1968 was a notable year on college campuses. For Ohio State sophomore Dave Hocevar, it was the start of a lifelong involvement with Brutus and the Buckeyes. That was the year Dave was asked by Jim Baer, president of Block O, if he would assist Alan Kuntz in sharing the duties of Brutus.
Dave admits, “I was in the right place at the right time.” For him, being in the right place was two-fold: he was a Pi Kappa Alpha, as were Jim and Alan, and Dave had assisted the Block O equipment manager during his freshman year. In those early days of Brutus, Block O “owned” and managed Brutus.
Was Dave equipped for the job? You bet he was. A former linebacker for Charles F. Brush High School in Lyndhurst, Ohio, Dave certainly had the strength to carry the fiberglass Brutus head, estimated to be at least 22 pounds or more. When people learn that David was the second Block O Brutus, the two questions they always ask him are, “Was it hot?” and “Was it heavy?” Dave’s answer to both is, “When you’re 18 years old, you’re bullet proof.” In other words, he didn’t really notice!
With visibility under the head limited since the eye holes weren’t at eye height, Dave looked out the bottom of the head to see the lines in the track around his feet. The old South Stands were on the track so Brutus could only walk a “U” around the football field. From time to time, he would raise the head up quickly to see where he was on the field or catch a play on the field. Dave wasn’t accident prone, but he recalls during one game Dr. Charles Spohn, band director, stepped off his riser right into Dave’s path. Chaos ensued as Brutus knocked Dr. Spohn to the ground.
Dave and Alan would take off the head and switch duties where the cheerleaders were stationed by the South Stands. Dave recalls that Brutus did not stay out for the entire game. By third quarter they started putting the Brutus head back in the Block O storage room in The Shoe. “Ohio State was lightless, so they were locked into day games,” says Dave. As a sidebar, Dave notes with pride that “I played under the lights at Brush, which had one of the first lighted high school stadiums.”
Dave credits Rex Kern and the star-studded cast of sophomores, known at the Super Sophomores, for creating the football frenzy that helped solidify Brutus as mascot. He recalls the crowds that would gather around the practice field in 1967 to watch the Junior Varsity team led by QB Kern. (That was prior to the NCAA rule change allowing freshmen to play Varsity sports.) Unranked in 1967, the Buckeyes started the 1968 season as #11. Dave felt the excitement scale tip during the third game of the season when Woody Hayes’ team defeated #1 Purdue, 13 – 0. Dave says, “As the season went on, Brutus got more popular.” The Buckeyes finished undefeated, earning a berth in the Rose Bowl.
Dave and Alan both went to Pasadena on January 1, 1969, Woody’s first Bowl since 1957. The six-day trip cost $300. Long’s Book Store gave them each $150! The barebones student tour included staying in graduate student housing on the UCLA campus. Dave said one of their fun discoveries near campus was Woody’s Café. Dave remembers, “When we were driving through L.A. in a convertible, it felt like you were on a movie set—the buildings and streets were so clean.” On New Year’s Eve, they picked up a young woman who was hitchhiking. Claiming her father was FBI and a movie producer, she gave them a Beverly Hills address. When they knocked on the door, the butler answered saying, “Thank you for bringing her home. You can go now.” Oh, and they did manage to get to Disneyland!
Dave was the first basketball Brutus. During the football lull between the Michigan game on November 23 and the Rose Bowl, Dave took Brutus to St. John Arena on December 6, 1968, for the game against #1 UCLA led by Lew Alcindor under Coach John Wooden. Dave admits he did feel “hot” for the first time under the head—partly due to the enclosed confines of an arena versus a football field and partly due to the suit coat, wool slacks and a sweater he wore as part of his “costume.” Dave’s two-year stint on the field as Brutus ended in 1969. That was the fall that Brutus was added to the group surrounding the official tossing the coin at the beginning of the game.
After graduation, Dave served in the military, then spent 21 years in the tire business working for Michelin, Goodyear, and Bridgestone, which transferred him to Phoenix, where Dave dove into Ohio State Alumni Club activities. If you can accept that “Home is Where the Heart Is,” then Dave never left Ohio State. Dave’s enthusiasm for all things Buckeye, especially Brutus, is evident and contagious. His home, fondly called Casa Brutus, is filled with Brutus memorabilia, including a cardboard Brutus next to the TV, a Brutus snowman, and a Brutus golf car. A special keepsake is the Key to Buckeye, Arizona, presented to Dave by the Buckeye Mayor in 2003, coinciding with the National Championship. The city, which named its fire engine “Brutus,” holds an open house for Ohio State fans whenever the team is playing in a bowl game in Phoenix.
Dave led the Ohio State Alumni Club of Phoenix as president from 1991 to 2006 and continues on the board as Treasurer since 2011. In an amazing feat of dedication, Dave chaired the club’s Charity Golf Tournament for 25 years. He helped grow the tournament from 72 to 144 golfers when they moved to Troon North Golf Club. Proceeds go to Make-a-Wish and Big 10 Scholarship Fund.
Despite living in the desert, Dave has returned often to Columbus for Alumni Club leadership training and Brutus reunions. He also went to 7 or 8 bowl games, several of which were at the Fiesta Bowl in Phoenix where Dave arranged for club members to bring Frito Lay chips, Gatorade and waters to the cheerleading squad, who were relegated to a less luxurious hotel than the Scottsdale Princess where players and administrators stayed. He recalls Zak Blom, Brutus, saying, “Thanks for your club taking good care of us!”
A highlight for Dave and his wife Carole was the Buckeye Cruise for Cancer in February, 2016. He calls it “a five-day tailgate party.” Brutus is a key personality on the 100% private cruise, which is filled with coaches (notably Urban and his wife Shelley who are fundraiser hosts), players, doctors from The James, former Brutuses, and wild and crazy fans who start every conversation with “O-H!”
Carole, who calls herself “Mrs. Brutus,” enjoys every bit of Dave’s activities related to Brutus. Mr. and Mrs. Brutus figurines topped their wedding cake in 2015, the same year they traveled to Columbus to be honored at the Brutus’s 50th Birthday celebration.
Dave knows no strangers. He is a connector. He meets up with other Brutus alumni, including having a drink with Kyle McQuaid at Hanratty’s in Phoenix, running into Sam Lurie in the airport, and hosting Emily Williams when she came to the Fiesta Bowl in 2003. He knows Judy Bunting, former head of cheerleading, and Gene Smith, AD, who played for the same HS football team as Dave. As a new AD, Gene did his first Carmen Ohio with the Phoenix Club! Dave also reaches out to other Buckeyes on his Facebook page.
When Dave discovered that I co-created Brutus, he took me under his wing, introducing me to the “right people” and getting me on stage for the Buckeye Bash prior to the 2015 Championship game in Phoenix. He calls himself Brutus #2 and calls me “Brutus Mom.” Why was I not surprised that Dave sports an M.A. in Marketing from Webster University St. Louis.
Though you might think Dave does nothing that isn’t related to the Buckeyes, that’s not so. Now retired from being owner/operator of Arizona Pet Resort, Dave is on two committees for Sun Lakes Home Owner’s Association, which serves 20,000 residents in 11,000 homes and manages a $13.6M budget. Far from being inactive, Dave and Carole just returned from a trip to Washington, D.C., where they took special tours at the White House, Capitol and The FBI Experience, thanks to Congressman Andy Biggs and staff. Now who do you think reached out to Andy? Mr. Marketing of course!
Dave is pictured with other Brutus Alumni at the 50-year Brutus celebration in 2015, Needless to say, he knows many of them.
If you aren’t already a Facebook friend of Dave’s, perhaps you, too, will want to “friend” Dave. As of this writing, he has 433 FB followers and 1897 friends. If you do, you’ll likely get caught up in his contagious joy.
Dave Hocevar, Sally Lanyon, The Ohio State University Archives