By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – If there is anything good to come from the Iowa Marching Band controversy, hopefully, it’s that the circumstances never will be as they were on Sept. 14th in Ames.
You hope that never again will the Iowa Marching Band be allowed to march as a group through thousands of Iowa State fans in the moments after the game in Ames, because as we learned, that is just asking for trouble due to the toxic mix of drunkenness, built-in hostility between the two fans bases and the cramped conditions.
The same goes for the Iowa State band when the game is played at Kinnick Stadium. If it normally marches through where Iowa fans tailgate before and after the game, then that tradition should be stopped because of that same toxic mix.
You hope that more law enforcement and security will be used to protect the visiting band than what was used in Ames barely a week ago, because apparently, it wasn’t enough.
You hope that the athletic directors from both schools, should something like this ever happen again, will handle it better from a public relations standpoint than they have in this case.
It’s still hard to understand why Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta released a vague statement that made reference to members of the Iowa Marching Band being treated inappropriately in Ames without having first spoken to Iowa State Athletic Director Jamie Pollard in an attempt to gather more details, and to be more transparent.
You hope that fans from both schools will follow the wishes of Barta and Pollard by showing more respect to each other.
The problem with that request, however, is that it came in a joint release from both athletic directors saying that the investigation was over after just a few days.
Some perceived that as an attempt to sweep the controversy under the rug, and that caused a few members of the Iowa Marching Band to go public with their grievances, which forced the investigation to be re-opened.
Both schools are now supposedly working together in order to gather more details.
You hope that if band members were actually assaulted – and why would they lie – that the offenders will be identified and then punished appropriately.
And you hope that some common sense will be used to prevent something like this from happening again.
Some have used this controversy as a reason why the series should be discontinued, or as a reason why the visiting band shouldn’t attend the game anymore.
But that’s an overreaction, and an attempt to push a narrative.
Why not just take steps to limit the amount of exposure between the visiting band and home-crowd tailgaters before, and especially, after the game?
And get rid of the late-afternoon kickoffs for this game if that's possible when television pretty much determines everything.
The tailgating started at 5 a.m. in Ames on Sept. 14th for a game that started at 3:05 p.m., meaning fans had 10 hours to consume alcohol on what was a steamy, rain-soaked day.
The extended tailgating was allowed in response to ESPN GameDay being in Ames that weekend, and that helped to create a hostile environment, even more so after the home team lost a game that was interrupted by two lightning delays that lasted for nearly three hours.
The Iowa-Iowa State game should start no later than noon from this point on if television would allow for that.
Some fans from both schools would disagree with anything that shortens the amount of time to tailgate. But there is no perfect cure for what happened in Ames, so some sacrifices would have to be made.
It would take some planning and coordination, but it could be arranged where the visiting band is dropped off and picked up right outside of both stadiums, or at least nearby, before and after the Iowa-Iowa State game.
Then have an area roped off for the visiting marching band to gain entrance to the stadium, with help from law enforcement and security.
That might not be as fun as marching through rival territory after a victory, but it’s also not fun being assaulted.
The media has been accused of blowing the story out of proportion, but try telling that to the Iowa band members who say they were assaulted.
Most of the fans from both schools behave properly before, during and after the annual showdown, but it only takes a few knuckleheads to ruin it for everybody else. And from what the Iowa band members have said, some of the behavior in Ames that night went far beyond being just a knucklehead.
This controversy will eventually fade away, but hopefully, not before some changes are made because the story almost certainly will resurface when the teams meet in Iowa City next season.
A caller on KCJJ radio this past Saturday morning said that Iowa should have Iowa State graduate Carson King lead the Wave during a game this season at Kinnick Stadium, or when Iowa State comes to Iowa City next season, as a way to help ease tensions in the wake of the band controversy.
That's a great idea, and something Iowa should seriously consider doing.
King, who is also an Iowa fan, has helped to raise over $1 million for the UI Stead Children’s Hospital with a fundraiser that started with King holding up a sign during the College GameDay show on Sept. 14th in Ames that said “Busch Light Supply Needs Replenished – Venmo – Carson-King-25.”
Money soon started pouring in and King then decided to donate all of the proceeds to the children’s hospital, minus what it costs for one case of Busch beer.
Both Busch Beer and Venmo, a digital and mobile payment service, pledged to match the donations he received and Prairie Meadows, King’s employer, also pledged $10,000.
It’s unfortunate that King’s incredible act of kindness can’t have the stage to itself, but it can help to inspire and to heal, and is a reminder that the good in us far outweighs the bad, even when alcohol is involved.
There will always be some animosity between Hawkeye and Cyclone fans because that is part of what makes the rivalry special.
But what happened in Ames crossed the line, and probably was avoidable, at least, it should be avoidable from now on with a little planning and some common sense.
This isn't rocket science.