“1, 2, 3, 4 … what the hell are we fighting
for?!!?”

Shouting this fight song, the jumbled mass of brass and
woodwinds wielded by the unorthodox Michigan Tech Pep Band heralded
the Huskies’ arrival to the long-anticipated Bash at the Big
House. Its spirit reflected the revival of a program left for dead
a year ago, and the enthusiastic exhortations reflected the
resurgence of its pulse.

Though Michigan Tech’s hope for an undefeated season was
dashed by a 24-7 defeat to two-time defending Division II National
Champion Grand Valley State, Michigan Tech still gained from its
loss.

Michigan Tech was lucky to play a single game this season, so
riding a nine-game winning streak into the Big House was a miracle
in itself. The football program was cut in the spring of 2003
because of budget constraints, but an alum’s donation of
$400,000 resurrected the team just a month after its sudden
termination.

“5, 6, 7, 8 … we think you should
integrate!”

This cheer’s relevance to the scheme of the game is
puzzling, but enthusiastic nonetheless.

No set uniforms, no marching, no problem. Michigan Tech is the
“Bad News Bears” of pep bands.

Junior Michigan Tech saxophonist Chris Dupriest wears a beer
helmet to games — a notable item despite the emptiness of his
brown-bagged pair of cans. In his yellow and blue pinstriped
overalls and personalized hockey jersey, Dupriest’s wacky
attire comprises the “standard” uniform of the Michigan
Tech Pep Band.

“We don’t have a music major at Tech,”
Dupriest said. “So we’re all in it for the fun, and
we’re tougher and more creative than the competition, even
though we don’t march in the snow. We’re proud of
volunteering to do what we can to push our team to victory, and
unafraid of pushing the limits of decency. Our band director
censors us more than he conducts us.”

The ragtag volunteer organization thrives on the controlled
chaos of its performances, reflected by the diversity of its
headwear. The cranial adornments range from menacing Kaiser
Wilhelm-esque spiked military helmets to decidedly
less-intimidating patterned hats floppily inspired by Dr.
Seuss.

Scanning the scattered ranks of the band, there is no lack of
visible variation in dress and manner, but a united spirit rises
above the madness. Conformity is clearly not a priority, but
unbridled enthusiasm is a prerequisite.

“9, 10, 11, 12 … What the hell rhymes with
twelve?”

Many band members answered “Beer!” But the group was
unable to reach a consensus. The Michigan Tech pep band
doesn’t march — it meanders.

The goofy antics and silly hats of the Michigan Tech pep band
represented the nature of the Bash at the Big House this past
Saturday — an exciting chance for teams that have made the
most of their small school status to perform on a marquee
stage.

Though the game was guaranteed at the beginning of the season,
Michigan Tech’s performance this year wasn’t. The
Huskies have put together the best performance in the 82-year
history of the program, securing their first playoff berth under
the guidance of coach Bernie Anderson. The revitalization can be
partially credited to the generosity of the University of
Michigan’s athletic department. The tremendous fundraising
opportunity presented by a game at Michigan Stadium gave Michigan
Tech’s beleaguered football program a chance to recuperate
the enormous investment of the revival.

The two schools’ relationship began in the early
‘70s when Michigan Tech first invited Michigan to be a
partner in the Great Lakes Invitational hockey tournament. Michigan
Tech is no longer a premiere team in the tournament, but the two
schools still have a strong relationship, and it was only natural
for Michigan to help a fellow in-state program.

Both Michigan Tech and Grand Valley State benefited enormously
from their meeting — Michigan Tech met its monetary needs
while the Lakers saved themselves from postseason elimination. The
competitive atmosphere in the stands was overpowered by the mutual
joy of the circumstances.

Though the crowd fell short of the NCAA Division II attendance
record of 61,143 — the total attendance was 50,123 —
the intensity of the devoted fans echoed through the stadium.

Grand Valley State alum Will Frederick was uninterested in the
financial implications.

“All that matters is that both teams are fired up to play
at the Big House,” Frederick said. “You see both bands
coming through, raising the excitement. Alumni are coming together
from all over. I haven’t seen a lot of these people in years.
We may not fill the stadium with numbers, but for a Division II
game, this is as good as it gets.”

Michigan Tech hopes to continue its unprecedented march into the
Division II playoffs, secured by a No. 4 ranking and a ragtag
band.

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