The Colgate University men's basketball team made a respectable showing against second-seeded Tennessee in a South Region NCAA tournament game last Friday, losing 77-70. The Colgate pep band, however, made no showing at all.
Instead, Ohio State University band members were handed maroon "Go Gate" T-shirts and sheet music for Colgate's fight song to give the appearance that its band had made the trip from Hamilton, N.Y., to Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. It did not.
According to The Colgate Maroon News, not only was the band not invited to make the trip, it was censored for pointing out it handn't. Wrote Maroon News editor-in-chief Mara Stein, "Members of the Raider Pep Band ... allege that their comments regarding the matter were intentionally deleted by Colgate Athletics on Instagram after the @colgateraiders account posted a photo of the 'fake band' to congratulate the Men's Basketball team and its fans." Eventually, the entire post was deleted, according to those who had commented, including senior student Allegra Padula. "Censorship of opinions is never a good thing," Padula said, "and I think our Pep Band deserves an apology for the unfairness of the entire situation."
Band members told Stein that they expected an invitation to perform in Columbus, as Colgate made its first tournament appearance in 23 years, but senior Kyle Rhodehouse, who served as the Raider Pep Band’s drum major for two years, said that the Colgate band was never consulted about the possibility. "We learned of the fake band when we saw shots of drummers on the live CBS coverage of the game, and then again when someone on the cheerleading team [who had attended the game] sent a photo ... to one of the Colgate band members," Rhodehouse said.
Juliana Smith, senior associate athletics director and chief of staff, said the band’s small size and inconsistent attendance record at games were reasons they were not invited, as reported by the Maroon News.
"While we have very much appreciated the pep band’s presence at various events this year, unlike many of the larger schools at the tournament, our group is currently too small to support a performance on a scale that is required for a nationally televised event," Smith said. "We did invite the cheer squad to travel to the NCAA tournament this year in recognition of their commitment to the Raider teams, demonstrated through their participation in every home game this year besides university breaks and for work they have undertaken this year to strengthen their routines."
NCAA guidelines dictate that groups performing during the March Madness tournament can be no larger than 29 members, according to the Maroon News. The Colgate pep band has 20 active members, sophomore and director Ryan Rios said. “If you have an issue with our attendance and that stops us from being able to play at exciting events like the NCAA tournament, a quick heads-up would be appreciated before the fact so that we can discuss and work together to fix that for the next time,” Rios wrote in an email to university vice president and director of athletics Nicki Moore.
Said Smith, the associate AD, "Action will be taken to bolster our communication with the band, and to remind staff of our commitment to open dialogue on our social media channels. Be assured that the development of a more robust pep band is on our list of initiatives as we wrap up this year and head into the next, and we will look forward to working with current and prospective band members on it."