KNOXVILLE, TN (WRCB) -- It is the end of an era. The University of Tennessee Pride of the Southland Marching Band will not march in this year's Inaugural Parade. They did in 1957, when Gen. Dwight Eisenhower was sworn in. In 1965, the group returned to Washington, D.C. to march for Lyndon Johnson's ceremony. In fact, the Pride of the Southland was invited back to the next 11 Inaugurations in a row to represent the state of Tennessee. Word comes this year that the honor has been extended, instead, to the Dobyns-Bennett High School Band from Kingsport.
This is simply the latest episode for a campus and student body that have become accustomed to consternation in extra-curricular life: A fireball coach done in by NCAA infractions, a legendary coach stricken by illness, another fired, followed by the Lane Kiffin controversy, losing records, dwindling attendance on football Saturdays...and now, a tradition of nearly half a century has concluded.
"We were totally blind sided," said Dr. Gary Sousa, Director of Bands at the University of Tennessee. Using words like, "saddened, disturbed, and severely disappointed," he explained all of the usual applications were made, documents and materials submitted. Once it was clear a change was in the works, the offices of Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker and of 2nd District Congressman Jimmy Duncan sprang into action making pleas for a reprieve. Their requests were ignored. "We all know how broken Washington is," said Dr. Sousa.
Alumni of the program are outraged. On what Dr. Sousa labeled "a dark day," last week, current band members were informed there would be no trip to the nation's capital. Sousa says the only explanation he has able to piece together is that the Inaugural Parade Committee, perhaps, felt that the Pride had marched the event too frequently. He said, he worries that "tradition simply means you've done something too many times," to members of the younger generation.
Now, this group, some 300 members strong, comprised of students of many different majors, from all over the state of Tennessee and beyond, will have to move on. But, Sousa added, "It will take a long time to get over."
(DISCLAIMER: Greg Glover is a former member of the University of Tennessee Pride of the Southland Marching Band and currently serves on its Alumni Board.)