The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

Scrambling to their own beat

Almost a month after its controversial performance during half time of the Continental Tire Bowl, the future of the Virginia Pep Band remains sure.

Since the performance, which provoked a denouncement of the Pep Band by West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise and his demand of a formal apology from University President John T. Casteen III, the Athletics Department has been awash in e-mails and phone calls, some suggesting eliminating the Pep Band and creating a University-sponsored marching band.

Yet according to both Athletics Department officials and University administrators, no clear course has been drawn for the Pep Band's future.

Athletics Department officials and Pep Band members have met since the show and "conversations are ongoing," University Spokeswoman Carol Wood said.

Athletics Director Craig Littlepaige said that as of now "it is much too early to begin speculation."

But public speculation on the issue has increased since Casteen's Jan. 2 statement, which said, "The band's appropriate function is to support the team and foster an exciting, positive atmosphere for all

Trying to be funny, [the Pep Band] crossed the line between humor and the ridicule that the ACC, the NCAA, and simple decency proscribe. We will examine how the band works and how performances might be improved in the course of the next several weeks."

Casteen and the Athletics Director's office "have exchanged e-mails saying there would be a point in time to look into options to determine what is the best way for the Athletics Department to fulfill its goals concerning football games, and what best represents the Virginia athletics program," Littlepaige said.But as of yet there has been no planning, no request for marching band proposals and "nobody has put any money on the table."

But, according to Pep Band members, the possibility of being replaced is an old worry garnering new attention.

"Every day our future is undetermined," Pep Band Director Adam Lorentson said. "But it seems like everyone is overreacting and it's nice to see the administration is not acting like everyone else."

Cost is the key reason the University does not have a traditional marching band, Lorentson said. The student-run Pep Band currently receives no scholarships and has no full-time University faculty member running the program.The Band receives CIO funding through Student Council and the Athletic Department pays for travel expenses, a summer camp and some instrument repair. He said a marching band would require the University to set up an enormous infrastructure to support the program and facilitate a massive recruiting program, an effort he does not see the University capable of accomplishing, at least in the next academic year.

"For the Athletics Department we are the best of all possible worlds, we cost very little money for the job we do," Lorentson said.

But a low overhead cost may not be enough of a reason to keep the Pep Band if sentiment against the band continues to grow.

In their scramble shows "the Pep band tries to push their limits as much as they can," said Andrew Rader, the primary Athletics Department liaison with the Pep Band, who is responsible for reviewing the Band's scripts before its scramble shows. "Society has changed a lot in the 30 years the Pep Band has been around, people aren't as willing to absorb comments on certain issues. Now with the very public feelings [since the Continental Tire Bowl] this will be a major topic."

While Rader also could not comment on the Pep Band's future, he said, "Our football program has gotten better and better in the last 10 years and as that has progressed supporters have wanted more in their experience. One of the elements that has not grown with the extent of support and prominence of the program is the Pep Band. What they can contribute to the football experience has not grown with everything else."

Rader said part of his job is to put on the best and most exciting halftime show possible and that a scramble band "can't provide the type of experience that a marching band might provide

- they just have two totally different objectives in their shows."

And while the Pep Band's future continues to be a hot topic of conversation within the University, those outside the community also are forming their own opinions.

"In my opinion [the University] needs a marching band to represent it the way it should be represented," said Pat Rooney, who has served as director of bands at James Madison University for 19 years. "U.Va. has so many great players

- a lot that I tried to recruit. A marching band at U.Va. would be a program that could quickly become one of the best in the country."

But Pep Band Co-founder Steve Mershon, who graduated in 1972, has a different vision for the future of University bands.

"I believe it's possible to have a scramble band 150-200 strong that is a boon to the football team and is not objectionable if the parties can work together, and that is what I'd like to see happen," Mershon said.


Latest Podcast

Today, we sit down with both the president and treasurer of the Virginia women's club basketball team to discuss everything from making free throws to recent increased viewership in women's basketball.