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: firstname.lastname@example.org,419-724-6160 or onTwitter @AutulloBlade.