A typical Tennessee game day experience is known for the Vol Walk where fans cheer for the players as they walk to the stadium, opening of the “T” for players to enter their stomping ground and beloved home, and hearing the roar of the entire stadium chatting the words to the infamous Rocky Top being played about 100 times. What do all of these aspects have in common? They all include the Pride of the Southland Marching Band.
Unfortunately, this is all about to change.
Ever since the current Vice Chancellor and Athletic Director Dave Hart arrived in 2011, The University of Tennessee’s athletic department has been slowly but surely chipping away at the Pride’s traditions. The band has been threatened to go against what we have always done or there will be consequences.
Here are some of the changes concerning travel and marketing that are trying to be made for the 2014 season:
1) It is the band’s understanding from multiple sources that this past summer at the SEC meeting in Florida, the athletic directors voted to limit band travel across the conference by requiring bands to request permission from the athletic director at a host school to march at halftime. Any athletic director can deny the request by a visiting band to perform (the current SEC policy is that every band has the right to travel to another SEC school and will be allotted seven minutes of halftime to perform). This has already occurred in the 2013 when the Arkansas athletic director denied to attendance of the Texas A&M band to their stadium. There are 3 main points the athletic directors are using to justify this notion: 1) reduce/eliminate band travel budgets, 2) eliminate the cost of band seating at away football games, and 3) use the seven minutes of halftime for the purpose of marketing. This would drastically change the college game day experience: no school songs will ever be played in an opponent’s stadium, and the players will be overwhelmed with the opposing team’s hostile fans instead of being rewarded by hearing their fight song played by the band.
2) The band used to be the only entity allowed to play music during plays of a football game. However, the amount of marketing, commercials, and pre-recorded popular and rap music blaring out of the public address system in Neyland Stadium has increased at an alarming rate. As a result, the band will be reduced to playing the team’s Rocky Top (not the school fight song, Down the Field) after touchdowns and a few seconds of music in between plays during the game. Other moments (i.e. timeouts, quarter changes, etc.) when bands used to be able to play will be filled by marketing, commercials, and pre-recorded music. The college game atmosphere, which was once defined by cheerleaders and college bands cheering and playing music, has now become what most fans would describe as a professional football game atmosphere filled with a constant barrage of commercialism.
For the college band student, this new atmosphere is disturbing. We know full well that trying to compete with the athletic department’s intentions are pointless. We have said time and time again, “What’s the point in us being here? It is clear that they don’t want us.” It is clear that the athletic marketing department, headed by Chris Fuller, and the SEC are moving towards an elimination of the band from performance during the course of the football game.
Why should you sign this petition?
Students: The band gives you the opportunity to be seen/heard and provides you with the chance to show school spirit and interact with the players. Your energy is vital to a team’s performance and can directly affect the outcome of any game.
Alumni: You laid the foundation for this great university that we have today. We are trying to uphold the Tennessee traditions that have been in place long before we got here. How long will it be until the athletic department takes away the band’s opportunity to play your alma mater during halftime?
Fans: Without you, there would be no team. You give the team the drive, confidence, and motivation they need to succeed. And the band members are some of the most loyal fans the team has; the band is there before the team arrives and after the team leaves. All fans fight, cry, win, and lose together.
All Others: While you may not be a fan of Tennessee, these changes are happening at your university as well. Many of the policies listed above will be in affect come 2014 for a wide range of schools. Everyone needs to stand together now and clearly state, “We will not take this. We know what we stand for, and we will hold true to our traditions.”
Our goal is that our message gets conveyed clearly to the student body, the faculty, the fans, and other universities so that this situation can be resolved. Our wish is that other SEC schools will not have to experience this corruption and bullying. Our hope is that future relationships between Athletics and Bands can be mended and maintained. Our expectation is that our traditions are kept alive.
The Pride of the Southland has been here for 144 years. We are an organization that was here well before this athletic department and will be here long after they are gone.
Help us beyond just signing this petition. Spread the word to others concerning this issue.
We are Big Orange. We are unstoppable.
This petition was revised on Oct. 10, 2013 to explain the issues occuring in more detail.
Here are the contacts to the people who can resolve the issue:
Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek:
Provost- Susan Martin:
Athletic Department Head/ Vice Chancellor- Dave Hart
Executive Senior Associates Athletics Director- Jon Gilbert
Senior Associate Athletic Director- Chris Fuller
Jessica Henderson started this petition with a single signature, and now has 13,466 supporters. Start a petition today to change something you care about.