De-ja Vu All Over Again

My apologies to Yogi Berra for the title to this article but I just couldn't resist the temptation to use words closely associated with that renowned wordsmith.

What am I talking about? Why the recent flap in Charlotte at halftime of the Continental Tire Bowl game between UVA and WVU. For those of you too young to remember, this is the second time tempers have flared over the treatment afforded the state of West Virginia by the UVA pep band. The first time was in 1985 when the pep band did a parody of "The Family Fued" and made derogatory references to indoor plumbing and birth control in the State that was formerly a part of the Old Dominion. The Civil War took care of that.

The first ruckus was settled after UVA apologized to WVU in response to a letter sent to UVA officials by no less than the Treasurer of the state of West Virginia. The Governor injected himself into the most recent controversy and for those who think this is making a mountain out of a mole hill, let me invite them to poll any WV friends they might have to see if this was a wise political move or not. I think most natives of West Virginia approve of the position the Governor has taken and he may have made an additional friend or two by the action he took. I read this morning that UVA has done the gentlemanly thing and apologized again with an erudite letter sent from President Casteen to the appropriate officials in West Virginia.

The episode in Charlotte was not as harsh as the one performed in Scott Stadium in 1985 but the same nerve endings were touched and UVA should have known the response it would engender. The pep band is supposedly monitored by a group consisting of the various elements of the University such as faculty, students, etc so it is difficult to understand why the skit this year was allowed. The Executive Director of the Tire Bowl says the halftime performance was not what he approved when a five paragraph script of what was to take place was presented to him. He refers to the performance as "embellished and not in the same tone that we were led to believe. We were dismayed at the halftime performance of the band." He also added that the UVA pep band is not welcome at future Tire Bowls.

For those who have never seen the UVA pep band and I don't believe it was aired on television at the Tire Bowl because President Casteen was not in attendance and couldn't locate a tape of what transpired, it is a departure from what one normally expects to see. UVA is one of approximately 12 schools in the country who have "scramble" bands and they don't think of themselves as bands in the usual sense. In fact, the whole idea of a scramble band is anti-establishment and definitely is not what they call "state Uism." It may not be as bad now as it once was but when I was employed by UVA from 1960-1965, UVA students had as much disdain for a big marching band as some non-UVA fans have for the pep band. It was almost like they derived a great deal of pleasure out of ridiculing the idea of a precision marching production oriented college band and the pep band is the way they express their contempt for this symbol of most public institutions. The funny thing is that UVA obviously is a state supported institution but they have never seen themselves as such. One year they had the James Madison University Band perform at halftime and this year they had the nationally recognized Ohio University Band at halftime of one of their home games. Can't remember which one but it may have been the UNC game since several fans have mentioned to me that we should hire the Ohio Band Director at UNC immediately. That makes me think maybe they were basing their favorable impression of OU's band on exposure they received at the UVA game in Charlottesville.

Other schools which have scramble bands are Stanford, Rice, and Yale. I don't know the others. See any pattern here? All private prestigious universities. I am surprised that someone over in Durham hasn't come up with the idea that a rag tag, out of step, poorly uniformed, ill mannered group of students playing out of tune would enhance their statue among the nation's elite Universities. The thing that sets UVA apart from the ones named is that UVA, whether it likes it or not, is a state supported university but should there be any doubt as to why the average Virginian embraces Virginia Tech more so than UVA?

So now UVA will go through the motions of "exercising more control" over the activities of the pep band just as Duke does periodically with the Cameron Crazies. Not much will change because I don't think WVU is interested in playing UVA unless it is beyond their control like in a bowl game. Some folks feel that the initial incident in Scott Stadium is the reason the Mountaineers and the Cavalier haven't met on the gridiron since 1985. Come to think of it, why would we expect Mountaineers and Cavaliers to get along in the first place. Some of the same gentry vs. commoner conflicts that exist between WVU and UVA exists between UVA and UNC. In the UNC instance, It all goes back to the original bases for the foundation of the two colonies and their state universities. Have you ever wondered why both Virginia and South Carolina have outstanding military institutions while there is no counterpart in North Carolina, a state renowned for its institutions of higher learning. Brings to mind the H.L. Mencken saying that "North Carolina is a valley of humility between two mountains of conceit." There are several versions of this but the one quoted is the one I like best.

Oh, I almost forgot. What was contained in the Charlotte performance that enraged the West Virginia people so? A parody of "The Bachelor" where a male student was to choose from two females, one of whom was dressed in overalls, had pig tails. a talent for square dancing and a desire desire to go to Hollywood like the Beverly Hillbillies had. It might have been unnoticed in a different setting but West Virginians know how a lot of Virginians view them and it doesn't go down easily.