For the first time in his 40-year tenure as director of the University of Wisconsin Marching Band, Mike Leckrone’s group did not play at Saturday’s home football game, as the Badgers lost to the Ohio State Buckeyes 20-17.
There was no pre-game show, halftime show or Fifth Quarter. Various pop songs filled the air during commercial breaks, and a recording of “On, Wisconsin” was played when the Badgers scored.
The decision to suspend the band was made Friday afternoon by Leckrone in response to allegations of hazing during a trip to the University of Michigan.
An investigation is being conducted by Associate Dean of Students Kevin Helmkamp. Leckrone would not describe the incidents in detail, only saying they involved alcohol abuse and “inappropriate sexual behavior.”
UW spokesperson Amy Toburen said Sunday that after the band was informed of the suspension Friday afternoon, some band members came forward to discuss what happened but could not provide further details.
Leckrone and Dean of Students Lori Berquam had no estimate on the exact number of students involved.
“My personal sense is it’s a very small percentage,” Leckrone said at a press conference Friday. “Usually when we get down to this situation, it comes down to a couple of handfuls that are involved.”
If true, Berquam said the allegations would be in violation of UW System codes as well as the band’s own codes. Punishment could range from official reprimand to expulsion. The UW Police Department may also get involved if deemed necessary.
Leckrone said the allegations were similar to the ones that surfaced in 2006, which occurred on the way to Michigan.
On that trip, female band members were forced to kiss each other to gain access to the bus bathroom, at least one member had his head shaved against his will and at least one female member was forced to mimmick fellatio on a sex toy.
Michael Lorenz, the band’s former assistant director, was forced to resign in 2007 after his own misconduct during that 2006 Michigan trip. He reportedly walked into the room of a part-time female employee while intoxicated, took off his shirt and refused to leave, despite several requests to do so.
Former Chancellor John Wiley was a huge critic of the band’s problems during his tenure, writing in an Oct. 3, 2006 letter to Leckrone that the band could face “virtual extinction” if any further incidents arise.
Wiley told The Badger Herald Sunday that he was “disappointed” to hear the news, and though he is no longer involved in the decision-making process, he expects appropriate action to be taken.
“This is not a matter of childless pranks or harmless hazing stuff. There have been, in the past at least, really serious issues that raise very big issues of liability for the university,” Wiley said. “Including violations of law, not just code of conduct.”
Chancellor Biddy Martin, who took the reigns from Wiley in September, is aware of the investigation but has yet to speak publicly about it.