Sousa on administrative leave, Ryder takes over as director of bands

Members of the Pride of the Southland Band look on as interim director Don Ryder speaks to the band after Tuesday's practice at the intramural fields. Prior to practice, UT announced it was placing current director of bands Gary Sousa on administrative leave.

Gary Sousa placed faith in UT chancellor Jimmy Cheek when the Pride of the Southland Band waged a publicly displayed war on the UT athletic department Wednesday.

"Cheek has all the information, and I assume that he will call everybody to sit down and say, 'We need to kind of rectify the situation,'" Sousa told The Daily Beacon.

Like Sousa predicted, Cheek intervened on Monday and expressed his support of the band.

He might not have predicted the final outcome; Sousa took the fall for what Cheek described as a "use of inaccurate or misleading statements" in a UT release announcing that Sousa has been placed on administrative leave from his position as director of bands through the end of the fall semester.

Associate director of bands Don Ryder will serve as the interim director for the remainder of the season, the release reported.

"Officials cited insubordination, misrepresentation of facts, and a lack of confidence in Sousa's ability to work constructively and collaboratively with others going forward," the release read. "The administrative leave is pending a full review."

Sousa's hiatus follows a petition posted online by the band that implicated the athletic department in phasing the band out at football games.

A subsequent statement was then distributed claiming that "a bitter battle" between the band and vice chancellor and director of athletics Dave Hart has been ongoing since Hart's arrival in 2011.

Hart and Cheek, along with Provost Susan Martin, head football coach Butch Jones and others attended the Monday meeting with the band to discuss the change in leadership.

"The Pride has a 144-year esteemed history with our university," Cheek said, according to the release. "It is never about just one person. We must stand together and work together to create the very best game day experience for all."

By the time the announcement of Sousa's leave was announced online, the band was practicing on the intramural field in preparation for Saturday's football game against South Carolina in Neyland Stadium.

The band is scheduled to perform the circle drill at halftime, and the athletic department said Ryder and other band representatives are expected to be in attendance on Tuesday afternoon for a production meeting where the coordination of UT's gameday atmosphere will be discussed.

At the conclusion of their practice, band members were advised not to comment publicly on the issue, a warning which included a request from Ryder that band members avoid social media – the outlet that originally helped bring the band's qualms to light.

According to Sousa, the issues the band is faced with began when Hart started his tenure at the university in 2011.

In Sousa's opinion, the band's importance within the athletic department has declined since he began as director of bands in 1997.

"Basically, Coach (Doug) Dickey, who was the athletic director at the time, we had an incredibly great relationship," Sousa said Wednesday before describing his relationship with Mike Hamilton, who held the position of athletic director from 2003-11, as "a good relationship."

Sousa said the problems of an increased reliance on canned music at games, a slashed travel budget and dictation from UT's marketing department on when the band could play correspond with Hart's tenure, which began early in the 2011 football season.

Though it was the band petition and subsequent social media explosion which initially brought the issue to light, Sousa stood firmly behind his students and their expression of frustration on Wednesday.

However, Monday's UT release said he disseminated misleading information in the process that led up to Wednesday's unraveling.

According to the release, Martin wrote a letter to Sousa, saying: "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."

Read The Daily Beacon's report of the orginal incident here

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