The Marching Hundred calls itself part of a tradition that dates back to 1896, according to its website.
On Sept. 27, a part of that tradition was changed.
The Marching Hundred was informed by a press release issued by Band Director David Woodley on Sept. 28 that “the IU football coaching staff would prefer the band not to perform the ‘The First Down March,’ during the team’s offensive series.”
The coaching staff said playing “The March” makes it “extremely difficult for the players to hear calls and changes at the line of scrimmage.”
“We had noticed during both of those first two games that the pace of the offense was much faster than it was last year,” Woodley said. “Last year we had to really work to get it in before the next play started and we couldn’t even do that sometimes. This year they’re even faster and it’s virtually impossible to get that song in.”
A tradition that dates back more than 20 years, “The March” will now only be played after the team has scored a touchdown. “Indiana, Our Indiana,” will continue to be played after the extra-point attempt.
“I think it’s the best we can make of the situation,” Woodley said. “We’re disappointed we don’t get to play it on the first down, however, what we found at Northwestern was we did play it after the touchdowns and it worked out. With the new offense that’s what we intend to do to maintain that tradition a little bit.”
Woodley said he wants what’s best for the team, even if that means cutting “The March.”
“We’re doing this to help our team,” Woodley said. “Whatever our team needs, we want to do it. There’s going to be some angry and confused people, it’s just one of those things. We’re trying a new approach and hopefully it will stick. We’re prepared to continue on with this if it’s successful.”
Stephen Pratt, former director of the Marching Hundred, said in an email he remembers when “The March” was added to the band.
“We added what is now called ‘The First Down March’ in either 1987 or 1988 when I was the director of the Marching Hundred,” Pratt said. “I remember it specifically since Anthony Thompson was our star running back and was responsible for so many first downs.”
Pratt said the crowd began to pick up on it, and it became popular.
“The arm motions evolved over the years, and eventually the student body picked up on it, making it a stadium event,” Pratt said.
Even though Pratt was there at its conception, he does not argue with changing the tradition.
“The play of the football team has changed with the hurry-up offense now popular with many successful programs across the country, the huddle is no longer employed consistently,” Pratt said. “Since that is the case, ‘The First Down March’ either needed to be played very quickly or not at all in order to not interfere with the game action.”
Athletics Director Fred Glass said schools around the conference are facing this issue, not just IU.
“To paraphrase Mark Twain, the demise of ‘The First Down March’ is greatly exaggerated,” Glass said. “A couple of things transpired to cause us to tweak the tradition.”
Glass explained that with the new offense, the march came into direct violation of a Big Ten rule.
Section one under Big Ten Football Management reads: “Bands shall not play music at football games once the offensive team is set, or while signals are being called by the quarterback.”
Glass said both the Marching Hundred and Northwestern University’s Wildcat Marching Band were warned by officials that they were playing music too close to when the teams were getting ready to hike the ball.
“As the administrator, it’s important for me to make sure we follow Big Ten rules,” Glass said. “The change is a result of this rule connected with the proliferation of hurry-up offenses.”
Glass said the ban on amplifying bands was lifted two years ago, and now there are giant speakers in front of where the band plays. The band’s music amplifies around the stadium, making it much louder.
Senior Scott Thompson, a member of the Hundred since freshman year, said he is disappointed with the decision.
“I know it’s something that the student section really gets into and the band loves to do,” Thompson said. “It really energizes the stadium, kind of gets the crowd going.”
Thompson said he feels that ‘The March’ brings fun and enthusiasm to the stadium. He questions whether or not they will be able to maintain a supportive crowd with it gone.
“The stadium already empties out after about halftime,” Thompson said. “Now, with this lack of energy, it’s going to be a lot easier for people to leave.”
He expressed concern that the band was being blamed for IU’s losses.
“It’s frustrating taking ‘The March’ out,” Thompson said. “I feel like we lose a lot of energy, and I also feel like some frustrations are being taken out on us, like we’re the problem. I don’t know that we’re necessarily the reason that they’re not gettin’ em.”
Nathan Pratt, a senior Marching Hundred member, said though he is disappointed they won’t be continuing the tradition, he understands and supports the decision.
“We would like to continue that tradition the way that it was, but we understand,” Nathan Pratt said. “For the needs of the football team it makes sense and it’s to help them out. We’ll still be able to play it after every touchdown. We tried that out when we took the trip to Northwestern last week and it worked really well.”
Though the band will not be playing ‘The March,’ they will lead the chant and arm motions.
“Everybody knows what to do,” Nathan Pratt said. “It’s just that, without the band playing, nobody knows when to start the song. I think people will get used to it though, especially if that helps keep the momentum of the offense going. Then you’ll see more Hoosier touchdowns and hear the song that way.”
Glass said he thinks the change will start a new tradition, ‘The Touchdown Song,’ while also keeping part of the old.
“We’re kind of bummed to have to change the tradition, but I think it will be cooler for the students to do it without the music behind it,” Glass said. “Even now the band stops and the kids keep doing it. Instead of removing the tradition, we will let the fans continue it. The band will lead but not play the music. That doesn’t violate the rules. I think it will actually be pretty cool.”
Janis Stockhouse, IU Marching Hundred alumna and band director at Bloomington High School North, will attend the Homecoming game and play in the Alumni band. She said she understood the decision, but wasn’t pleased with the way it was handled.
“I understand the whole reason for the football team is the football game,” Stockhouse said. “They have to run plays and ask for things that work best for them. I respect that, it makes total sense. They just didn’t go about it the right way.”