Stanford Band’s Top 10 Most Offensive Moments
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Since the start of its “modern era” in 1963, the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band (LSJUMB) has perpetuated an infamous reputation for irreverence. So much so that half of its Wikipedia page is devoted to “Controversial actions by the band.” We count down the band’s Top 10 Most Offensive Moments.
1986 was a controversy-filled year for the group. Band members were accused of urinating on the field during a road game at Washington, charges which they flatly denied. The words they spelled out with their formations in subsequent games were akin to a middle finger.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was when they spelled out “NCUT” late in the season as part of an anagram-themed halftime show. No, they didn’t mean to spell “uncut” and missed a second “u.” We’ll let you the readers figure what it was really a misspelling of.
The 1970 season saw Stanford (then known as the Indians) firmly entrenched in the Top 10 along with blue bloods such as Nebraska, Ohio State, USC and others. But that place within college football’s meritocracy wasn’t going to stop the band from marching to the beat of its own drums.
In the season opener against No. 4 Arkansas in Little Rock, the band took the field for its halftime show at War Memorial Stadium. In unison, all the members dropped their trousers.
Going pants-less (not commando mind you) is now habit for the band. But one can imagine that in a more buttoned-up setting like central Arkansas, it was quite a shocker.
Stanford’s graduates are among the most accomplished individuals in American higher education today, regularly becoming innovators and captains of industry. That entitlement paves the way for LSJUMB to make fun of rival schools and their definitions of a “successful” graduate.
Take Stanford's 2009 road game at USC, where the band serenaded the L.A. Coliseum crowd with this descriptor of USC graduate and “Girls Gone Wild” creator Joe Francis over the PA system: “USC can’t take all of the credit for the success of its students. After all, it takes a special kind of man to be wanted for sexual harassment, drug trafficking, tax evasion, prostitution, child abuse and disruptive flatulence.”
Chances are pretty good that the boos that rained down on the band were louder than the ones that Stanford’s football team received when they went for a two-point conversion in the fourth quarter of a game it was leading 48–21.
Notre Dame’s overtly religious reputation is the polar opposite of open, left-leaning Stanford. The former tends to treat the latter with silent disdain. The latter seemingly just wants to make fun of the former.
When the Cardinal visited South Bend in 1991, drum major Eric Selvik dressed up as a nun for the halftime show and directed the band with a cross, wielding it as if it were a baton. One female Notre Dame fan was so enraged that she ran onto the field to rip the nun’s habit off of Selvik and told him he was going to hell.
Notre Dame subsequently banned the Stanford Band from its campus. This isn’t to say that the band has something against Catholics. For the pregame show, Selvik was dressed up as a Hasidic Jew and used a menorah as a baton.
And we’re back to 1986 again. The band’s response to allegations that it had urinated on the Husky Stadium turf was swift. And right in line with its tongue-in-cheek nature, it spelled out its displeasure in reference to genitalia.
For its halftime show at the home game against USC, the band spelled out “NO BALLZ.” Was it their way of telling the audience (and perhaps Stanford administrators) that they should lighten up and stop being so uptight/politically incorrect?
If there was a scene in PCU where Jeremy Piven’s character messed with the school band, he would totally have them do something like this.
After the shenanigans they engaged in at Notre Dame Stadium in 1991, LSJUMB was asked not to come back for future games. But Fighting Irish administrators couldn’t do anything about being made fun of at Stanford Stadium.
For the ’97 Notre Dame-Stanford game, the band entertained the crowd with a halftime routine titled “These Irish, Why Must They Fight?” The Irish were referred to as “stinking drunks,” and there was also a parody of the Irish potato famine (also featured in the pregame show) and a mock debate between a Catholic cardinal and the devil.
You know you've angered a lot of people when your own home crowd boos you off the field, which is what happened. The band was prohibited from performing at the 1999 Notre Dame-Stanford game at Stanford Stadium and school president Gerhard Casper wrote a letter of apology to Notre Dame.
And here you were thinking that the most offensive religious parodies Stanford’s band could perform were confined to the Cardinal’s games against Notre Dame.
The band also includes a five-woman dance team known as the Dollies. For the halftime show of Stanford’s 2004 home game against BYU, all five Dollies appeared on the field in wedding veils. All the while the announcer made reference to marriage as “the sacred bond that exists between a man and a woman... and a woman... and a woman... and a woman... and a woman.”
Offending a religious group and perpetuating stereotypes about them? Yes, it was classic LSJUMB with an obvious dig at polygamy that was its first major on-field “scandal” of the 2000s and necessitated an apology from Stanford athletic director Ted Leland to BYU.
LSJUMB’s most famous moment came against Stanford’s biggest rival when, in 1982, “the band was out on the field!” Yet this is the only moment on "offensive" list targeted at Cal. But LSJUMB makes up for the lack of quantity in this department with “quality.”
When she was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army in February 1974, newspaper heiress Patty Hearst was a sophomore art major at Berkeley. Around the time of her September 1975 arrest for joining the SLA's cause in a bank robbery, Stanford lampooned the whole affair by forming a “Hearst burger” on the field. It had two buns, but no patty (rim shot).
It’s unclear whether LSJUMB can be credited with this, but today the Urban Dictionary definition of a burger missing the meat is a “Hearst Burger.”
By 1990, many of Oregon’s residents had been personally affected by the declining logging industry and the closing of paper mills. What was left of the industry was further complicated by a battle with environmentalists over the threats that logging posed to the northern spotted owl.
Naturally, LSJUMB sided with the latter. Even today if you mention “Spotted Owl Show” to a longtime Ducks fan, you’re going to get a nasty look in return.
For its first script in its 1990 halftime performance at Autzen Stadium, the band formed the owl and made mention of how its “environment has been destroyed, your home is now a roll of Brawny and your family has flown the coop.” The second script was a chainsaw, accompanied by narration warning the trees of how “[the lumberjacks’] bite is worse than your bark.”
LSJUMB would not return to Eugene until 2001, due in large part to a decree from then Oregon governor Neil Goldschmidt that they be banned from the state. Not Autzen Stadium. The state.
Are you at all surprised that the most polarizing band in college sports played a small part in arguably the most polarizing news story of the 1990s?
The day before Stanford’s road game at UCLA, 21 members of LSJUMB took a quick detour to perform outside the Los Angeles County Courthouse, where O.J. Simpson was being arraigned on murder charges. They played songs including "She's Not There" by The Zombies. Simpson’s defense lawyer, Robert Shapiro, called it “a new low in tactless behavior.”
Had Shapiro seen the halftime show that LSJUMB put on for the game against Simpson’s alma mater two weeks earlier, he could have said the same thing. The band drove a white Ford Bronco with bloody handprints around the track at Stanford Stadium vs. USC in reference to Simpson’s low-speed car chase.
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, it’s best for one to expect the unexpected — and unexpectedly offensive — whenever the Stanford Band takes the field.
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