Sometimes Controversial, Always Witty, Stanford Band Sidelined This Big Game

Contact Matt Kawahara at [email protected]

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It’s not exactly double-secret probation, but the most recently imposed sanctions on the notoriously zany Stanford Marching Band will be enough to keep it off the field at Saturday’s 109th Big Game.

The Stanford Band was placed on indefinite provisional status Sept. 14, two months after the Band Shak, a storage space for the band, was vandalized.

According to the Stanford Daily, the result was $30,000 to $50,000 worth of damage. The provisional terms included suspension from band membership for all students involved in the vandalism and the full reimbursement of all damages. Furthermore, the band has not performed a field show all year—a streak that will continue Saturday.

“The punishment that we’re getting, in terms of not doing field shows, is entirely unrelated to the crime that some band members committed over the summer,” Stanford Band President Adam Cohen said. “It’s very unclear why the athletic department is not allowing us to perform on the field.”

Since its inception, the band has lived on satire and flirted with tastelessness in its field shows, leaving in its wake disgruntled viewers and a slough of apologies from the university.

“We’re trying to be funny, and every once in a while we go over the line and somebody gets offended,” Cohen said.

In 1990, during halftime at Oregon, where logging was a prominent political issue, the band’s show included the hacking of a stuffed spotted owl. The band was consequently banned indefinitely from Oregon by the Ducks’ athletic department, and did not return until 2001.

During a game against Notre Dame in South Bend in the 1991 season, a band member dressed as a nun conducted the field show with a crucifix.

Most recently, in 2004, the band poked fun at polygamy during a show at BYU. The Stanford Dollies wore veils while the band announcer explained the sacred bonds of marriage “between a man and a woman … and a woman … and a woman … and a woman … and a woman.”

But reaction to Stanford’s band is not always negative.

“I will tell you that the joke we made at the BYU show that got us in trouble has since been stolen by (Massachusetts governor) Mitt Romney,” Cohen said. “He’s Mormon, so I guess someone out there liked the joke.”

Romney, who may seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, used the joke at the 2005 St. Patrick’s Day breakfast in Boston and again on Don Imus’ 2006 St. Patrick’s Day talk show.

“We have a lot of support from the students,” Cohen said. “We have support from alumni. We’re pretty close with the Cal band, and I think they kind of like what we represent and we kind of like what they represent.”

Said Cal Band Drum Major Heather Handa: “I definitely think (Stanford’s band) is entertaining. We enjoy a game with them every year.”

Although David Santo, the executive secretary of the Cal Band, said both bands will perform the Star Spangled Banner before Saturday’s game, this year won’t be quite the same with the Stanford Band relegated to the stands after the pregame performance.

Then again, keeping the Stanford band off the field might not be such a bad idea. There was that one time in 1982.


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