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Where’s the band, NMU?

February 27, 2012
By MATT WELLENS - Journal sports Editor ( , The Mining Journal

The Michigan Tech University women's basketball program was featured last week by ESPNW - the World Wide Leader's online destination for women's sports - as part of the website's Hoops Across America series.

The article by staff writer Joanne C. Gerstner detailed the uniqueness of Houghton, the program's relationship with the community, and of course the Huskies' run to the NCAA Division II title game last season.

The feature also touched on another, possibly even more famous group of students on the campus of Michigan Tech - the pep band.

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The "Cream of the Keweenaw," "Pride of Pasty Land" and "Second-Best Feeling in the World" even got a shout out and some air time in the accompanying video.

Had this been an article about the Northern Michigan University women's basketball program, you wouldn't have seen a single word about the Wildcat pep band.

That's because it's never there, whether it be a men's or women's basketball game.

While the Huskies parade around John MacInnes Student Ice Arena, the Student Development Center Gymnasium and Sherman Field in their striped bib overalls and goofy hats - Gerstner references one involving a fishing pole and a metal flask as bait - for football, hockey, men's basketball and women's hoops, the NMU pep band only dawns its green and gold rugby shirts when the Wildcat hockey team takes to the ice of the Berry Events Center.

The only other athletic event featuring NMU's musicians is football.

Student bands are a key part of the college atmosphere at every level, from big Division I schools like Michigan - even if the Wolverine's pep band only knows one song - to the small Division III school I grew up by, the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.

Bands add an aura and excitement that Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga just can't create.

As Gerstner wrote, "It would not be a full Michigan Tech experience without the pep band."

So why does the NMU pep band stay away from the hardwood? Why isn't the NMU pep band part of the Wildcat athletics experience?

In a recent roundtable discussion on ESPN 970 AM, NMU President Les Wong told host Casey Ford, former Mining Journal reporter Kurt Mensching and myself that the band had been cut from basketball games some time ago due to budget crunches for both the music and athletic department.

Now that the university is finding some wiggle room in its budget, Wong hopes to have the band at hoops in the future.

I find that to be an absurd excuse as no compensation should be required for students to support their fellow classmates, though, Wong said students should receive something for their time.

Passion should be the only thing required for fans or music and athletics. Obviously, the students at Tech have more of both.

Like NMU musicians, Tech students receive no compensation. Unlike Northern students, however, members of the Huskies pep band can't get a degree in music, because the school doesn't one. All it offers is a minor in the subject.

The Huskies' pep band, known as DaWGs (Damn, We're Good), is just one of the many student groups on campus, like the chess or camera clubs.

The students play at games because they love music, they love Tech athletics and they love to sing or rap about beer and calculus.

Tech's pep band is an added bonus at home and the Wildcats could use that same boost at the BEC.

This offseason, while Doug Lewis and Troy Mattson are recruiting future players, Northern's new athletic director, director of bands Stephen Grugin and Wong need to work on a deal to get the band at more than hockey and football.

Hopefully come 2012-13, I won't be hearing taped recordings of the National Anthem and NMU fight song, but a live performance by a talented group of NMU students.

Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252.



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