Largest UT alumni band ever will play at Saturday's homecoming

Largest UT alumni band ever will play at Saturday's homecoming game

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The "500 Strong" campaign started on Facebook as a way to get alumni members to rally around the current program. The "500 Strong" campaign started on Facebook as a way to get alumni members to rally around the current program.
"As people started to register we said, well 300 is going to happen, let's go higher than that," said alumni council member Rob Clark. "As people started to register we said, well 300 is going to happen, let's go higher than that," said alumni council member Rob Clark.
"It's really great to have the university come together and have passion for alumni," Tommi Jamison, the Vol Shop marketing manager says. "It's really great to have the university come together and have passion for alumni," Tommi Jamison, the Vol Shop marketing manager says.

By KAYLA STRAYER
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - There's lots of excitement surrounding this week's University of Tennessee homecoming game, and that has the alumni band going all out.

Saturday's performance will feature the most UT band members, both current and alumni, ever to take the field at one time at Neyland Stadium.

The "500 Strong" campaign started on Facebook as a way to get alumni members to rally around the current program, which is facing controversy after its director, Gary Sousa, was placed on administrative leave for the rest of the semester.

The organizers of the campaign say it's about supporting the band as a whole, as it faces a season of changes.

The goal was to get 500 alumni to play during the homecoming game.

"As people started to register we said, well 300 is going to happen, let's go higher than that," said alumni council member Rob Clark.

They didn't quite reach 500, but all together there's expected to be 811 past and present members playing.

"It's going to be great, we've got 469 alumni," Clark said.

This is the first social media campaign to recruit former players, and it's working, bringing people from several states back to Knoxville.

"To keep in contact with all of these individuals from all over the country, it's awesome," Clark said.

He says most band alumni support Sousa, but this effort is also about supporting the current members and the new coach.

"We support the program, the kids, the directors, and just to be able to participate in the homecoming activities is a pleasure," Clark says.

Because of the success on social media, the Vol Shop is selling out of the pullovers the alumni band is required to wear.

"It's really great to have the university come together and have passion for alumni," Tommi Jamison, the Vol Shop marketing manager says.

As for next year's homecoming game, they're hoping for an even bigger alumni turnout.

"We're looking to do 600 or 700," Clark says.

The alumni band will practice once before playing on Saturday, and there's a whole weekend of events planned for them.

Director Gary Sousa was put on administrative leave in mid-October after going public with a conflict between administrators and the band. The university cited his encouraging students and alumni to speak out as evidence of insubordination.

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