When Missouri scores, the fans cheer and the fight song plays.
When the 6-0 Tigers were traveling to Texas A&M on Oct. 14, Jesse Cox and his girlfriend gladly made the three-hour drive from Dallas to College Station, Texas. They met Cox’s parents, who drove 11 hours from Tennessee.
Missouri was ranked No. 19, there were 71,136 fans, and ABC was broadcasting the game to 14 states. Aggies fans were respectful to Cox’s group.
But when Missouri scored and there was no fight song, Cox became embarrassed.
Having a band enhances the experience of an away game, Cox said. He was disappointed that Missouri didn’t send a band after an undefeated start.
Neither Missouri’s marching band, Marching Mizzou, nor a smaller pep band will travel to a regular season away game this year. That decision was made six months ago, and MU’s success cannot change it. Big 12 Conference rules state that a band has to schedule road trips by May 1.
Generally, Marching Mizzou tries to travel to one away game every other year, about on par with most Big 12 North schools. Nebraska is the only Big 12 North school sending a band to more than two away games.
Marching Mizzou traveled to two games last season, Arkansas State in Kansas City and Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Okla. Director Michael Knight said the band’s budget and schedule determine travel.
This year, Knight said two games were close enough to travel to but neither worked. While the Missouri football team played at Nebraska on Saturday, the band was hosting its annual high school competition at Memorial Stadium. On Nov. 18, Missouri plays football at Iowa State, but the game is during MU’s Thanksgiving break. Knight said the team is looking into travel opportunities for next season and might be able to travel twice.
Cox pointed out that Oklahoma and Texas bring their bands to most away games, and those schools have won three of the past four Big 12 championships. But Knight says that probably has more to do with geography. Todd McCubbin, the director of the MU Alumni Association, said the creation of the Big 12 probably affected the Missouri band’s traveling the most.
“Before, Colorado was hard to get to every other year, but you could do it,” McCubbin said. “Now you can have two Texas teams in one year.”
Two teams brought pep bands to Memorial Stadium this year, Oklahoma and Mississippi. No team has brought a full band to Memorial Stadium in the three years that Knight has been here.
Still, Cox wants to see more. He has always been a college football fan, especially of Missouri. Growing up in Alton, Ill., Cox attended many Missouri and Illinois games. Now, 33 and a consultant for Benefit Partners in Dallas, Cox sees football everywhere.
After the Texas A&M game, Cox sent an e-mail to 11 members of the MU administration and five members of the media. Included in his list of recipients were MU Athletic Director Mike Alden, McCubbin, and MU Chancellor Brady Deaton.
“It was quite embarrassing to tell the very polite A&M fans that I was not sure why our marching band was not at this very important game,” Cox wrote. He asked what the policy is on the band’s travels, and what he could do to change it.
Three hours later, Cox noticed a message on his cell phone. He came inside from his yard-work to find a message from Alden.
“(Alden) left a long voice message personally saying that he got my e-mail, and that he certainly appreciated my concern,” Cox said. “He wanted to let me know that it was not a decision of the athletic department whether the Univeristy of Missouri band travels, it is a band decision. He made a point to say there was a $100,000 budget for the band through the athletic department, and when he came there was a zero dollar budget.”
Eric Morrison, an associate athletic director, confirmed that Alden did call and that the athletic department does give $100,000 annually to the band. Morrison, a former member of Marching Mizzou, is now the athletic department’s central communication with the band.
Alden was out of town and unavailable for comment, athletic department spokesperson Chad Moller said.
The athletic department’s budget for the band is for operation and administration, which includes the basketball and volleyball bands. A given road trip, Knight said, can cost from $30,000-40,000, depending on overnight stays and transportation distance. The band has to pay for the bus, lodging, food and tickets to the game.
The athletic department funds the travel for postseason play. Last year, Marching Mizzou went to the Independence Bowl, pep bands traveled to the Big 12 basketball tournament in Dallas and the third of fourth rounds of the NCAA volleyball tournament at Penn State.
Morrison and Knight said they haven’t received much fan input regarding the band’s travel. McCubbin said he has but not much and not recently.
If given the opportunity, Knight said Marching Mizzou would travel more, but the budget does not allow it.
Senior Will Green, a member of the Missouri Drumline, said he enjoys traveling and would be willing to travel more, but he is content with how much the band travels now.
“I think the amount that we do now is good, because we still have a lot to do at the home games,” Green said. “I would enjoy it if there were more either way.”