UT band sitting out matchup at N. Illinois

Expenses, not concern, are reason for decision


The Univer­sity of Toledo march­ing band will main­tain a safe dis­tance from North­ern Il­li­nois foot­ball play­ers on Wed­nes­day.

About 300 miles of safety.

The stu­dents, along with their drums, clar­i­nets, and pic­colos, will not travel to DeKalb to sup­port their team, al­though their ab­sence is not a re­sponse to the act of a Huskies player last year that caused in­ju­ries to mem­bers of the band.

Steep travel costs, along with un­will­ing­ness to miss two days of classes, make it un­fea­si­ble for the band to be on site for a key matchup be­tween Mid-Amer­i­can Con­fer­ence ri­vals in pur­suit of the West di­vi­sion ti­tle.

One year af­ter a Huskies player plunged shoul­der-first into the face of a UT band mem­ber and knocked three other mem­bers to the turf, the Toledo di­rec­tor of bands in­sists the band har­bors no ill feel­ings to­ward North­ern Il­li­nois.

"Our kids are level-headed," Ja­son Stumbo said. "They un­der­stand it was a stu­dent and it wasn’t the uni­ver­sity."

In July, NIU line­backer Ja­maal Bass with­drew his orig­i­nal not guilty plea to no con­test in a Lu­cas County court­room and was sen­tenced by Judge James D. Jensen to one-year pro­ba­tion. Bass re­ceived the lesser charge of first-de­gree mis­de­meanor as­sault af­ter orig­i­nally be­ing charged with fel­ony and mis­de­meanor as­sault.

On a video re­play shown by ESPN2, Bass can be seen leap­ing and driv­ing his shoul­der into the face of fresh­man pic­colo player Alex Hritz as the band ex­ited the field mo­ments be­fore the start of NIU’s 63-60 win Nov. 1 at the Glass Bowl. Hritz sus­tained a con­cus­sion, and a fe­male mem­ber of the band suf­fered fa­cial in­ju­ries and head­aches. Two oth­ers were knocked over.

Bass, whom NIU sus­pended for the fi­nal three games of the reg­u­lar sea­son last year, was made un­avail­able for this story.

"That sit­u­a­tion is be­hind us, and we will not be re­vis­it­ing it," a uni­ver­sity spokes­man wrote in an email to The Blade.

Bass was or­dered to pay $889.45 in res­ti­tu­tion to Carolyn Hiner, a mem­ber of the band who was in­jured by his ac­tions. He also was sen­tenced to 120 hours of com­mu­nity ser­vice and to ran­dom uri­nal­y­sis.

To NIU’s credit, foot­ball coach Dave Do­eren re­leased a state­ment soon af­ter the game con­demn­ing the act, and the school’s band di­rec­tor con­tacted Stumbo ex­press­ing re­gret.

"Al­most im­me­di­ately af­ter that scene went down they con­tacted us ex­press­ing their con­cern and their em­bar­rass­ment," Stumbo said. "[NIU’s band di­rec­tor] wanted to con­vey that the feel­ing on cam­pus was ev­ery­one was em­bar­rassed and shocked."

None of the vic­tims re­sponded to mul­ti­ple in­ter­view re­quests from The Blade.

Stumbo said three of the mem­bers Bass made con­tact with are par­tic­i­pat­ing with the band again this year. He added the band has taken mea­sures to pre­vent fur­ther ep­i­sodes of vi­o­lence by the man­ner in which they leave the field. No lon­ger lin­ger­ing near the vis­i­tor’s side­line, they now col­lapse to­ward the cen­ter of the field and exit to the north end zone be­fore snak­ing around be­hind the Toledo side­line.

"If any­one is go­ing to get ran over by an op­pos­ing player, they’re go­ing out of their way to run them over," Stumbo said.

Bass, a red­shirt soph­o­more from Mira­mar, Fla., starts on de­fense for the 9-1 Huskies. He ranks third on the team in tack­les with 59 and has in­ter­cepted one pass.

"Ja­maal’s done ev­ery­thing that’s been asked of him," Do­eren said Tues­day. "He’s worked ex­tremely hard on and off the field, and he’s try­ing to move for­ward. Like any­thing in life you try to deal with ev­ery ob­sta­cle and op­por­tu­nity. I truly be­lieve Ja­maal’s done that."

ROCKETS HONORED: Two Toledo play­ers on Tues­day were hon­ored as MAC West play­ers of the week. Run­ning back David Fluel­len (of­fen­sive) rushed for 200 yards last week in a loss to Ball State, up­ping his sea­son rush­ing to­tal to 1,381 yards. Kicker Jere­miah Det­mer (spe­cial teams) con­verted field goals of 29 and 22 yards, ex­tend­ing his streak to 13.

Con­tact Ryan Au­tullo at: rau­tullo@the­blade.com,419-724-6160 or onTwit­ter @Au­tul­loBlade.