Wisconsin suspends band for year

Published 12:01 am Sunday, October 5, 2008

The University of Wisconsin marching band has been suspended indefinitely while allegations of hazing, alcohol abuse and sexual misconduct are investigated.

The band won’t play Saturday during a nationally televised football game between the No. 18 Badgers and No. 14 Ohio State at Camp Randall Stadium.

The university made the announcement at a hastily called news conference Friday night, saying the behavior is consistent with conduct that put the band on probation in 2006.

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Mike Leckrone, band director since 1969, said he made the decision and it was the first time in his tenure the entire band has ever been suspended and prevented from playing at a game.

Leckrone said he informed the 300 band members at 4:30 p.m. Friday.

‘‘My feeling was I hit them between the eyes with a sledgehammer,’’ he said.

No details were immediately released about the behavior, only that it involved inappropriate alcohol use, hazing and sexualized behavior. Leckrone said it involved only a small number of band members, but it was significant enough to warrant the suspension.

He and Dean of Students Lori Berquam refused to discuss any details while the investigation by Berquam’s office is ongoing.

The band will practice again starting Tuesday with the understanding that it will not perform again until the investigation is done, Leckrone said.

Penalties for students who violate the university’s code of conduct range from a reprimand to expulsion, Berquam said.

It’s the latest in a series of high profile problems for the band.

In 2000 the university established a written code of conduct for the band.

In February 2007 the marching band’s assistant director Michael Lorenz resigned after an internal report criticized his treatment of a female colleague during a rowdy band trip to Michigan in 2006.

Reports of band members’ hazing, alcohol use and inappropriate sexual behavior prompted the university to put the band on probation after the trip.