Pep band saves day in stand-in stint for Blue Demons


Cyclone pep band members volunteered to serve as the pep band for DePaul at a women's basketball NCAA play-in game March 16 at Hilton Coliseum. Photo courtesy of Christian Carichner.

Star point guard Emily Ryan wasn't the only Cyclone racking up assists last week in Hilton Coliseum, where Iowa State hosted two rounds of NCAA tournament games in women's basketball and a "first four" play-in matchup. Iowa State's pep band also dished up some help.

DePaul faced Dayton in Wednesday's play-in game, slipping into the tournament as one of the final at-large teams. The selection may have surprised DePaul a bit, as many students from the Blue Demons pep band were already off on spring break, said Cyclone Marching Band director Christian Carichner, who also oversees Iowa State's pep bands.

But per NCAA basketball tournament rules, every team is required to have a pep band present at their tournament game. Due to spring break scheduling conflicts, it's not uncommon for schools to struggle to assemble a band as mandated, Carichner said. For instance, at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee last weekend, where the Cyclone men's team won its first two NCAA games, a group of hired high schoolers were playing the Yale and Colgate fight songs.

"It happens more often than you might think," he said.  

DePaul offered to pay Cyclones to stand in for its band, but Carichner said they were happy to help for free. Within about 24 hours of sending out the call, enough ISU band students volunteered to nearly meet the NCAA's 29-member pep band roster cap. It was an honor to pitch in for another program and reinforce the notion that March Madness just doesn't sound right without a boisterous band bracketing the on-court action, he said. 

"What they were really doing was representing the importance of bands," he said. 

After a crash course in DePaul's fight song, Cyclone band members on Wednesday night donned an unfamiliar color -- blue T-shirts that read "Blue Grit." The Blue Demons lost, but at least they didn't go quietly. If they had managed to win twice to make it to the round of 32 Sunday to play the Cyclones, they were on their own, band-wise -- mostly. 

"We probably would have played the DePaul fight song again once or twice," Carichner said.