Hawkeye Marching Band alleged physical harassment investigation closes with no charges

Iowa’s universities are continuing to work on their band game-day safety protocols after the physical harassment allegations.


Shivansh Ahuja

Marching band members escape the rain during a football game between Iowa and Iowa State at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames on Sept. 14, 2019.

Marissa Payne, Editor-in-Chief

Following the months-long investigation into Hawkeye Marching Band members’ allegations of physical harassment by Cyclone fans at the Sept. 14 Cy-Hawk football game, state Board of Regents President Mike Richards said Wednesday there is “not enough evidence available to substantiate the pursuit of any charges.”

Richards said at the regents’ Wednesday meeting at their Urbandale office that University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld and Iowa State University President Wendy Wintersteen have met with regents’ leaders, their universities’ legal counsel, and institutions’ chiefs of police to discuss the investigation into the students’ allegations.

“All three regent university presidents have agreed to work together to review and improve game management policies for games on each of our campuses prior to the start of the 2020 fall semester,” Richards said. “These efforts are already underway.”

In an email sent Wednesday to the Hawkeye Marching Band, Director Eric Bush said in the coming months, the UI will draft a series of new protocols, policies, and practices to help ensure the safety of the student musicians. The band members will have an opportunity to vet the draft before implementation, he said.

“The safety and security of our students, above everything else, is our number one priority,” Bush and Harreld wrote in an open letter to the band members. “… We have heard our members of the HMB, and we believe that incidents occurred at the Iowa vs. Iowa State football game this past fall. Additionally, we acknowledge the physical and emotional impact of these events on our students. While we cannot change what transpired, we are sorry that it happened. We will do everything in our collective power to avoid it occurring again.”

The investigation’s closure follows concerns about the future of the state’s longstanding rivalry-series game between the UI and ISU after Harreld said Sept. 23 in an exclusive regularly scheduled sit-down interview with The Daily Iowan, “I’m not convinced at all that we should play this game again — here or there or anywhere — unless we can protect our fans, our band, and of course our athletes.”

His comments questioning the game’s continuation out of concern for students’ safety widely circulated state and national media, prompting reactions in press conferences the following day from Wintersteen, Iowa State Athletic Director Jamie Pollard, and Gov. Kim Reynolds — who all defended the game’s future.

Pollard pointed fingers at UI band members for the injuries reported from the Sept. 14 game, because he said they did not follow directions on exiting Jack Trice Stadium in Ames. The DI reported Sept. 26 that ISU in an email only provided the Hawkeye Marching Band with entrance instructions but did not include exit directions.

Harreld told the DI in September that the regent institutions would discuss safety protocols regarding the size of the universities’ security forces, the location of band-bus parking, and where to have visiting bands sit in the stadium stands.

He said Wednesday that in the beginning stages of the investigation, the UI’s stance was that “if we couldn’t keep them safe, then we wouldn’t put them in that environment again.” Since then, he said the universities have swapped game-day safety plans and had several meetings with Wintersteen, the athletic directors, public-safety directors, and band directors about improving safety protocols. He declined to share specifics because the information pertains to student safety.

Addressing rowdy and potentially harmful fanbase behavior is also something he said the UI and ISU have agreed to prioritize.

“Let’s not berate each other in the stadium,” he said. “Let’s be Iowans. Let’s celebrate this wonderful tradition we have rather than yelling and screaming, the fanbase throwing objects…”

UI officials, including Harreld and Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta, met with the band Tuesday at Voxman Music Building. Harreld said there have been discussions of the bands having more security officers surrounding them and providing explicit directions and logistical support to the visiting band.

“How do both institutions really work with their fans to say we really, really relish this tradition, but not the way it’s starting to play out,” Harreld said.

Richards said the regent universities have each “made a commitment to continue to make safety at our games a priority.”

“We want to be able to provide a safe environment for everyone, and don’t want anyone to feel unsafe at any of our events,” he said. “We applaud the efforts of all three schools to come together and implement protocols to meet that end.”

Kelsey Harrell contributed to this report