The Illibuck is a turtle-shaped trophy that has been passed back and forth the winner of the Ohio State-University of Illinois football game since 1925. Credit: James King | Lantern TV Sports Director

Yes, that really is a student carrying a turtle around campus. No, it’s not real; it’s the Illibuck, a turtle-shaped trophy that has been passed back and forth between the winner of the Ohio State-Illinois football game since 1925. Back then, however, it was alive.

The Illibuck is Ohio State’s only rivalry trophy and has a deep history between Ohio State and the University of Illinois.

Saturday, Ohio State and the University of Illinois will compete for the right to take the turtle trophy home, but until then, members of the junior honorary Bucket and Dipper will ensure its safety and legacy on campus.

“I think it’s important to keep that alive and to have that knowledge accessible to people who might not have lived it when it was at its height,” said Zayn Dweik, the service co-chair of Bucket and Dipper and a third-year in economics.

Zayn Dweik, the service co-chair of Bucket and Dipper and a third-year in economics, poses with the Illibuck. Credit: Mary Jenkins

When Illibuck, or Illy, isn’t being passed during the game, Bucket and Dipper members take the trophy around campus to make sure that everyone hears about this Ohio State tradition.

“Illy goes a lot of places,” said Julia Dziabis, the selections and initiations co-chair, and third-year in neuroscience. “He went to move-in, so that was a cool way for people as they’re moving in to see right away that we’re enthusiastic about traditions.”

For Dziabis, an out-of-state student from Illinois, encountering Illy during her move-in introduced her to the traditions at Ohio State.

“I only knew what it was because whoever was in Bucket and Dipper when I was a freshman walked it around at move-in,” Dziabis said. “Right away that was probably the first tradition I was really presented with.”  

Of the three values of the honorary system — scholarship, leadership, and service — Dziabis finds that leadership is most active with Illy.

“It’s a responsibility and one to be proud of too,” she said. “It’s definitely an honor that our honorary is able to take care of Illy.”

Like many traditions at Ohio State, Illibuck is one that has continued because of the efforts of students.

“The reason it has continued this far is that some people care about it and if enough people care about it, it will continue,” Dweik. “When so many people care about something, it brings you together as a community.”

On Saturday, five students from each university will line up on the field and pass Illibuck back and forth. While this pass is primarily symbolic, the official pass will happen after the game.

The winner of this year’s matchup will keep the trophy until Ohio State faces the Illini again.

Dweik said service and tradition are at the heart of many honoraries. Combining the two, Bucket and Dipper will be with Illy on The Oval Friday with a photo booth and hot chocolate asking for donations to be given to a Columbus charity.