Education

Iowa State facilities head apologized to Hawkeye Marching Band after dramatic Cy-Hawk game

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)
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)

While Iowa State University police investigate allegations that Hawkeye Marching Band members were assaulted and harassed at the Sept. 14 Cy-Hawk football rivalry, documents revealed Thursday that an ISU official had apologized to Iowa’s band director for his poor behavior.

“Eric, I want to apologize for being completely out of character,” Tim VanLoo, director of ISU Facilities and Grounds wrote in an email to University of Iowa Marching Band Director Eric Bush, according to documents released Thursday, nearly three weeks after the apology was made.

“The man you saw is not who I am, nor is it the way I want to represent ISU,” VanLoo wrote to Bush at 11:06 p.m. Sept. 14 — shortly after the one-point game that had been delayed for hours in the first half due to weather finally ended in the Hawkeyes’ favor.

“I let my challenging stressful day effect how I treated you and your band members,” VanLoo wrote. “Again, I am sorry for the way I acted and treated you. You deserved better!”

Days after the game, UI Athletics Director Gary Barta issued a statement condemning “inappropriate actions” against the Hawkeye Marching Band and reporting his staff was investigating.

With few details made public, though, ISU Athletic Director Jamie Pollard expressed frustration. Both ISU President Wendy Wintersteen and UI President Bruce Harreld eventually said their institutions had investigated all they could.

But news the universities were moving on prompted UI band members to speak publicly about ways they say they were physically and verbally harassed. One band member shared a photo o a large bruise he said was caused by a tossed beer bottle. Another band member ended up in the hospital with broken ribs, according to reports to The Gazette.

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Additionally, several band members said one of their peers was sexually assaulted and another was called a racial slur.

Four members of the Hawkeye Marching Band have since filed criminal complaints alleging assaults in Jack Trice Stadium on the Ames campus. Details of those reports haven’t been made public as the investigation continues.

Five complaints initially made by the UI included one involving a verbal altercation between Bush and the ISU facilities director as the Iowa band was beginning to exit the field, according to ISU Police Chief Michael Newton.

Newton didn’t elaborate at a Sept. 24 news conference on that reported confrontation.

But Pollard said the Hawkeye Marching Band chose to leave through a crowded exit — when band members said they experienced much of the abuse from fans — despite suggestions from facilities personnel to use a different exit.

During the news conference, Pollard said the UI band would have been smart to take the facilities’ suggestion and exit through another gate.

Hawkeye band members have disputed Pollard’s suggestion they ignored ISU direction or suggestion, and said they simply left through the gate closest to their bus.

After Bush received VanLoo’s apology, he accepted the next day.

“I appreciate you apologizing,” Bush wrote. “My reaction was strong, but I assure you it wasn’t personal — just a natural defense of my students and staff.”

Bush, in his email, acknowledged the confluence of factors that day — including the weather delays, ESPN’s College GameDay visit and fans rushing the field in the aftermath.

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“I certainly don’t envy folks around the country who have your job,” Bush said. “I am hopeful that the annual Cy-Hawk game can begin to be treated more like a game in the future. While this is an important instate rivalry, it seems to have gotten particularly nasty over the past few years (on both sides.)”

VanLoo responded by providing “food for thought” for rainy games in the future.

“In a very wet game situation on natural grass in your future travels … it would be super helpful to those that manage them to have you line up off the field and make your exit.”

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

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