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Mix-up means NDSU's Gold Star band won't be going to Kansas State

by Mike McFeely

There will be no Gold Star Marching Band at the North Dakota State-Kansas State football game Friday in Manhattan, Kan. -- a decision caused by miscommunication between NDSU's band and K-State's band.

To boil it down to its simplest form: Gold Star director Sigurd Johnson assumed the band would stand on the sidelines during the game (like it did at NDSU's most recent game at Minnesota) and by the time he found out that wasn't going to happen, it was too late to buy tickets to the sold-out game that would've allowed the band could sit in the stands.

"Common practice in initial conversations with bands visiting each other is usually where the visiting band is going to be seated or placed on the sideline," Johnson said. "The assumptions about the 'standard practice' for band visiting were obviously taken for granted here -- and the four of us involved in the discussions never picked up on this omission."

The four people involved included Johnson, NDSU athletic director Gene Taylor, K-State marching band director Frank Tracz and Wildcats athletic director John Currie.

Nobody detected a problem until a few weeks ago, when Johnson e-mailed Tracz to ask where the Gold Star band was going to be during the game. Tracz's response was, "You need to talk to your athletic department about that."

Further conversations revealed that Big 12 schools don't allowing visiting bands on the field. It is standard practice for bands of teams visiting Big 12 schools to purchase tickets through their own athletic department, out of the allotment the visiting team gets from the home team.

In other words, NDSU's band should have bought the 250 tickets it needed from the Bison athletic department's allotment of about 3,500 tickets. But by the time Johnson realized he needed to purchase tickets, it was too late to buy them from either NDSU or K-State.

Taylor called K-State AD Currie to find out if there was a solution. K-State offered to allow the Gold Star to play during the pep rally and at halftime, but Johnson determined that the expense and time needed to travel to Manhattan to play for about 6 minutes wasn't worth it.

 Sigurd Johnson

"Ultimately this lies in my lap. I think I've gotten past beating myself up over it, but as director of the Gold Star Marching Band I needed to make sure that this very important item had been figured out," Johnson said. "I've learned from it, but it has been a hard lesson learned since it is at the expense of my band members and the Bison fans out there who like the band and were hoping we'd be there to support the team and NDSU."

The Big 12's practice of dealing with visiting bands is different than the Big 10 or the Missouri Valley Football Conference. When NDSU played the University of Minnesota at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis in 2011, the Gophers' band director allowed the Gold Star to stand on the sidelines in the corner for free. The usual practice in the MVFC is for the Gold Star to buy tickets from the home team's ticket office. Johnson said he paid $3,000 for tickets at Northern Iowa and $6,000 for tickets when the Bison played South Dakota at Sioux Falls last season.

Johnson said he hopes the Gold Star can play at the NDSU-South Dakota State game later in the year (although that game is already a sell-out). And, of course, he hopes his band can make the trip to Frisco, Texas, if the Bison advance to the national championship game again.

"The band students were disappointed but they're a pretty forgiving group of kids and are still excited about the season -- and going to Frisco would probably help them forget this missed gig," Johnson said. "Everyone involved has only been very understanding and helpful. Gene really tried to make something happen. The K-State band and athletic folks are just doing what usually do and were actually very generous in allowing us to play for halftime and during the game. Believe me, that doesn't always happen for a visiting band."

(Mike McFeely is a talk-show host on KFGO-AM in Fargo, N.D. He can be reached at mike.mcfeely@mwcradio.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcFeelyKFGO.)