UT band members voice opposition to football game changes

UT band members voice opposition to football game changes

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Members of the Pride of the Southland Marching Band say the problems have been building for years, but things crossed the line at the last game. Members of the Pride of the Southland Marching Band say the problems have been building for years, but things crossed the line at the last game.
"We got really sick of it. It's time we stood up. It's not just for the band here at UT, it's bands everywhere," said drum major Jessica Henderson who started an online petition. "We got really sick of it. It's time we stood up. It's not just for the band here at UT, it's bands everywhere," said drum major Jessica Henderson who started an online petition.
The university is refuting many of the claims in the petition and an open letter issued by the band. The university is refuting many of the claims in the petition and an open letter issued by the band.
"I think the students and the alumni kind of got to a breaking point where they said we have to take this to the public," said Dr. Gary Sousa, UT's Director of Bands. "I think the students and the alumni kind of got to a breaking point where they said we have to take this to the public," said Dr. Gary Sousa, UT's Director of Bands.

By JOSH AULT
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - University of Tennessee band members say they are being unfairly treated, and that the future of their 144-year-old program is at risk. However, the university is refuting many of the band members' claims.

Members of the Pride of the Southland Marching Band say the problems have been building for years, but things crossed the line at the last game. They're placing the biggest share of the blame on the university's athletics department.

Band members say some of their travel to out of town games was cut three years ago.

They also say at the last Vols home football game against Georgia, pre-recorded music was used instead of letting the band play live, and that move forced them to act.

"We are being disrespected," said band member Sarena Rhody.

"My biggest concern is for the future generations [who] won't have the legacy that we have built, that suddenly things will change and that we won't be able to play in the stadium at all," added band member Rebecca Davis.

To gain support for the band drum major Jessica Henderson started a petition on change.org.

"We got really sick of it. It's time we stood up. It's not just for the band here at UT, it's bands everywhere," said Henderson.

A statement from UT released Wednesday refutes many of the allegations the band is making, including the notion that "Down the Field," UT's official fight song, will not be played at games, and that only "Rocky Top" will be allowed.

The statement says those allegations are completely false.

"As a clarification, the SEC provision states that the band can play in between plays, and not during plays. The band can play from the end of the preceding play until the point where the center is over the ball. The modification next year is that recorded music may be played instead of band music during those times," read the statement.

"They are wanting it for advertisement time and that's not what it's for, that's not what college day experience is," countered Henderson.

The other issue is travel to away games. In the past two years, the band's travel budget of $500,000 has been cut by $150,000.

This year the band did not travel to two away games, but the statement by UT says very few teams bring their full band to all away games.

"The visiting team still makes the decision about bringing its band to away games, and very few bands nationally bring their full band to all away games. What the SEC rule states is that the visiting band must communicate with the home team band director in order to determine if there is time for a pre-game or halftime performance by the visiting band," read the statement.

"I think the students and the alumni kind of got to a breaking point where they said we have to take this to the public," said Dr. Gary Sousa, UT's Director of Bands.

Dr. Sousa says currently, the communication between his department and the athletic department is dead. He says there has to be some change, or there is a threat to the future of the UT band program.

"I think Chancellor [Jimmy] Cheek is the leader of the university, and he has been incredibly supportive of the band. I think he is going to help us to come to a resolution," said Sousa.

The statement by UT also says the athletic department is always looking for ways to enhance and evolve the game day experience.

The band members 6 News spoke with say those enhancements are not what they want.


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