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Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)
Megan Boehnke

KNOXVILLE - The University of Tennessee removed Gary Sousa on Thursday as director of the Pride of the Southland marching band following a public battle with administrators last October. Sousa, however, will keep his tenured faculty position in the School of Music.

Provost Susan Martin, in a letter to Sousa, said that he was "insubordinate by virtue of (his) failure to seek resolution of your concerns in the normal professional manner."

The university also released an 80-page report Thursday that includes an eight-page response from Sousa. In his letter, Sousa disputed a number of the report's findings and also took issue with his treatment during the investigation.

"In every single instance referenced in the Review, my actions are focused solely on providing the students in the Pride of the Southland with a world-class educational experience, utilizing the long history and traditions for which the program is known," he wrote.

Sousa was placed on leave Oct. 14, less than a week after the longtime director of bands spoke to local media about what he saw as the encroachment of marketing and athletics on game-day band functions.

Sousa spoke to alumni and band members about the issue, prompting an online petition from drum major Jessica Henderson. The petition, hosted on, has received more than 13,200 signatures to date.

In a statement distributed to local media, Sousa described a "bitter battle" with Athletics Director Dave Hart. In interviews, he said the band had been "disrespected" by athletics playing pre-recorded canned music during breaks in the football games.

The provost and Chancellor Jimmy Cheek, meanwhile, responded with harshly-worded letters that described "insubordination, misrepresentation of facts and a lack of confidence in Sousa's ability to work constructively and collaboratively with others going forward."

Sousa was hired in 1997 from Sam Houston State University in Texas to take over the marching band.

Sousa received glowing - if somewhat sporadic - evaluations, according to his personnel file released in October. With his accolades, Sousa also routinely received salary bumps, nearly doubling his pay from his starting annual salary of $75,000 to his current $152,000.

His salary will be reduced to $105,000 as of April 1.

Don Ryder, associate director of bands, will continue to serve as interim director until the university can conduct a national search for a replacement, UT officials said.

More details as they become available online and in Friday's News Sentinel. 

March 6, 2014




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