Education

No charges in Hawkeye Marching Band assault, abuse allegations

Regents vow commitment to 'make safety at our games a priority'

Members of the UI marching band perform on the field at a college-football game between the Iowa Hawkeyes and Iowa State
Members of the UI marching band perform on the field at a college-football game between the Iowa Hawkeyes and Iowa State Cyclones at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

URBANDALE — Having spent months investigating accusations from members of the Hawkeye Marching Band that they were assaulted during the Sept. 14 Cy-Hawk football game in Ames, officers found no evidence to support many of the allegations.

Although authorities don’t intend to pursue criminal charges, regents President Mike Richards said Wednesday during a board meeting in Urbandale that “all three regent university presidents have agreed to work together to review and improve game management policies for games on each of our campuses prior to the start of the fall 2020 semester.”

University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld on Wednesday told The Gazette methods to avoid similar disputed situations in the future could include walking the bands into games together, sitting them side-by-side in the stadium or assigning additional security.

ISU's Hawkeye Marching Band Investigation Summary Report

Those comments — and the formal police reports — followed a contentious and dramatic Cy-Hawk game in Ames, which was delayed for hours due to poor weather. UI band members raised concerns about what they described as verbally and physically abusive behavior from ISU fans. Days after the game, UI Athletic Director Gary Barta aired concerns publicly by condemning “inappropriate actions” and vowed to investigate.

ISU Athletic Director Jamie Pollard later called a news conference where he issued an appeal for students to file official reports.

Without reports of the alleged behavior, he, Harreld and ISU President Wendy Wintersteen said they had investigated all they could.

Several Hawkeye Marching Band students eventually did file police reports, which were heavily redacted when provided to The Gazette, and ISU police launched a formal investigation.

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In talking with The Gazette, band members said they had been verbally, physically and sexual assaulted.

In a report made public Wednesday, ISU Police Chief Michael Newton summarized each case and his department’s findings — reporting no evidence to support the allegations in most of the cases.

In the four cases investigated, according to the summary, three band members said they did not want to pursue charges and one wanted to be anonymous.

According to the summary, no video or witnesses corroborated the allegations. In one case, video was reported to have disproved a UI band member’s report of being grabbed on the arm by an ISU staff member and “poked” in the chest while looking for a restroom in the Bergstrom Practice Facility.

“The video revealed that no physical contact occurred between the individual and the staff member,” according to the ISU summary. “No other evidence supported the allegations.”

In one of the cases, a Hawkeye band member reported being hurt when pulled from the band formation during the march from Jack Trice Stadium after the game. The person told UI police an unknown man pulled and pushed his or her band equipment, casing the individual to fall down. That person was reported to have suffered two broken ribs.

But because the member wanted to be anonymous, ISU police couldn’t interview him or her. Officers did interview other officers, athletic staff and Hawkeye band leaders but none “had any knowledge of the alleged incident.”

“Available video footage captures the reporting individual carrying the equipment through gate five, but contains no evidence supporting the allegations,” according to ISU police. “The available video footage does not clearly show events as the reporting individual gets closer to the bus staging area.”

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In emails released earlier and this week, ISU Facilities and Grounds Director Tim VanLoo apologized for his behavior toward the Hawkeye Marching Band.

“I want to apologize for being completely out of character,” VanLoo wrote in an email to UI Marching Band Director Eric Bush.

“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 ended in the Hawkeyes’ favor. “I let my challenging stressful day effect how I treated you and your band members,” VanLoo wrote.

Bush, in an email to his band days after the game, praised their composure “in the face of adversity.”

“I am always incredibly proud to be your director, but I was especially proud on Saturday,” he wrote Sept. 16, also urging them to describe what they experienced in detail.

Bush’s emails in the days after include many offering support. But some accused the Hawkeye band, and Bush, of bad behavior.

In response to one email, on Sept. 20, Bush shared that “I’ve barely slept since Saturday.”

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

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