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Rice’s Band Has a History of Poking the Bear (and Other Mascots)

Rice University's marching band made headlines nationwide Friday by taunting Baylor over its sexual assault scandal. The attention is hardly new for the marching band, which has a history of courting controversy.

Rice University' Marching Owl Band forms into "IX," a reference to Title IX rules governing sexual discrimination at colleges, while performing a halftime show mocking Baylor University for its recent sexual assault scandal during a football game on Sept. 16, 2016.

Rice University's marching band made headlines nationally over a Friday-night halftime performance that taunted Baylor University over its notorious mishandling of sexual assault allegations. The Marching Owl Band, or MOB, formed a Roman Numeral IX — referring to the Title IX ban on sex-based discrimination on campus — and a star, in reference to former Baylor President and Chancellor Ken Starr. 

Baylor fans in the crowd booed, and some took to the web to criticize the performance as making light of sexual assault. But it was hardly the first time the Rice marching band courted controversy. Here are five other times the MOB poked the bear:

  1. During a 1973 game against Texas A&M, Rice’s marching band made fun of several Aggie traditions. The band marched out to the field in a military-style goose-step and turned the Aggie War Hymn into "March of the Wooden Soldiers.” The band also made fun of Texas A&M’s school mascot, the dog Reveille, by forming a fire hydrant. An angry group of Texas A&M students gathered outside Rice’s stadium, and the band eventually had to be transported out via food service trucks. The performance has since been dubbed “The Halftime of Infamy.”

  2. In 1980, controversy stewed over several Baylor University students posing in Playboy's “Women of the Southwest Conference” issue. The MOB mocked Baylor by marching in bunny costumes. In April 1981, Playboy ran several photos of the performance. 

  3. During a halftime game against UT-Austin’s Longhorns in 2007, the MOB mocked some UT football players' run-ins with the law. The MOB’s narrator said: "In the two years since the MOB last visited Austin, your team's demeanor — and misdemeanor — has changed.” The narrator added that the game’s program included “Mack Brown's wrist-slap Top 10 and a photo guide to the next episode of America's Most Wanted." Meanwhile, band members carrying cardboard police cars chased others dressed as UT-Austin football players.

  4. Also in 2007, a Rice marching band performance left the University of Tulsa so upset that university officials filed a complaint. In the performance, the band mocked Tulsa Head Coach Todd Graham, who had left Rice for that post just days after signing a contract extension. During the halftime performance, the band went “searching” for Graham in the nine circles of hell. They eventually found him in the “10th circle of hell,” which was the University of Tulsa. 

  5. The MOB mocked UT-Austin again in 2011 when the band formed “$EC” during the halftime performance of the season opener. The “$EC” was commentary on Texas A&M University leaving the Big 12 — home to its UT rival — for the Southeastern Conference (the SEC). The performance made headlines locally. 

Many of the past halftime scripts are listed online. Explore them here.

In a statement issued Saturday, following the Rice-Baylor game, Rice University's office of public affairs said Rice regrets any offense Baylor fans took to the performance.

"Sexual assault is a matter of serious concern on campuses across the nation, and all of us have an obligation to address the matter with all the tools at our disposal," the statement said. "The MOB sought to highlight the events at Baylor by satirizing the actions or inactions of the Baylor administration, but it is apparent from the comments of many spectators and Baylor fans that the MOB's effort may have gone too far."

Not everyone has been critical of the marching band. The editor-in-chief of Rice's student newspaper wrote and published a column over the weekend that criticized Rice's statement and praised the halftime performance. 

"Shattering the culture of silence and dismantling the institutions that perpetuate sexual violence require acts of boldness that speak truth to power," Thresher Editor-in-Chief Yasna Haghdoost wrote. "Rice’s half-hearted equivocating excuse of an apology to any potentially offended Baylor fans only perpetuates the notion that discussions surrounding sexual assault have to be limited to a gentle discourse to ensure those in power do not feel threatened."

John “Grungy” Gladu, who was a member of the MOB in the 1970s and now calls himself the MOB's "de facto archivist," said he was surprised by the reaction the performance got.

“This came completely out of the blue," Gladu said. "I had no idea that people would take it as making fun of sexual assault. It is nothing like that. We were simply sticking it to Ken Starr because he was institutionally ineffective at preventing harm to his students.”

Read more about allegations of mishandling of sexual assaults at Baylor University:

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