MU, Navy band officials: Clash of songs just a misunderstanding

Monday, January 4, 2010 | 8:35 p.m. CST; updated 10:45 a.m. CST, Friday, January 8, 2010
Marching Mizzou members perform as members of the U.S. Naval Academy Drum & Bugle Corps pass by and shout their cheer on Thursday, Dec. 31, outside Reliant Stadium in Houston. Later, a misunderstanding regarding post-game rituals resulted in both bands playing at the same time, which confused and angered fans on both sides.

Missouri and Navy football fans clashed online over the weekend in a verbal brawl about competing band performances after Thursday's Texas Bowl.

Although now officially resolved, the incident provoked emotional outbursts from both sides.

Navy fans said MU was rude to play its fight song as the U.S. Naval Academy Drum & Bugle Corps was performing the  revered “Blue and Gold” anthem.

Missouri fans argued that Navy began playing before Marching Mizzou finished its own traditional sequence of songs.

As it turns out, neither side had the correct information.

It was all a misunderstanding.

By Monday, band directors from both schools had agreed that the overlapping performances were unintentional. They said the bands were positioned on opposite sides of the field and may not have been able to hear each other.

The two schools apologized for the mix-up.

The bickering started with a letter to the editor on accusing the MU band of disrespect to Navy by drowning out its performance.

Margaret Fries, who lives in Texas and is married to an MU alum, called it “disgraceful” that the Missouri band “blasted” its fight song as Navy played its alma mater.

“The entire incident was embarrassing for the Missouri fans and disappointing for the Navy fans and Navy midshipmen,” she wrote.

The letter prompted a three-day exchange in the online comments section about each school’s song rituals, the number of fans who stayed to hear the bands and whether the size of Marching Mizzou overwhelmed Navy’s smaller ensemble.

Ultimately, officials from both schools weighed in with the facts.

According to MU athletic director Mike Alden, a game operations meeting before the bowl included a discussion of post-game band assignments.

“It was our understanding that the losing team's band was to ‘play first’ and the winning team to ‘play second’ immediately following the game,” Alden said.

Thomas O’Neal, MU’s director of bands, explained that Marching Mizzou began its traditional sequence after the Tigers lost. The sequence begins by playing both fight songs, then singing the alma mater, then playing the fight songs again.

The series of songs is played at all games, home and away, and usually takes about four minutes, O’Neal said.

After the bowl game, Marching Mizzou played the fight songs and sang the alma mater, “Old Missouri.”

Navy's Drum & Bugle Corps was a football field away, and the singing was muted. Assuming a pause, the band began its own sequence. 

O’Neal blamed distance for the problem.  

“They may have thought that we were done because they couldn’t hear us,” he said. “It is impossible to hear from one end to the other.”

He also speculated that the Navy band was under pressure to get the trophy presentation underway before the crowd left the stadium.

This kind of misunderstanding is rare, he said, and regrettable.

“When we go to another school, we are cautious about their traditions,” he said. “We thought we had it figured out this time.”

O'Neal said both bands have reached closure on the issue.

“It was the people in attendance who didn’t understand the arrangement who perceived us to be inconsiderate of their tradition,” he said.

An official statement from the Naval Academy regarded it as an unavoidable situation of bad timing and accepted MU’s apology.

“The Texas Bowl was a positive experience for both schools and their fans, and we do not believe there was any intent to show disrespect toward the Naval Academy,” the statement concluded.



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Larry Swenson January 9, 2010 | 8:23 p.m.

I was at the Texas Bowl game on the Navy side of the field and was well aware of the band mix up. Perhaps MU should have told Navy how many songs the Band was going to play or perhaps Navy should have asked. MU did start first, of that I am sure. But there was a pause before they played more songs. What startled me most was that the MU Band was playing for themselves because both the team and all but a handful of fans had left the stadium. The Navy football team and their fans remain until the end, even in defeat, to honor the other school's tradition. That was not the case for MU.

Larry Swenson
Prattville, AL

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