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I can't believe I'm noding this.

Instead of having a marching band like most civilized football-playing institutions, University of Virginia has had the Pep Band, or, as they're formally known...

The Award-Winning Virginia Fighting Cavalier Indoor/Outdoor Precision(?) Marching PEP Band & Chowder Society Revue, Unlimited!!!!

Its most recent incarnation dated back to either 1969 or 1974 (historic information on their web site gives both dates in the same e-mail message... obviously the writer was a recipient of a quality UVa education). For football, they perform both in the stands of Scott Stadium and on the field, "scrambling" (hence the term scramble band) between songs to different formations. The scramble band idea isn't unique to UVa; the most well-known such band is the LSJUMB at Stanford, and other such bands exist in the Ivy League and on the West Coast.

The UVa pep band became nationally known in the early '90s for increasingly foul and tasteless humor. Those unfortunate enough to be near Charlottesville already knew all about this. In 1985, during a game with West Virginia University, they invited WVU cheerleaders to participate in their show, assuring them that no harm would be done; the 'Eers complied, and then were abjectly humiliated on the field and over the stadium loudspeakers with inbreeding jokes and other insults. In the ensuing furor, the then-Governor of WV vowed that WVU would never play UVa again. In 1988, at the Virginia Tech-UVa game in Blacksburg, they learned that Hokie basketball player Bimbo Coles was to be honored for becoming the first Hokie to participate in the Olympics that year; their show consisted of a mayor character giving a Bimbo character the key to the town outhouse (parodying the key to the city that he actually received), and they were subsequently banned from ever setting foot on Worsham Field again. (In a tit-for-tat move, VT's Marching Virginians were banned from the Scott Stadium field starting the next year.)

In 1993, the Hoo administration finally decided that the Pep Band had gone too far (took them long enough), and banned them from their own stadium for most of the year. (The related basketball Pep Band also had their microphone taken away in University Hall around this time.)

Musically, they're not that great; the humor is sophomoric at best. Their uniforms consist of blue button-down dress shirts, khaki pants, and orange highway vests, which has allowed some of my friends to sneak into UVa-VT games for free as pseudo-band members, then get into the stands and break out all their Hokie gear.

Update, 4 January 2003: On 26 December 2002, UVa once again played WVU, this time in the Continental Tire Bowl in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Pep Band was required to submit a script for their skit to UVa administration and to the bowl committee; a skit parodying the TV show The Bachelor was submitted and approved, where a UVa graduate would be selected over a WVU student with a dream of moving to Beverly Hills (swimming pools, movie stars). Arguably the skit should never have been approved in the first place -- you can read it at the last link below. College band shows are generally musical and harmless, not music-free, classless and borderline offensive to the opposition.

What they didn't mention was that they were going to present her in overalls, with pigtails and a talent for square dancing. The pro-WVU crowd (well over 40,000 to UVa's 20-25K) booed throughout the performance; now-WV Governor Bob Wise again demanded an apology (and received one, from UVa President John W. Casteen III). Bowl executive director Ken Haines banned them from any future Tire Bowls UVa should participate in, saying the skit was "not in the same tone that we were led to believe."

Update, 16 March 2004: Upon the receipt of a $24 million dollar donation from an unidentified benefactor, of which $1M was earmarked toward the development of a marching band, the UVa athletic department disbanded (heh) the Pep Band in April 2003. The Pep Band was forbidden from appearing in Scott Stadium during the 2003 season, and outside bands (high school and college) were brought in to entertain the Hoo fans. The Hoos' marching band is expected to debut in the fall of 2004.

jbrandon: There's a difference between you and me mocking each other on a semi-individual basis (Did you think I missed the Blacksburg softlink? Nice holier-than-thou attitude you've got there), and institutionally-supported and -promoted offensiveness in front of 60,000+ fans. Or does the Pep Band pay to transport itself to bowl games and road games, pay for its own hotel rooms on the road, and buy its own tickets? And, conversely, can I gather a few hundred friends, demand a microphone at Lane Stadium and use it to talk trash? Sportsmanlike and situationally appropriate behavior is all that we're asking for here. You can talk all the smack you want off-mike and off the field -- I sure do.

And don't you dare accuse me of supporting jackasses who assault Pep Band members. The correct response when one sees a Pep Band member is to point and laugh, and the correct response when some jackass attacks an opposing fan of any sort is to toss him in jail.

Sources: http://www.vapepband.org/, http://www.student.virginia.edu/~pepband/Anecdotes/Bimbo.html, http://www.newsday.com/sports/nationworld/wire/sns-ap-fbc-tire-bowl-halftime1231dec30,0,646218.story?coll=sns%2Dap%2Dsports%2Dheadlines, http://www.student.virginia.edu/~pepband/tirebowl.txt, and personal experience

TA-WVFCI/OP(?)MPB&CSR,U!!!!! was founded in 1974. Originally created because Virginia football was truly awful, fans would come to the games to laugh and cry at the team and laugh with the pep band. Times changed, political correctness happened, and the pep band was censored. Essentially no jokes are now allowed, except the ones that slip by the geniuses in the athletic department who majored in sociology, business, or sports management. Not only are jokes about any school (including UVa) banned, but even bland political satire is forbidden.

One pep band antic VT_Hawkeye might have forgotten was the playing of a tape of barnyard animal noises as the VT players ran out into Lane Stadium. This was one show before the banning of the pep band from the field in Blacksburg.

It's more than a little hypocritical for VT_Hawkeye to mock UVa's academics but complain that UVa students mock other schools. It is, unfortunately, not unexpected. A typical angry response to the pep band is often along the lines of "Your team sucks, as does your state and your school! Now, just where do you get off making fun of us? That's mean . . ." Members of the Virginia Pep Band have been physically assaulted by crazed fans of opponents who claimed they were tasteless. The irony of this is lost on them.

The kind of anger directed against the Virginia Pep Band can also be found among opponents of Ivy League schools (excluding Cornell) and Stanford, all of which support "scramble" or "scatter" bands.

In response to VT_Hawkeye's update, the incidents at the Continental Tire Bowl show have been blown out of proportion by various media outlets. Yes, they did play music. Yes, the UVa graduate was wearing exaggerated UVa football attire, just as the WVU grad was wearing exaggerated WVU football attire. No, there was no square dancing.

Supporters of scramble bands argue that tradition is not a good enough reason for marching bands, which some find boring. They may also argue "If they can't take a fuck, joke 'em."

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