Jessica Henderson tells Local 8 News the band has been locked in a bitter battle with Athletic Director Dave Hart since he arrived in 2011. Now she's started an online petition to fight back.
The Pride band has been entertaining fans in Neyland Stadium for 144 years, but say they've felt unappreciated for years. UT Drum Major Jessica Henderson says, "The band is fired up. We've been wanting to do this for a while. We've felt not abused, but overlooked and unappreciated."
It got to a whole new level on Tuesday night when Band Director Dr. Gary Sousa opened up about new rules from the athletic department and the SEC. Henderson says, "We need them to listen to us, respect us and our traditions. We have specific traditions we follow."
She tells me UT Athletics told the band during a time-out they will share the break with canned music or advertisements on the Jumbotron and will be forced to play "Rocky Top" instead of the traditional fight song "Down the Field". And students are upset, too.
Freshman Holly Gravenkemper says, "I feel like tradition is more important. UT promotes their tradition and that's part of their tradition."
Henderson tells Local 8 according to SEC rules, next year the band can't travel without permission from the host school. It saves UT's travel budget, helps the home team sell more seats and the 7 minute halftime could be used to make more money for marketing. Freshman John Johnson says, "They play important roles and boost the morale of everyone."
Senior Sergey Shutt says, "The band keeps us alive keeps us pumped for the game."
Henderson says, "They're wanting the certain traditions they want and we're saying no. We have our own traditions and you'll respect ours."
Henderson posted an online petition for people to sign. Here's the link:
UT released a statement. You can see it at this address: