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Budget cuts restrict band travel

Teresa Fralish | Friday, September 24, 2004

Breaking with years of tradition, the Band of the Fighting Irish will be traveling to just one away football game this fall – solely as a result of budget cuts.

“This year is a big letdown,” said Lauren Fowler, band vice president.

In the past, the full band, about 380 people, has always traveled to at least two away games, and particularly to games within close distance. The band traveled to two games last year and attended three in 2002, including a weeklong trip to Florida State.

Due to a major budget cut, this year the band will travel only to Tennessee – and exclusively through money raised by band members, said band director Ken Dye.

“There is no funding – it’s just purely a matter of budget and we have to do fundraising to go to the one,” Dye said. “The trips just aren’t being funded.”

Many students at last weekend’s Michigan State away game were surprised to see no band -and so was Michigan State, Dye said.

“I got a very nice letter from the MSU band. They said we’re really going to miss you,” he said. “This has been going on for years.”

According to Dye, the band’s travel funds constitute a major part of the group’s overall budget, and the band is not receiving the level of funds from various sources that it did in year’s past. The band’s operating budget comes primarily through Student Affairs, which oversees the group.

“Football travel is a huge chunk. We don’t have significant resources,” Dye said. “I would like to say that there could be more funds for away games, but it really isn’t up to us.”

Though Dye didn’t know specifically why or how the cuts occurred, he compared Notre Dame unfavorably to other similar universities.

“[At] other schools, there’s much more support from those who receive the band – such as the athletic department,” Dye said. “Most of the other schools get significant travel budgets.”

For its part, the University said no one individual bears final responsibility for decisions on the larger budget from which the band’s funding is derived.

The Student Affairs fiscal year budget is ultimately approved over the summer by Father Mark Poorman, vice president for Student Affairs, said Carole Coffin, Poorman’s assistant. But both that budget and the Student Affairs budget are determined by a variety of administrators, she said.

As a rule, the band always includes all members when traveling to away games. At this point, Dye said he didn’t know what the total cost of the Tennessee trip would be and the portion of the total budget it would comprise.

Band members themselves, especially seniors and juniors, said they are surprised, disappointed and hurt by the current situation.

“I think it’s discouraging in that most schools bring their bands here,” Fowler said. “We work really hard for this. I think we don’t get as much credit as we should.”

Four-year band members said this year’s situation was especially frustrating given higher participation in previous years.

“It’s really disappointing and disheartening when the University doesn’t pay for a single thing for the band for away games,” senior baritone player and four-year member Eric Swanson said.

In particular, members said the lack of funding this year raised major questions about the University’s commitment to the band’s tradition.

“I wish the athletic department would see the impact that we have on the fans and the game,” Fowler said. “Michigan State was only two hours away.”

Senior trumpet player and four-year member Erin Marx noted that – given the many additional non-football and non-athletic events at which the band traditionally performs – it seemed strange that funding was cut.

“We kind of feel used by the University sometimes,” she said. “We’re getting better each year and we’re doing less and less each year. It just doesn’t make sense.”

Marx said Dye met with band officers and section leaders this fall to explain the situation, and to tell members that there was little that could be done about it.

“People think it’s the band but it’s not,” she said. “We’d love to go but there’s nothing we can do about it.”

Band members also questioned the decision to give each member a $25 gift certificate, about $9,000 altogether, rather than use the funds to travel to an away game.

“I’m sure everyone would have rather gone to MSU rather than had the gift certificate,” Swanson said.

Specifically, both Swanson and Fowler asked why the band has never been able to travel to the USC game.

“USC fans always ask us why we don’t come, and we say it’s a matter of funding,” Fowler said.