In a heartwarming show of sportsmanship, Southeastern Conference (SEC) pep bands stepped up and provided music for school’s whose bands couldn’t make it to their women’s basketball tournaments due to bad weather.
“It was one of the best stories of the whole tournament—to see all our bands chip in and be a part of it at the level that they were,” says Leslie Claybrook, assistant commissioner of the SEC and women’s basketball tournament director. “Not a one of them turned us down. They were all for it.”
As the weather at the Little Rock, Arkansas, tournament site, and other locations in the conference got worse and worse, the tournament organizers began to receive notice that some bands, cheer squads and dance teams wouldn’t be able to make the trip. They began getting ready to pipe in fight songs over the PA system and considered asking high school bands to fill in.
“We made the decision to reach out to our own institutions’ bands first, and they were more than happy to participate and play for those whose bands were unable to travel,” Claybrook says. “They were thrilled and excited about the opportunity. They want to play and engage in their craft, and the opportunity of being involved in a unique experience and playing for another team was exciting for them.”
The Ole Miss, University of South Carolina, and Little Rock High School pep bands each played in one game in place of the University of Kentucky pep band, and the University of Arkansas and Texas A&M pep bands filled in for the University of Georgia.
“The groups were very collegial, very cooperative, very inspirational,” Claybrook says. “And it was tremendous what they did to stay around and add to the atmosphere at the tournament and then to support those teams like that.”
The guest bands were well-received by the benefiting players, fans and coaches as they played and cheered for others.
“They were doing chants, playing songs, dancing and changing some of their cheers to include the team’s mascot or logo,” Claybrook says. “The fans loved it and gave the bands a standing ovation and thanked them.”
Some coaches even provided the pep bands with apparel gifts during the game or mailed it to them after the tournament as thanks.
“The teams and coaches stayed around after the game and celebrated with [band members] and high fived them,” Claybrook says. “They were thrilled that their team had support from another institution that took time out of their schedule or stayed around after their team may have lost in the tournament.
“In the SEC we’re one big family, and while we may engage in a high level of competition on the court, our institutional support for all of our programs is near and dear to everybody’s heart,” Claybrook adds. “The band culture is a great culture for supporting each other.”
By Elizabeth Geli
Photo by Todd Van Ernst