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'The band is out on the field'

NIU player suspended after running over Rocket Marching Band members, four injured

Published: Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Updated: Thursday, November 3, 2011 05:11


Video frame from ESPN 2

Four members of the Toledo Rocket Marching band were injured after being hit by an NIU player at Tuesday’s game. The game was broadcasted live on ESPN 2.

Northern Illinois University football players ran onto the football field before Tuesday's game, injuring four UT marching band members.

According to Andrew Rhodes, UT assistant director of bands, the team was told not to enter the field until the band had exited.

It is unclear who gave the orders for the football team to come onto the pitch.

The incident was caught on tape and an investigation has been launched by UT and the Mid-American Conference counsel, according to UT faculty and administrators.

Jamaal Bass, a freshman linebacker for the Huskies, has been suspended for his actions by the Northern Illinois athletic department.

Northern Illinois Head Coach Dave Doeren said Bass will not be playing in the team's next game because the incident was unrepresentative of the program.

"I want to publicly apologize to the Rocket Marching Band and to the University of Toledo," Doeren said in a press release. "We are embarrassed at what occurred and take full responsibility for the situation.  I will do whatever is necessary to ensure that something like this never happens again."

Whether or not Northern Illinois will punish anymore players is to be determined.

After the pregame, the band performed a "run-off," a maneuver where they exited onto the field on the visitor's side of the Glass Bowl.

The Huskies sprinted through the band during the "run-off."

Four band members sustained injuries and were examined by emergency medical personnel afterward.

Students injured include Tara Findley, a senior mellophone player, Alex Hritz, a freshman piccolo player, as well as Ashley Gawle and Carolyn Hiner, both freshmen clarinet players.

Hirtz said it looked as though the players were waiting until the band members were exiting the field before they charged on, but he wasn't sure.

Hirtz was injured when a player's shoulder pad went into his cheek, causing him to fall over and hit his head on the turf.

Hirtz said the Northern Illinois coach helped him up and he could see players smiling as they looked on, even though he was still disoriented from the fall.

Hiner said she could also see other football players smiling through their facemasks.

"I can understand if a football player gets in the zone," Hirtz said. "I was a band member just getting off the field. I wasn't doing anything to provoke them."

Since falling, Hirtz said he has had a constant, dull headache which he will have checked out today at Toledo Hospital.  

Hiner has had a constant throbbing behind her eyes and a sore nose which she also plans to seek medical attention for.

According to Hirtz, the player's suspension is not a severe enough punishment, but it's better than nothing.

On an NCAA fan website thread called, "Memo to the Toledo Band — Get Outta the Way," some users posted comments blaming the band, such as, "the band has done this in previous seasons, I think they do this on purpose trying to mess with the opposing team but when you are fired up and running out to the field, you are not really looking for some idiot band member trying to be funny. So accidents happen — this one is on the Toledo Band."

"They have a video and it's just horrible," Gawle said.

Rhodes said while he understands not all of the Northern Illinois team acted with malicious intent, he is disappointed with the incident.

"You don't expect this sort of thing, in my opinion, from inter-collegiate athletics," he said. "Football players aren't stupid people – they can tell the difference between someone who's wearing a helmet, shoulder pads and a jersey versus someone who's wearing a marching band uniform and a shako."

According to the Rocket Marching Band staff, the band will now be taking an alternate route off the field to avoid future problems.

Starting next game, the band will exit around the north goal and in front of the home sideline.

"We had already been planning to revise our field exit anyway," Rhodes said. "We've had issues trying to go behind the visiting team's bench; nothing of this nature, but it just becomes a congested area."

In 2001, a previous incident transpired between Northern Illinois football players running into  members of the drum and bugle corps Capital Regiment, according to the official Drum Corps International website.

Sources say a dispute over practice time on the field led to the hospitalization of two buglers. Two Northern Illinois players were charged with battery and the strength and conditioning coach was fired.

A member from the MAC counsel could not be reached for comment.


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