Members of the Raider Pep Band say they were not invited to play at Friday’s NCAA March Madness game and were instead replaced—without their prior knowledge—by Ohio State University students clad in maroon t-shirts. They also allege that their comments regarding the matter were intentionally deleted by Colgate Athletics on Instagram after the @colgateraiders account posted a photo of the “fake band” to congratulate the Men’s Basketball team and its fans.
Senior Kyle Rhodehouse, who served as the Raider Pep Band’s drum major for two years, said that the Colgate band was never consulted about the possibility of traveling to Columbus, Ohio, where the men’s basketball team played Tennessee on March 22.
“We learned of the ‘fake band’ when we saw shots of drummers on the live CBS coverage of the game, and then again when someone on the cheerleading team [who had attended the game] sent a photo…to one of the Colgate band members,” Rhodehouse said.
Twenty-nine students from Ohio State’s athletic band were provided with “Go Gate” t-shirts and sheet music for Colgate’s fight song and alma mater, first-year Ohio State student and trumpet player Megan McCarthy said.
Renting other schools’ bands for away games is not an uncommon practice for small colleges. Just last year, for instance, Colgate Athletics rented a non-Raider band when the Women’s Hockey team traveled to Minneapolis over spring break for the national championship.
But members of the Raider Pep Band say they expected an invitation to perform in Columbus for Colgate’s first appearance in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in 23 years. Unlike last year’s Women’s Hockey game, this one did not take place over a break.
Juliana Smith, Senior Associate Athletics Director and Chief of Staff, spoke on behalf of Colgate Athletics and said the band’s small size and inconsistent attendance record at games were reasons they were not invited.
“While we have very much appreciated the pep band’s presence at various events this year, unlike many of the larger schools at the tournament, our group is currently too small to support a performance on a scale that is required for a nationally televised event,” Smith said. “We did invite the cheer squad to travel to the NCAA tournament this year in recognition of their commitment to the Raider teams, demonstrated through their participation in every home game this year besides university breaks and for work they have undertaken this year to strengthen their routines.”
Though many colleges’ bands are composed of upwards of 100 students, NCAA guidelines dictate that groups performing during the March Madness tournament can be no larger than 29. The Colgate pep band has 20 active members, sophomore and director Ryan Rios said.
When asked if Colgate Athletics could have invited the pep band and only hired nine additional players from Ohio State, Smith declined to comment.
Rios said that inconsistent attendance is often attributable to poor weather conditions that pose damage to instruments, and expressed frustration that Athletics’ concerns over attendance were not communicated to the pep band earlier.
“If you have an issue with our attendance and that stops us from being able to play at exciting events like the NCAA tournament, a quick heads-up would be appreciated before the fact so that we can discuss and work together to fix that for the next time,” Rios wrote in an email to Vice President and Director of Athletics Nicki Moore.
Rhodehouse said the band’s lack of an invitation is only half the story. On Friday evening, the Colgate Athletics Instagram account, @colgateraiders, posted a photo of Ohio State trumpet players with the caption “One more time for the greatest fans in the world!!” Many members of the Raider Pep Band commented in frustration. Soon, though, their comments were deleted. Rhodehouse said he commented about the photo of Ohio State students at least 11 times over a span of a few hours, and that each comment he made was removed.
Senior Allegra Padula, though not a band member herself, also commented on the post.
“I was shocked to see mine and others’ comments deleted on the Instagram post. Censorship of opinions is never a good thing, and I think our Pep Band deserves an apology for the unfairness of the entire situation,” she said.
Eventually, the entire post was removed from the @colgateraiders page. It is unclear who in particular was managing the Instagram account at the time comments were deleted.
“Action will be taken to bolster our communication with the band, and to remind staff of our commitment to open dialogue on our social media channels,” Smith said. “Be assured that the development of a more robust pep band is on our list of initiatives as we wrap up this year and head into the next, and we will look forward to working with current and prospective band members on it.”
Contact Mara Stein at [email protected]