What about Patrick Henry Hughes?

I’ve had some people ask me if I’d be weighing in on the recent spat between Patrick Henry Hughes and the U of L athletic department. Hughes touched off some controversy when he posted a lengthy blog entry accusing U of L of excluding him from the basketball pep band.

In short, my answer is no.

Particularly not in print. But not even in full here. And here’s why. This looks to me like an internal argument. And while Patrick is immensely popular and I like him, in the end it’s about a student who doesn’t like the rules a university administrative body has laid out.

The best I can gather, U of L’s athletic department, when it took over the pep band (which plays primarily at basketball and volleyball games), told its members that they had to abide by certain rules, and one of those is that they had to clear all public dealings, speaking engagements, publicity, etc., through the athletic media relations department.

Now, Hughes isn’t just another student. He just released a book. He speaks to organizations all over the region. He sells albums. He’s involved in many public pursuits. He claims the rules exclude him from participating in the pep band.

And maybe they do. And maybe I don’t agree with the rules. In fact, the notion sounds kind of silly to me. But the spirit of college sports is clear, even if you don’t agree with it. A basketball player can’t use his status as a player to make money — can’t write and sell books about being a player, can’t take money for speaking engagements, in essence, can’t capitalize on being a famous amateur athlete.

I don’t necessarily agree with that either.

But here’s the bottom line. The rule is what it is. Whether I think it’s a good one or not, to me, isn’t a big deal in this case. There are rules at my workplace that I wish I didn’t have to deal with. There were rules when I was a college student that I didn’t like.

Hughes is exercising his right of protest.

But I’m not going to tell U of L how to run its pep band any more than I’m going to tell Rick Pitino what time his players’ curfew should be. (Note, Hughes remains a member of the football marching band, which is run under U of L’s school of music.)

The university is risking bad publicity in this. Hughes is well-liked, and deservedly so. It shouldn’t be this complicated a matter to resolve. But it also shouldn’t be fanned into more than it really is.


18 thoughts on “What about Patrick Henry Hughes?

  1. Eric,I think you may have missed one of the more important points in this whole argument. While I agree with you that the athletic department has the right to set rules for athletes or even band members if it runs the band, the real question is what is pep band doing under the control of the athletic department? Why was it removed from the school of music?I’m not familiar with any other university which allows a student band to be under the direction of the athletic department nor do I know of any situation quite like this one where the pep band is not really a student band. To me that is the more important question and it seems to be one that should be answered by university administrators not the athletic department.

  2. At the time it happened, the rationale was this.U of L needed its pep band to do more than play at basketball games. The University wants its band at 80 to 90 events a year, from women’s basketball to fundraising events to olympic sports.The school of music, from my understanding, said that it couldn’t accommodate that kind of schedule. So, like the cheerleading squad or other ancillary groups, the athletic office took over.Now, were it up to me, I think I’d have just taken over the band, left the leadership in place and moved on. I don’t know whether that was an option for U of L.Regardless, I remember what it was like to be a student. You got ticked off when the school changed deans. You get ticked when they change the hours at the dining hall.When I worked as a resident assistant in the dorms at U of L, there were rules that applied to me that were over and above some that applied to other campus residents. And I didn’t like them. But if I wanted that job, I had to abide by them.I’d agree with you. This would be better as a student enterprise.

  3. Eric –The spirit and rules that apply to college athletics also say that only students participate, and that they get scholarships. Jurich pays whoever participates cash ($20 bucks or so) and lets non-students into his pep band. If this were actually college athletics, or had anything to do with the spirit or rules of college athletics, we’d be on probation right now.This is Tom Jurich taking over an academic activity — for which kids used to get practicum credit — and turning it into boster-based marketing program for Athletics. Rationalizing it as “kids may not like the rules, but …” is, candidly, frail, and be more candid a little creepy.

  4. For musical college students it is an honor and reward to be in the basketball pep band. Most schools require an audition process that guarantees only the finest musicians are in the pep band. Why should people that don’t even attend the University of Louisville be representing the school at a national level? It’s outrageous that the old pep band was asked to play at 80 to 100 events by the athletic department. When they couldn’t agree to it, the athletics department took over. This is their “reasoning” behind taking the pep band. These students came to college to learn and study. Students should be focusing on their studies- not to mention that music majors have to practice hours a day too. The athletics department needs to realize that college is not all about sports and certainly not money. They need to give the pep band back to the school of music where it belongs.

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