UT band director claims band not allowed to play as much in Neyl - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UT band director claims band not allowed to play as much in Neyland

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University of Tennessee officials said Wednesday they support the Pride of the Southland and its students, but insisted many of the accusations the band made against the athletic department were incorrect.

The campus administration sent out its own news release late Wednesday afternoon, countering a two-page "fact sheet" the band circulated to media earlier in the day that accused athletics of trying to eliminate band performances during football games.

The band's statement details a two-year contentious relationship with Athletics Director Dave Hart, accuses the department of slashing budgets, reducing band travel and limiting when during football games the musicians can play.

UT administration and athletics, however, said the band's $1.12 million budget was cut less than 1 percent at a time when the athletics department as a whole is recovering from a $4 million budget shortfall two years ago.

More than 7,200 people had signed a petition on Change.org by late afternoon Wednesday, asking administrators to reinstate the old ways and rules and support the band.

Read more from our partners at the Knoxville News Sentinel.

Statement from UT adminstrators:

The University of Tennessee Pride of the Southland Marching Band is a much valued and integral part of the university and the game day experience. Their pregame and halftime performances are outstanding and are part of the fabric of our great football traditions here at Tennessee. Once the game begins, the band is essential to achieving our goal of an electric atmosphere in Neyland Stadium.

The UT Department of Athletics is always looking for ways to enhance and evolve our game day experience and atmosphere at Neyland Stadium in order to better appeal to fans, students, and both current and prospective student-athletes.

Our marketing department has been charged with developing a strategy to create more in-game energy in the stadium. Every Tuesday, a production meeting is held, and all entities that play a role in the game day atmosphere are represented, including the band.

Several claims made in a petition circulated this morning have limited or no basis in fact, including the claim regarding the SEC and band travel. 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 pregame or halftime performance by the visiting band.

The claim that the band has been told never to play Down the Field is 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.

The Department of Athletics has made a significant outreach to our student leaders and organizations, and our head football coach has publicly stated the priority he places on student attendance and involvement, as has our vice chancellor and director of athletics. The huge spike in attendance in comparison to the preceding year speaks to the positive response by our student body. The claim that Athletics has threatened to reduce student ticket allotments is false, as Athletics has pledged to student leadership that we will accommodate as many students that wish to attend football games as possible.

Additionally, any claim that the band will not be allowed to perform at halftime is irresponsible.

Despite the heartbreaking loss to Georgia last Saturday, we had one of the best atmospheres in Neyland Stadium that we have experienced in a very long time. We applaud our coaches, student-athletes, fans, students, the band, and our marketing staff for their collective efforts that resulted in a true home-field advantage.

Despite budget cuts impacting virtually every sport and department within UT Athletics over the last two seasons, the band's 2013-14 fiscal year operating budget ($1,125,669) is less than 1 percent (0.8%) lower than it was in 2011-12 ($1,134,669), attesting to the continued priority placed on investment in the band.

We are One Tennessee, and Saturday night brought that into clear focus. To reach our destination and achieve our goals, we have to stay on the same path. Our band will always play a major role in the Tennessee football game day experience, and any insinuation to the contrary is inaccurate.

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