Kyle Garchar, a last year student at Hilliard Davidson High School in suburban Columbus, said he spent about 20 hours over three days plotting the trick, which was captured on video and posted on the video-sharing Web site YouTube. He said he was inspired by a similar prank pulled by Yale students in 2004, when Harvard fans were duped into holding up cards with the same message.
At the end of the video, Garchar wryly thanks the 800 Hilliard Darby High School supporters who raised the cards at the start of the third quarter during last Friday's football game.
"It couldn't have been done without you," reads the closing frame of the video.
Garchar, 17, created a grid to plan how the message would be spelled out once fans in three sections held up either a black or white piece of construction paper.
Directions left on stadium seats instructed fans to check that the number listed on their papers matched their seat numbers. Darby supporters were told the message would read "Go Darby."
"It was tedious," Garchar said. "I didn't really think it was going to work."
But it did, and everyone at Davidson has been talking it ever since, said Jordan Moore, a third year student.
"That was the ultimate in-your-face," he said. "I think it was ingenious."
Davidson Principal John Bandow had told students that he expected them to show sportsmanship at the game, which Darby won 21-10.
Bandow gave Garchar three days of in-school suspension and banned him from extracurricular activities for a semester, the students said. Two Darby students who helped Garchar received the same punishment after the principals from both schools spoke by phone.
Hilliard schools spokeswoman Michelle Wray said she could not confirm the punishment because the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act forbids the release of student disciplinary information.
"We weren't expecting it to be such a severe punishment," said Jen Trimmer, 17, one of the students involved. "We just thought it was all in good fun."
Watch a video of the prank on YouTube.