Iowa State officials respond to Iowa marching band allegations

By Matt Belinson, [email protected]
Iowa State Police Chief Michael Newton takes questions at a press conference on 9/24/19 regarding the controversy surrounding the Iowa University Marching Band after the 2019 Iowa Corn CyHawk football game.

Noah Rohlfing

Iowa State senior officials expressed their intentions to continue the Cy-Hawk rivalry game with Iowa and said “misinformation” has helped the situation escalate in both the public eye and between the two universities in a press conference early Tuesday.

Iowa State Athletic Director Jamie Pollard, Iowa State University President Wendy Wintersteen and ISU Police Chief Michael Newton were present. The conference came one day after University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld said in an interview with the Daily Iowan that the future of the Cy-Hawk game was in jeopardy. 

Among other things, Harreld told the Daily Iowan the University of Iowa would have to reconsider playing the game with Iowa State unless safety plans were put in place to improve fan and band experiences.

Opening the press conference, Wintersteen delivered a message of unity and said she was “saddened” to hear of fans mistreating the opposing marching band. 

“Ultimately, we all share the same goal: to maintain a safe environment for our fans and guests,” Wintersteen said. “Because after all, before, during and after the game, we’re all Iowans.”

Pollard then came to the microphone and made clear the university took allegations from Iowa seriously as soon as they were brought forward. 

Meetings and discussions took place throughout the week to ensure the administration was on the same page and had the same information, Pollard said. He acknowledged members of the band were likely subjected to profanity, poor behavior and “perhaps had something thrown on them.”

After he said “misinformation” about the allegations was hurting the image of the rivalry and of both universities, Pollard went through a timeline of the discussions Iowa State had with Iowa about the band’s treatment.

Iowa State’s first knowledge of any band incidents came from the University of Iowa on the afternoon of Sept. 16, when University of Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta called Pollard and said the university was made aware of allegations of misconduct against the Iowa marching band. Pollard said he and Barta then spoke through the evening and into Sept. 17, and he said the university “[tried] to get to the bottom of it as best we could.”

After Pollard made comments on the matter to reporters later in the morning of Sept. 17, Pollard received a phone call from Iowa’s deputy athletics director with a list of five incidents surrounding the band.

An investigation into the incidents was done, Pollard said, through ISU Police and Chief Newton, but the conclusion was it “was going to be really tough to know exactly what happened.”

Thirty minutes after the game, the Iowa and Iowa State marching bands were still in the stadium. Pollard said stadium security personnel then instructed Iowa to exit through Gate One on the east side of the Jacobson Building instead of the crowded west Gate Five. Surveillance video released by Iowa State Tuesday afternoon shows the disparity in crowd size between the two gates. Pollard then said the marching band went through Gate Five anyway. 

“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 there was no place for anyone to move to,” Pollard said.

Pollard and Barta talked on Sept. 18 and the two issued a joint statement the same afternoon. 

In an interview with the Iowa City Press-Citizen on Thursday, Barta said that the universities had decided to move forward, before reports released Friday said Iowa was re-opening the investigation after multiple students posted on Facebook alleging abuse and assault by Iowa State fans. Pollard said Barta carbon copied him in on an email in which Barta said Iowa was committed to continuing the Cy-Hawk game the day before the investigation was re-opened.

“If something happened that we weren’t made aware of, we need to be made aware of it,” Pollard said.

Newton urged those with information on prior complaints or with allegations to contact ISU Police so they could advance their investigations. 

Pollard echoed this sentiment in his final remarks before a Q and A session.

“Somebody needs to come forward and share that with us,” Pollard said. “Our team will do everything possible to find out what that was. But if somebody is not going to share that with us, our hands are really tied.”

Newton said ISU Police does not yet know specifics of the “when, where, why and how” of the incident that resulted in broken ribs for an Iowa band member. 

Newton has had contact and has a working relationship with the University of Iowa Police Department, but he said the department hasn’t relayed any new information to him after the associate athletic director of Iowa sent a message to band members encouraging them to come forward.

“I made arrangements with the University of Iowa Police Department that they would take the initial intake for those,” Newton said. “They would get the name, contact info, a little bit of a description of what happened and then they would forward those cases to us, because we would be the appropriate jurisdiction to investigate those. At this point the University of Iowa Police have not — after that was put out to the band — have not received any word from those band members.”

Newton said the ISU Police do debriefs after every Iowa State home game and the university is always trying to improve the game day atmosphere, especially when it comes to the rivalry. President Wintersteen said she is proud of the “majority” of Iowa State sports fans, but said she would talk to Iowa officials to see if there are any actions the department can take to improve crowd safety and atmosphere. 

Pollard said he hoped to bring the Iowa State band to Iowa City next year for the next edition of the game, putting emphasis on the word “when.” Pollard ended the press conference by affirming Iowa State’s intentions to continue the football series.

“Iowa State University is 100 percent committed to this series going forward, and Gary Barta has shared with me that he’s 100 percent committed to this series going forward,” Pollard said.