Last week we detailed for you the rift that had developed between Tennessee’s Pride Of The Southland Band and the athletic department.
On Monday, as a result of that rift, the University of Tennessee announced that band director Gary Sousa had been placed on leave.
Don Ryder was named interim director.
Here’s the high points from Tennessee’s release.
Officials cited insubordination, misrepresentation of facts, and a lack of confidence in Sousa’s ability to work constructively and collaboratively with others going forward. The administrative leave is pending a full review.
“We fully support the Pride of the Southland Band,” Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek said. “We want every student musician to have a great experience and enjoy being part of a wonderful and cherished tradition.”
Cheek met with members of the Pride of the Southland band this afternoon to discuss the change in leadership and to ask for their help.
“The Pride has a 144-year esteemed history with our university. It is never about just one person. We must stand together and work together to create the very best game day experience for all,” the chancellor said.
Also attending the band meeting were Provost Susan Martin, College of Arts and Sciences Dean Theresa Lee, School of Music Director Jeff Pappas, Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Dave Hart, and UT Football Coach Butch Jones.
“I wholeheartedly support the right of students to be engaged and advocate for a cause about which they are passionate. But I am troubled by the use of inaccurate or misleading statements,” Cheek said.
UT officials said Sousa’s promotion of misleading claims to alumni and band members has created a divisive and counterproductive environment. Sousa encouraged students and alumni to speak out against the Athletics Department over reduced playing time and reductions in travel and budget. This followed the UT vs. Georgia game in which the band played significantly more than in this year’s previous home games.
It’s unfortunate that this situation led to this.
Hopefully, above all, the Tennessee athletic department heard the wishes of the fans, and most importantly the band, and will properly utilize one of the greatest traditions in college football.