ASU’s decision to leave its marching band behind when the football team goes to Hawaii has struck a sour note with some Sun Devil Band Alumni.
“I’m appalled at the lack of respect shown to the marching band,” said Travis Breedlove, a former marching band member who was shocked when he discovered no members of the Arizona State University Sun Devil Marching Band would be accompanying the football team to the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve.
The tenor saxophone player is hoping to flood the athletic department with enough letters to make it change its mind.
After all, he remembers going as part of the band to the Aloha Bowl in 1999.
“We practiced on the beach, walking up and down by all the hotels. Every 30 yards, a crowd would gather. They thought it was the greatest thing in the world,” he said. “You’re part of the team’s support. Heck, as a band member, you’re there well before anyone else comes into the stadium ... until the final whistle blows and then post-game. (You’re) their biggest fans.”
But the Hawaii Bowl is a whole different ball game. Unlike the Aloha Bowl, the Hawaii Bowl does not pay for the marching band’s travel expenses, said Steve Hanks, assistant athletic director for revenue.
It just came down to the money, he said.
“We’re really, really proud of the time and effort our men and women in the marching band put in. They provide an amazing atmosphere at Sun Devil Stadium,” Hank said. “Unfortunately, traveling to Hawaii during the holiday season is extremely expensive. ASU just does not have the discretionary spending to travel 250 people there.”
Many department personnel and the dance team also will not go to Hawaii. Only a “skeleton crew” of cheerleaders will attend because it is written into the bowl contract, he said.
Because other bowl games include band performances in their contracts, they pay for band expenses. But as a low-tier bowl, and a relatively new one, the Hawaii Bowl does not.
“Since (the Hawaii Bowl) started, no school has taken its marching band there, so we are not doing anything any other program has not done,” Hank said.
A nearly $400,000 bowl payout and conference shared revenue, he said, won’t even cover the team’s expenses in Hawaii.
But that reasoning does not sit well with some alumni.
“They just fired a coach and are going to pay well over $2 million, and then they can’t come up with a couple thousand dollars for the band?” Breedlove asked. “Don’t tell me it’s a losing proposition, I don’t buy it.”
Hank called the two issues “unrelated.”
Sophomore Chris Coughlin, a trumpet player in his second year in the marching band, said he was disappointed by the university’s decision, but understood the reasoning behind it.
“I think everybody thought we were gonna get to go, at least some of us because all the past bowl games we’ve gone,” he said.
A band alumni Web site is letting members sound off over what they see as just the latest in a continuous slight of the marching band.
“I asked if they were bringing a boombox to play the fight song at every touchdown. Also said if they were out to save money, they could buy it at K-Mart,” posted one angry former band member on the site, www.sdmbalumni.net.
Ryan Rowe, a 1992 band alumnus who now lives in Oshkosh, Wis., said he sent an e-mail to ASU President Michael Crowe on Tuesday to express his disapproval of the athletic department’s decision. After all, he said, the band is the team’s ultimate cheerleader and deserves the school’s support.
“It’s just disheartening. ... I know they’re making a financial decision, but I just think that it sends the wrong message,” he said, “When I was in the band I got to travel to a couple of away games and it means a lot to the students. It means a lot to the fans, too.”
Tribune broadcast reporter Nicole Beyer contributed to this report