Education

Emails: Iowa State doubted Hawkeye Marching Band allegations early

Pollard: 'I wish they would not have issued the press release'

The Iowa Hawkeyes Marching Band sits in the stands during the first quarter of the college football game between the Iow
The Iowa Hawkeyes Marching Band sits in the stands during the first quarter of the college football game between the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Iowa State Cyclones at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Iowa on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Doubts of the veracity of Hawkeye Marching Band allegations against Iowa State University fans were thick from the start among ISU officials, who expressed internal dismay at the University of Iowa’s handling of the accusations of assault and harassment.

“I wish they would not have issued the press release until we all could have further researched the allegations,” ISU Athletic Director Jamie Pollard wrote to a fan Sept. 18 — two days after UI Athletic Director Gary Barta announced “inappropriate actions” toward the Hawkeye band during the Iowa-Iowa State game Sept. 14 in Ames.

“As we are now learning, through the review of video evidence from our security cameras, as well as reports from local law enforcement officials, most, if all, of what was alleged, was either grossly distorted, or in most cases completely refuted,” Pollard wrote, according to emails provided to The Gazette months after they were requested in September.

Six days later, Pollard aired that sentiment publicly during an impromptu news conference to dispel “misinformation” — at which he acknowledged the Hawkeye band experienced “embarrassing” and “shameful” heckling but said his band endured the same in Iowa City.

Additionally, Pollard at the time said ISU police had received no reports of sexual assault, racial slurs, or physical violence — allegations UI band members had made on social media and to the press.

Pollard urged “somebody needs to come forward” if those allegations were true. And four members of the Hawkeye Marching Band subsequently filed police reports.

After investigating, however, Iowa State officials on Feb. 5 announced no charges and said officers had uncovered no evidence to support the claims — confirming that campus’ initial internal sentiment, revealed by the emails.

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“That is not the feedback we received from the University of Iowa. They actually thanked us and said they were treated great,” Pollard told one person who emailed Sept. 16 to report a friend’s son and member of the Hawkeye Marching Band “had the worst experience ‘in the history of visiting other schools.’”

“Got yelled at, beers thrown on them, female cymbal players were groped, an adult woman punched the drum line director, and they were repeatedly told they should go kill themselves.”

Pollard told the emailer someone should report the allegations and stressed his school has been treated poorly too.

“If you recall last year, the University of Iowa changed where the visiting band was seated to the very top rows of their stadium,” he wrote. “Besides being poor seating for our band, it caused a lot of issues when our band had to make its way down to the field for half-time ... Needless to say our band was subjected a lot of the exact things noted.”

Cyclone Marching Band Director Christian Carichner shared a similar sentiment in an email to Pollard and ISU Director of Bands Michael Golemo at 11 p.m. Sept. 16 — hours after Barta issued his first statement.

“If we’re truly keeping score — the behavior is the same on both sides,” Carichner wrote. “My assistant director had a fan ‘grind up on him’ and was yelled at by Iowa fans all day in the tailgating lots this weekend. I was pushed (not significantly) and berated by Iowa fans while we paraded to the stadium (yes, even at Jack Trice).

“Our kids were teased, touched, etc. all the way into the stadium — it continued even once we arrived inside the stadium on the concourse — and that was nothing compared to how we were treated at Kinnick.”

To a Hawkeye Marching Band mother who emailed Sept. 16 to report her daughter “feared for her safety” during the game, Pollard wrote, “For what it is worth (does not make what happened to your daughter and her bandmates acceptable) we are actually considering not taking our band to Iowa City next year because our band received similar treatment last year.”

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Carichner in his email to Pollard said “beer is a common weapon of choice at every athletic event in the country,” adding “all of this is infinitely worse in Iowa City for us.”

“And Iowa athletics doesn’t do HALF of what we do to keep band members safe,” Carichner wrote.

Referencing the UI handling of its marching band’s allegations, Carichner told Pollard and Golemo, “I am really disappointed that Iowa chose to address the issues in the way that they did — for many reasons.”

“The most impactful to us: There is now NO WAY that the safety of our kids in the ISU band can be guaranteed at Kinnick next year,” he wrote. “To think that the Iowa fans are going to ‘de-escalate’ and NOT get ‘retribution’ is lunacy.”

Carichner reported checking in with the Hawkeye Marching Band director during the first half of the Sept. 14 game.

“I asked the director if anything had happened, to which he responded, ‘typical drunk fan behavior, but nothing bad,’” Carichner wrote. “We joked about the typical drunk fan things (because the same thing always happens to us) and ‘chalked it up to a typical Cy-Hawk.’”

He questioned the Hawkeye Marching Band’s postgame decision to “parade” through a “big mass of fans.”

“If I hear of anything else that is significant or sounds like ‘fact,’ I’ll be sure to pass it along,” Carichner told Pollard and Golemo. “I regret that the band (or really, their band) is causing you a headache and distraction.”

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Iowa State’s subsequent investigations found no evidence to support criminal charges and — in several cases — found evidence refuting the band allegations.

Tim VanLoo, ISU director of Facilities and Grounds, did email Hawkeye Marching Band Director Eric Bush after the game to apologize for his behavior, calling it “completely out of character.”

“The man you saw is not who I am, nor is it the way I want to represent ISU,” he wrote.

And both universities — along with the University of Northern Iowa — since have convened to “review and improve game management policies for games on each of our campuses prior to the start of the fall 2020 semester.”

UI President Bruce Harreld said methods to avoid repeat scenarios include walking both marching bands into games together, sitting them side-by-side, and assigning additional security.

In September, after releasing an initial joint statement with UI vowing to improve the environment, Pollard passed on the statement to his school’s band leadership and said in an email, “Probably means we also need to go back to Iowa City next year.”

“However, if that is what we decide, I am debating our hiring a couple of extra security staff to carry video cameras and record various times when things happen so we have record of it.”

Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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