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Football

Pollard, Iowa State clear the air regarding Iowa band claims

AMES “Something really bad happened in Ames.”

 Those words, spoken by University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld in a recent interview with The Daily Iowan, struck Iowa State Athletics Director Jamie Pollard.

 Pollard had hoped that Iowa State University Police investigations into five reported alleged incidents of fan misconduct aimed at the Hawkeye Marching Band at Jack Trice Stadium during and after the Sept. 14 Cy-Hawk game would close the matter and lead to productive bi-lateral talks pertaining to improved fan safety and security. 

 Instead, Pollard said, a handful of presumably legitimate complaints about varying degrees of “rudeness” from a small group of ISU fans mushroomed into a national story — and even prompted Harreld to cast the future of the annual matchup between the Cyclones and Hawkeyes as potentially being in jeopardy.

 “Do I think that the Iowa marching band was subjected to profanity, rudeness and possibly even having something thrown on them?” Pollard said. “Unfortunately, absolutely. And why do I feel that way? Because I know it’s happened to our band, multiple times, in Iowa City. And that’s flat-out embarrassing. It’s shameful. It’s inexcusable. And we all have to do better. That means our fans have to do a better job of policing our fans, but so do the Iowa fans. This has got to be a collective approach to not let that type of behavior happen.”

 As for the fate of the Cy-Hawk game?

 Iowa State President Dr. Wendy Wintersteen stressed that it should continue — despite the controversy surrounding the latest iteration of the usually celebrated event, which Iowa won, 18-17.

  “I want everyone to know that I am committed to doing everything I can to make sure that the Cy-Hawk football series continues,” Dr. Wintersteen said during a Tuesday news conference. “We can’t let the actions of a few individuals bring an end to something that is so positive for our state. At the same time, we can’t, and we haven’t, ignored the actions that were reported after the game. We are saddened and concerned by the reports that some members of the Iowa band were mistreated or harmed during their visit to our campus. This is something that we take very seriously. We will continue to work with our colleagues at the University of Iowa to address any specific allegations of misconduct as they are shared with us.”

 Pollard reiterated that stance while noting that media and social media-based claims that sexual assault had occurred that day have not yet been reported to law enforcement officials. 

 “If that did happen, that’s horrific and somebody needs to tell us,” Pollard said. “Because that’s something that should be investigated to its fullest extent, but nobody — as (Iowa State University Police) Chief (Michael) Newton has said and the University of Iowa has reported — no one has alleged that to us.”

 Pollard also lamented the existence of what he deemed “misinformation” that further complicates efforts to fully sort truth from innuendo.

 That’s where the phrase, ‘Something really bad happened in Ames,’ clouds the picture, along with other allegations made in the court of public opinion, but not officially on the record — at least so far.

“I’ve been asked by media members (about) that particular statement and all that can lead me to believe is either that references to the vulgarity and profanity, or there’s something else,” Pollard said. “And if there’s something else, then somebody’s got to share that with us. Because as of this morning, their athletics department has said there is nothing else. So to say, ‘Something really bad happened in Ames,’ I’m led to believe, then, we must be talking about the rudeness and the vulgarity and the five incidents — but that’s not the perception that’s being perpetuated. It’s this sense that something worse happened and we’re here to say if something worse happened, somebody please tell us, so we can try to deal with it.”

 Newton echoed Pollard’s sentiments. He said he’s been in constant contact with University of Iowa Police officials in hopes of sharing — and investigating — information as it becomes available in a timely and thorough manner.

 “One thing I want to stress is we in law enforcement find it very difficult to actually launch an investigation when there’s actually no complainants that come forward. That does challenge us us in this process,” Newton said. “We can’t investigate from media reports. We can’t investigate from social media reports. What we wanted to do was take the five points that the University of Iowa laid out for us and go ahead and at least look at those, based on what we could. One of the things that was missing from that was the what, when, where, how the incidents occurred, so we could only go based on the limited information that we had in these. However, we wanted to look forward and see what else we could find and see if there were any details that would assist us in figuring out what actually transpired on that day.”

 Pollard said the five complaints shared with him consisted of a teaching assistant for the Iowa band having beer poured on him or her; an unidentified object being thrown at the Iowa football team’s bus, which cracked the windshield (players and coaches were not present, Pollard added); a “verbal altercation” between the Iowa band’s director and Iowa State’s facilities director as the band prepared to exit the stadium; a verbal “confrontation” between a band member and security personnel when said band member tried to pass through the ISU team entrance at the Bergstrom Football Complex; and, most importantly, issues that sprang up as the Hawkeyes’ band tried to exit the field and return to their busses. One band member who was carrying a ladder suffered broken ribs. 

 Pollard said the band left Jack Trice Stadium at its most crowded exit point, which led to “shoulder-to-shoulder” conditions. 

 “I’m a very visual person and so I want to share a visual with you because, unfortunately, the misinformation that’s out there is a visual that their band was walking to their bus and they were attacked by Cyclone fans,” Pollard said. “What I’d ask you is to have this vision: It was 30 minutes after the game and the only people remaining in the football stadium — in Jack Trice Stadium — were the Iowa marching band and the Iowa State marching band. There were thousands of people still trying to exit the stadium through gate five, which is west of the Jacobson Building where the construction site is. Gate one, which is to the east of the stadium was completely wide open. Our security personnel advised the Iowa marching band that it would be best for them to exit to the east through gate one like our band did and had no issues because the gate was wide open. 

 “For whatever reason, the Iowa marching band did not do that. They chose to leave the field through the west side of the Jacobson Building, where there were thousands of people still shoulder-to-shoulder in a snail’s pace trying to work through that small entryway. The Iowa marching band marched in formation, playing their instruments, into the back of that crowd and essentially forced their way through a crowd that had — there was no place for anybody to move to. Chief Newton will explain when he comes up to the podium what his investigation (found) after looking at that situation, but I think it’s really important for the visual to be the busses for the Iowa marching band were parked on Fourth Street, about a hundred yards from (gate five). Had they gone out the East side, they would have come out 150 yards from their busses.”

 Newton confirmed that gate five was heavily congested after the game and “some pushing and shoving” reportedly occurred.

 “The officers had said there was a skirmish that kind of broke out and their description of the skirmish was there was some pushing and shoving, because they were pushing the backs of people as they marched aggressively out of the stadium,” Newton said. “They were marching faster than the people can walk in that area to give you a little bit of a visual and playing their instruments. The officers immediately recognized that there was some pushing and shoving and they responded to that. They went in to make sure that the band could safely exit the area. They were thanked by some of the band members, the cheerleaders, for being there and then they helped get them back to their bus. During that time not a single individual reported, from the band, reported any confrontation to the law enforcement officers. Following that, the University of Iowa police officer went on the bus. Nothing (was) reported to that officer.”

 Pollard reiterated in a post-news conference Q and A session that if “something really bad” did indeed happen, he hoped someone would speak up and provide additional information.

 “We really care,” Pollard said, choking up. “Those that know me know we welcome every marching band. It’s part of the collegiate environment. We’ve got three bands coming here yet this year. It pains me to think that this incident could result in not only the series not being played, but that those young men and young women in the bands wouldn’t get to perform. Our university investigated this to its fullest and Chief Newton will explain that. But the statement that, ‘Something really bad happened,’ has created another narrative that there’s something else out there that wasn’t part of those five allegations. And we’re here to say if there is, then somebody needs to come forward and share that with us, because our team will do everything possible to find out what that was. But if somebody’s not going to share that with us then our hands are really tied. There’s not much else we can do. I also know that we’ve reached out to the University of Iowa athletics department the last 12 hours and asked them to confirm, ‘Did we have your five allegations correct? And is there anything else that’s been brought forward to you since last Tuesday,’ and the answer is, ‘No.’”

 Pollard’s answer to a question about whether he’d bring ISU’s band to Iowa City for next season’s Cy-Hawk game was a qualified, but hopeful, ‘Yes.’

 “When we go to Iowa next year, I certainly hope we get to do that,” Pollard said. “Getting to play in front of a Cy-Hawk game is big deal to the marching band members, again, both past, present and future. That’s one of their biggest platforms that they get to perform (on). That being said, we welcome the call for our administrations getting together and coming up with uniform polices and procedures of where the visiting team’s band sits, (and) where visiting team’s bands park.”

 Pollard said both he and Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta have spoken numerous times about the alleged incidents — and plan to work together to ensure a safe and hospitable environment exists for opposing bands (and) fans at both stadiums. He also noted that Barta had said late last week that Iowa has no plans to discontinue the Cy-Hawk game.

 “Let’s not also lose sight of what happens here — and quite honestly, what happens in Kinnick (Stadium) — are model crowds,” Pollard said. “I have peers around the country that talk to me all the time about, ‘What do you all doing in Ames, Iowa, because it’s so special. It’s such a great environment. Your fans are so passionate. They’re so well behaved.’ So it’s unfortunate when a few cast that weekend into such a negative light, because had that not happened, many of you in the audience right now had either written, or were writing, what a wonderful week it was for this state to have ESPN College) GameDay here, and to have all the national publicity about how awesome Iowa — not Iowa State or the University of Iowa, but how awesome Iowans are around the Cy-Hawk game. So we’re doing a disservice to this state, to the University of Iowa and to Iowa State University to allow misinformation to be perpetuated to bring us all down. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t find ways to still do things better.”

R

Rob Gray

administrator

Rob, an Ames native, joined Cyclone Fanatic in August, 2014 after nearly a decade and a half of working at Iowa's two largest newspapers. He spent 10 years at the Des Moines Register and, after a brief stint in public relations, joined the Cedar Rapids Gazette as an Iowa State correspondent three years ago. Rob specializes in feature stories for CF.