April 23, 2012 - 3:38pm
BY STEPHEN J. NESBITT
Members of the Michigan Marching Band were informed via e-mail on Thursday afternoon by the Athletic Department that the band will not travel to the Cowboy Classic — the football team’s season opener.
The neutral-site game between Michigan and defending-champion Alabama will be played at Cowboy Stadium in Dallas on Sept. 1.
The Alabama Marching Band, meanwhile, will be in Dallas for the Cowboy Classic.
“I regret to share with you that it has recently been decided that the Michigan Marching Band will not be traveling to Texas for the Cowboy Classic game vs. Alabama this fall,” Michigan Marching Band director Scott Boerma wrote to the marching band in an e-mail obtained by the Daily. “The Athletic Department is treating the Alabama game as a standard road contest, not as a bowl game. Therefore, there is no bowl-style budget available to bring the band to Texas.”
The Michigan Marching Band does not travel to each road game every season, but the Ohio State, Michigan State, Notre Dame games and bowl games are staples in each season’s schedule.
“We are treating the Cowboys Classic game against Alabama as any other road game,” said an Athletic Department spokesperson. “We do not have a travel allowance for the band like we would for a bowl game. They traditionally travel to conference games and our rivalry game against Notre Dame.
“We have not taken our band on similar trips in the past.”
The marching band was told that the Athletic Department’s decision to leave the band behind was made recently, and the determination was made that because the game is not a typical road game, it will not be treated like a bowl game.
Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon told the Detroit News that it would cost $400,000 to transport the band to Texas via private charter, which amounts to twice the cost of transporting the team.
“I would love to have the band there, but the cost is beyond what we can afford,” Brandon told the Detroit News.
“Bowl game committees will pay the expenses for taking the band, and that's why we always take the band.”
Reports are that the band was initially told there would be room in the budget, but that was later reconsidered and overturned.
“I realize that some of your parents and/or friends may have already purchased game and flight tickets for that weekend, and for that I sincerely apologize,” Boerma wrote in the e-mail.
Michigan is set to receive a $4.7 million payday for playing Alabama, according to the Cowboy Classic contract. Cowboy Stadium L.P. (CSLP) is contractually obligated to have seating provided for the Michigan band, as well as room for cheerleaders, dance team and mascot. (Michigan has no mascot — at least, not yet).
Transportation and lodging for the Dallas trip would be paid by the Athletic Department. Brandon told the Detroit News that that $4.7 million was earmarked for the Athletic Department.
An integral part of the gameday experience at Michigan and across the country, the decision made early on Thursday afternoon sparked immediate backlash on Twitter. Some started an #MMBtoDallas hashtag in response.
“I'm no happier not having our band down there than anyone else, but it's a practical reality,” Brandon said.
The Michigan Marching Band's official Twitter account got the final word on Thursday evening, posting a quote from legendary Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler:
“The next time I go into a war, I want my band with me!”