March 28, 2012

Rivals Confront Unlikely Foe: C.U. Pep Band

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The needling act of the Cornell Pep Band has gotten attention in the world of college hockey after playing during the Michigan Cornell NCAA Tournament game. A MetaCafe video of the Cornell band playing its fight song has received more than 18,000 views and has been featured on and

“It’s kind of a band tradition to play the opponent’s rival’s fight songs to taunt them,” said Michael Brancato grad, a trumpet player in the band.

He discussed how when the team played Michigan, the band had to decide between the Michigan State fight song and the Ohio State fight song. Although Ohio State is traditionally Michigan’s rival, Michigan State is the bigger rival in hockey.

According to Dan Charen ’12, who plays the alto sax, the band hopes that hearing a rival’s fight song will upset the opposing fans and team.

“We do it to spite the other team or make their fans angry a little bit,” he said. “It’s all in good fun. We do it to get their attention a little bit.”

Even though the band regularly plays rival’s fight songs, it has never received significant attention before, Charen said.

Some players on the ice might have even recognized the song, the band members said.

“If you look at the clip where we can be heard playing the MSU fight song, when they zoom in on [Michigan goalie Shawn] Hunwick it looks as if he’s listening to us,” Brancato said.

“He kind of rolls his eyes a little bit,” Charen added.

Shortly after the band played the MSU fight song near the end of the third period, junior forward Kevin Lynch tied the score for Michigan to send the game into overtime. After the goal, ESPNU’s cameras captured Lynch acting like a conductor. While it was not clear if he was celebrating along with Michigan’s band, which was playing “Hail to the Victors” yet again, or mocking Cornell’s band, at least one fan thought the gesture was aimed at Cornell.

“I thought he was mocking our band, but it doesn’t really matter [if he was]. Once you’ve gotten a player’s attention off the ice and into the stands, you’ve accomplished your goal,” said Chris Spencer ’14, who watched the game on TV. “The band, by playing MSU’s fight song, got Michigan’s attention off the ice.”

Since the game was in Green Bay, Wisc. — a long drive from both Ithaca and Ann Arbor, Mich.  — most of the people in attendance were Wisconsin fans who did not recognize the song, according to Jeff Kahn ’70, an alumnus who attended the game. As a result, it did not register for most fans in the stands. However, on Sunday morning, Kahn, who traveled to the game from the south suburbs of Chicago, spoke to a MSU alumnus who appreciated the gesture.

“He said our band got a lot of points with them by playing the Michigan State fight song, but then we threw away a lot of those points away by playing the Michigan fight song against Ferris State [in the NCAA Midwest Regional final on Saturday night],” Kahn said.

Despite the lukewarm reaction at the rink, online reaction was much stronger. The act was noticed by Michigan and Michigan State fans alike.

Some Michigan fans watching the game on television while writing on, a Michigan fan site, did not react well to hearing their rival’s fight song.

“That was definitely a trolling attempt,” one fan wrote after Michigan scored the tieing goal. “GOALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL F— YOU CORNELL AND YOUR MSU TROLLING.”

On the other hand, Michigan fans were pleased to hear their school’s fight song played in the NCAA tournament, despite the fact that their team had been eliminated at the hands of Union earlier in the day.

Charen received emails from two Michigan State fans thanking him for the Cornell band playing the song.

Despite not receiving much attention after the game, the Cornell band’s harassment of Ferris State fans by playing the Michigan fight song during Saturday’s loss garnered a better reaction during the game.

“When we played it, [the Ferris State fans] were chanting or singing some sort of alternate lyrics, which was funny,” Charen said. “Though they don’t really have as big of a fan base as Michigan or Michigan State, so it didn’t get as much attention on their blogs.”

Regardless of what effect the Michigan State fight song had on the game or the fans, some fans say the Cornell band established itself as the better band at the game.

“All [the Michigan band] knew was how to play was ‘Hail to the Victors,’” Kahn said. “A lot of neutral people commented on how our band was a lot better than [Michigan’s] band because they only played one song.”

Original Author: Joseph Niczky