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Budget, scheduling restrict band away game travels

Kathleen McDonnell | Friday, September 1, 2006

As the 2006 Irish football team runs onto Georgia Tech’s field for the season opener, an element almost as synonymous with Notre Dame football as Knute Rockne will be missing – the Band of the Fighting Irish.

The band will take only one roadtrip this season, as opposed to its typical two away appearances. Tight budgeting and scheduling issues forced the band to choose Michigan State on Sept. 23 as its only away game visit, according to Larry Dwyer, assistant director of bands.

The band traditionally travels to away games in buses to defray costs. While in the past buses have taken the band as far as Tennessee and Florida State, Dwyer said this year the band chose to save money by traveling only a state away.

“By saving the money from a second away game, it will enable us to go to the Penn State game next year, which is a longer trip,” he said.

This season the Irish play seven home games and only five on the road. With the other away games spreading across the country – Georgia Tech, Navy in Maryland, Air Force in Colorado and USC – distance plays a large role in choosing which games are feasible.

But money is not the only reason the Band of the Fighting Irish does not make appearances nationwide.

“Even if there were money to send the band to every away game, it would almost certainly be the University’s policy not to do that,” Dwyer said. “Our band members have academic schedules and need to study. There are very good academic reasons why we don’t go.”

Unlike athletes on scholarship, band members are volunteers. Home game weekends are packed with band performances, including step-off, drummer’s circle, the concert on the steps and the march to the Stadium, as well as the game. All this adds to a full academic load.

However, if the team qualifies for a bowl game, the band will travel as well.

“For [the band members] to do all the home games is a lot, so going to Michigan State and presumably the National Championship this year should be plenty,” Dwyer said.

While the band may not be performing at Georgia Tech this weekend, members will be using the extra time to prepare shows for home games.

“We’re excited. Our first priority is always to do exciting shows for the Notre Dame student body,” Dwyer said. “We try to make nice shows so the parents, alums and fans – everyone – will like it, but the first priority is the students.”

Students will see the band on the field for the first time this season in next weekend’s home opener against Penn State.