102017-mis-nws-grizzly-band

The University of Montana Grizzly Marching Band performs during halftime of the Montana home football game against North Dakota last Saturday. The band doesn't have the funds to attend the Montana-Montana State game in Bozeman next month because of budget constraints in the UM Athletic Department.

TOM BAUER, Missoulian

For a moment, the music came to a halt on Monday.

During the Grizzly Marching Band's rehearsal early this week, Kevin Griggs, the director of athletic bands, shared some news he'd been working for several weeks to circumvent. 

The athletic department doesn't have the money to sponsor the band's biennial trip to Bozeman to play in the Nov. 18 Brawl of the Wild. To the delight of the Grizzly Marching Band members, a GoFundMe has been set up by Bridget Stepan, a Montana alumna and former member of the Grizzly Marching Band. 

"I was looking at other options," Griggs told the Missoulian. "Just working in the background so my students wouldn't be facing the potential of not going. I just wasn't able to really make anything work.

"I needed to let them (the band members) know what was going on. I thought they handled it beautifully. They didn't get angry and start calling names or saying negative things. They just said, 'Well, what can we do?'"

Kent Haslam, Montana's athletic director, met with Griggs a few weeks ago to break the news of the budget cuts.

"It doesn't have anything to do with us not loving the band and not thinking they're absolutely critical to what happens on game day," Haslam said. "Our coaches and our players love the band. I want to make that very clear.

"We're to a point where it's the athletic department's responsibility to fund their trips and we got to a point where we couldn't fund it without cutting into the core things we're doing with student athletes and recruiting and all those things. That's where we're at."

The trip features a price tag of around $17,500, a number that's down substantially from 10 years ago. 

The main reason for the price decline is that the band doesn't stay overnight anymore. The money goes to getting the entire 125-member band to the game via buses, into the game with purchased game tickets and two meals — lunch and dinner.

Griggs has been the director of athletic bands for 14 seasons. He says this is the first time, that he's aware of, the trip has ever been in jeopardy.

"I don't know how far back it goes, but it goes back a long time having their (Montana State) band come to Missoula and have our band go to Bozeman," Griggs said. 

What is documented, though, is the longevity of both the Brawl of the Wild football game and the origins of the Grizzly Marching Band.

Montana's first game against Montana State was in 1897 and the band got its start sometime in the late 19th century as well.

"Everybody enjoys having that game to look forward to," Griggs said. "The Griz and Cat rivalry is alive and well and has been for more than 100 years. There's always that with the students. They love to go and be a part of that atmosphere."

But the rivalry between the Grizzly Marching Band and the Spirit of the West Marching Band is much different than the animosity between the fans. 

The two bands get together to play music, alternating songs and then playing a song in unison at halftime. 

"That was a really fun trip for us," Stepan said. "There's a lot of camaraderie between the bands. We always enjoy seeing each other at those games. The bands are important to the atmosphere. I think if they wouldn't be there, that would leave an empty hole and an empty experience."

Because the Grizzly Marching Band's trip to Bozeman is a deep-rooted tradition, there's been an overwhelming amount of support, both emotional and financial, to ensure the band can attend the game.

As of 6 p.m. on Thursday, the GoFundMe has raised $7,400 for the band. Some donors include former Lady Griz coach Robin Selvig and Haslam, as well as several boosters and dozens of former Grizzly Marching Band members.

"Somebody's gotta do it," Stepan said of starting the GoFundMe. "I honestly believe had I not done it, somebody would have done it eventually. If this was happening to the Bozeman band, I would have done the same thing. The bands have to be there.

"This is what Montanans do."

Amie Just covers Griz football for the Missoulian, among other things. Follow her on Twitter @Amie_Just or email her at Amie.Just@406mtsports.com.

1
1
0
0
0