium is known, has since added new stands to what had been the open end to accommodate more spectators. The stadium now can hold a staggering 104,944 people, up from its original capacity of 66,210 when it opened in 1922. Ohio Stadium is now the third-largest football stadium the country, behind those at Michigan and Penn State.

The more striking difference may be the attire of the people who fill those stands. Look at their dress—the women in their fancy hats, the men in their coats and ties. It’s a far cry from today, when most spectators come dressed in the school colors, and many fans are wearing team jerseys, looking as if they were ready to be called into the game.

But not everything has changed. In this gallery you can see Ohio State’s storied marching band at work. (It’s possible that today band’s routines are just a little more complex-watch what happens here around the six-minute mark.)

But the true constant is the passion for the game. LIFE summed up how all-consuming football was for the local fans: “It is an old Columbus joke that whenever three stenographers and a boss are in the same room they forget about business and start running through backfield plays.”

It shows in the faces of the fans in these photos. Just look at them. Don’t you want to share that excitement?

No wonder they had to make the stadium bigger.

Fans approached Ohio Stadium on a football game day in 1948.

Bernard Hoffman/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

Fans at an Ohio State football game, 1948.

Bernard Hoffman/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

Fans at an Ohio State football game, 1948.

Bernard Hoffman/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

Fans enjoying an Ohio State football game, 1948.

Bernard Hoffman/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

Fans at an Ohio State football game, 1948.

Bernard Hoffman/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

Ohio State football fans groan as their team lose the ball, 1948.

Bernard Hoffman/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

An Ohio State football game, 1948.

Bernard Hoffman/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

The Ohio State Buckeyes in action, 1948.

Bernard Hoffman/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

Buckeye football players, 1948.

Bernard Hoffman/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

Wesley Fesler, Ohio State’s coach in 1948, had been an All-America end for the Buckeyes from 1928 to 1930.

Bernard Hoffman/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

The Agonis Club, a group of football fans, sang the school fight song.

Bernard Hoffman/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

Then as now, football fans could get rowdy; here university employees cut corners of paper laundry bags to prevent students from converting them into water balloons for pre-football game celebrations.

Bernard Hoffman/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

The Ohio State band in 1948 spelled out the state name—a forerunner of greater precision routines to come.

Bernard Hoffman/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

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