April 28, 2003

It looks like the University of Virginia pep band, also known as "The Award-Winning Virginia Fighting Cavalier Indoor/Outdoor Precision(?) Marching PEP Band & Chowder Society Revue, Unlimited!!!!", may have finally met its match in the form of rich alumni who've ponied up to fund a traditional marching band:

Yesterday, the university announced a gift of $23.5 million from a pair of longtime benefactors and Virginia football fans, Carl and Hunter Smith of Charlottesville. Although most of the money will go to the construction of a performing arts center, $1.5 million has been earmarked for the endowment of a creature heretofore unknown to Thomas Jefferson's academic village -- a traditional college marching band.

University officials confirmed that the new band, to be run under the auspices of the music and athletic departments, will supplant the infamous Pep Band at all sporting events. Though the new group won't be ready to play until fall 2004, the Pep Band is disinvited effective this coming fall.

Director of Athletics Craig K. Littlepage said the move to a traditional band -- one that will wear uniforms and march in formation -- will complement Virginia's ascension in the ranks of big-time college sports. U-Va. is the only school in the Atlantic Coast Conference that lacks a marching band. "As our football program has evolved, there's a desire on the part of those who support our program to have a band that demonstrates the same pursuit of excellence," he said.

The article references the silly Continental Tire Bowl controversy from last year, in which some tightassed bowl bigwigs pitched a hissyfit over some standard pep band hijinks. Naturally, the AD insists that this had nothing to do with it:

Littlepage said the replacement of the Pep Band has nothing to do with the West Virginia controversy or any other incident.

"It's about the university having a unique opportunity to enhance itself in the performing arts," he said. He added that there's room for only one band on the field.

Oh, please. This is about the university getting a check from some fat cat alumni and being only too willing to say "How high?" when told that they must jump before they can endorse it. Getting a marching band makes you like every other big state school in the country. If you want to conform, that's fine, but don't think it makes you special.

As a longtime scatter band member, I salute my soon-to-be-former colleagues. Their demise makes the already exceedingly dull world of bigtime college football even more colorless. May the University of Virginia some day realize what they've done to their identity.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 28, 2003 to Other sports | TrackBack