Hawkeye Marching Band alum work to bring Sudler trophy back to the UI

Nearly 30 years ago, the Hawkeye Marching Band won one of the nation’s top marching awards – but the trophy was never purchased for display.


David Harmantas

Members of the Hawkeyes Alumni Marching Band march in the Homecoming Parade on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018.

Rylee Wilson, News Reporter

In 1990, the Hawkeye Marching Band was awarded one of the most prestigious awards for a college marching band — but the trophy never made it back to Iowa City. 

When the band won the Sudler trophy, they were presented with the option to purchase a replica of the traveling trophy for display but did not at the time. 

After the alumni band leadership board formed during the past summer, the group decided to raise funds to bring the Sudler trophy back to campus by purchasing a replica. 

The group set out to raise $3,000 to pay for the cost of the trophy and raised the money in less than 48 hours this fall. 

John Brown played trombone in the marching band from 1985-1989 and is a member of the alumni band board. Although Brown was on campus when the band won the trophy in 1990, he said the trophy is a point of pride for all members of the marching band — past and present. 

“Not only for those of us who marched around 1990 [and] up to the time we won the award, but for our future students,” he said. “They can point to that and say this is one of the top college marching bands in the country.” 

The replica trophy will take around a year to produce. The goal is to have the trophy ready for homecoming week in 2020, which will mark 30 years since the band won the award and the 140th anniversary of the Hawkeye Marching Band. 

Board member Arlene Houk rarely misses a chance to march with the alumni band during homecoming week. Even when she had a broken ankle and couldn’t march, she was on the parade route cheering on the band. Both her husband and her son are also marching band alum. 

She called the generosity of the alumni band overwhelming. 

“We’re all just shocked, humbled, thrilled — I don’t know how many adjectives I could use. We met our goal in just about two days,” she said. “Now, [it has] become a stretch goal. If we can raise a little bit more, any excess will go to the HMB we know and love.” 

Beyond bringing the Sudler trophy back to campus, the newly created alumni band board is hoping to expand opportunities for alumni beyond homecoming weekend. 

“The alumni band not only plays at homecoming, but we believe the alumni band should be available to communities, cities around the country where there are alumni gatherings,” he said. “… That too is this semi-organized way for alumni to get together and relive the passion, which sounds corny, but it’s genuine.” 

The board brings together generations of Hawkeye band alumni. Houk played in the band during Hayden Fry’s tenure and marched in four bowl games, while Phillips said he played during the 1971 season, when the Hawkeyes only won a single game. 

“As the band, we thought we were the entertainment, played a lot, had fun, and a football game broke out,” Phillips said. 

Phillips, now an instructor in the College of Public Health, said the Hawkeye Marching Band has evolved since he played in the 1970s but kept the same spirit. 

“The power of the band these days is amazing, and we have a lot of fun reminiscing. We have a phrase: ‘Back in the day when the band was great,’ but I’ll tell you, truthfully, the band these days is awesome,” Phillips said. 

Brown said although the alumni may tease current members of the band, the jokes are all in good fun. 

“We are so proud of them,” he said. “We love them. We are jealous of them, because they still get to do this.”