(WBIR-Knoxville) UT officials have placed the director of the Pride of the Southland Marching Band on administrative leave after claims that band traditions were being threatened by the athletic department.
Last week, Gary Sousa, band members, and alumni begin speaking out, saying that UT is cutting costs by cutting band travel and marketing. The University fired back, saying most of those claims were false, but did admit the band's budget was trimmed because of the school's financial situation
On Monday, UT issued a press release saying that Sousa has been put on leave for the rest of the semester because of "insubordination, misrepresentation of facts, and a lack of confidence in Sousa's ability to work constructively and collaboratively with others going forward. The administrative leave is pending a full review."
Don Ryder will serve as interim band director for the rest of the season.
"We fully support the Pride of the Southland Band," Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek said. "We want every student musician to have a great experience and enjoy being part of a wonderful and cherished tradition."
The release says that Cheek met with band members Monday afternoon to discuss the change in leadership and to ask for their help.
"The Pride has a 144-year esteemed history with our university. It is never about just one person. We must stand together and work together to create the very best game day experience for all," the chancellor said.
UT says that Sousa promoted misleading claims about the situation to alumni and band members, and that created a counterproductive environment. They said he encouraged students and alumni to speak out against the athletic department about travel and reduced playing time.
"I wholeheartedly support the right of students to be engaged and advocate for a cause about which they are passionate. But I am troubled by the use of inaccurate or misleading statements," Cheek said.
UT says the complaints came after the UT-Georgia game where the band played significantly more than in previous home games this season.
In a letter to Sousa, Provost Susan Martin noted, "Competition for resources and conflict between competing interests within the university are normal. Your actions to circumvent the normal methods of conflict resolution are shockingly insubordinate."
Sousa has helmed the Pride of the Southland Band since 1997. He is a tenured faculty member in the School of Music.
Ryder has worked for UT for 14 years. He also conducts the UT Symphonic Band and teaches undergraduate instrumental conducting.
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Past members of the band said Sousa had their respect. His suspension caught some of them off guard.
"I was surprised about that [his suspension] because he's been here for so long and he's done so many things for this place," said former band member Jesse Rule, who was a member 2012 to 2013.
Rhett Butler played with the Pride from 2002 to 2005. He said Sousa is intensely passionate about the band.
"I know there has been struggles before, not just with the athletics thing, but just a lot of different things and I think it was just at a point where he was ready for someone else to carry the fight,"
But, he wants to learn more about what happened between UT and the band before he makes any judgement..