The coronavirus already had restricted capacity at Bill Snyder Family Stadium this fall. Now, Kansas State football’s regular-season season finale will go on without the marching band.
The Pride of Wildcat Land won’t attend the Dec. 5 home game against Texas, citing a recent rise in COVID-19 cases. The Riley County Health Department’s latest coronavirus update, released Monday, reported the county has 180 new positives since Friday.
Dr. Frank Tracz, the marching band director, announced the decision to sideline The Pride of Wildcat Land for the Texas game in a letter posted to the K-State University website Monday.
“I understand the sadness and frustration over this situation we are in. I feel the same,” he wrote. “I made this decision based on facts (KDHE, CDC, and other government health reports and predictions), as well as the situation within the marching band.
“Our exposure numbers have gone up faster in the last week than they have the entire semester. We have many students waiting for test results, many have already moved home, and the forecast for the major metropolitan areas like KC, Wichita, etc. are not promising. Most of our members come from these populated areas.”
The band has attended all four of the Wildcats’ home games to this point. K-State capped attendance at 25% of Bill Snyder Family Stadium’s capacity this fall, with approximately 12,500 fans permitted through the gates for each game.
While the band has been at full capacity, members have been spread out across several sections, and physically distanced, behind the north end zone. The band also hasn’t performed any halftime shows this season. Instead, past performances have played on the video boards during halftime.
Tracz said that while he “received support from all University officials” before making a decision, it ultimately was his call.
“No one asked or directed me to do this,” he wrote. “I needed to do what is best for the band members, staff, and all their families. I believe I made the only call that I could considering all the facts, statistics, and present escalating situation.
“I ask that you try to understand the situation, and to know that I take the health and welfare of these band students and their families seriously. I am also an extremely committed K-State Football fan and supporter.”
During K-State’s last game Nov. 14, Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy was caught on ESPN’s cameras complaining to officials about The Pride of Wildcat Land, which was playing music while the Cowboys’ offense was on the field. Later in the game, an official stopped the action and used his microphone to tell the K-State marching band to cease playing during live action. Per NCAA rules, a team can be assessed a 15-yard penalty if its band creates “any noise that prohibits (an opposing) team from hearing its signals.” To avoid this possible penalty, bands try to avoid playing from the time an offense breaks a huddle until the ball is snapped.
It is not known the last time The Pride of Wildcat Land didn’t attend a home game.
“I am sorry that the season has to end this way, I am so sad for the seniors, and disappointed for the entire Band Family that we cannot be there to support the team on Dec. 5th,” Tracz wrote. “With the help of the Band Staff, I will do my best to find an appropriate way to honor and thank the seniors and the band for a fantastic year. I am very proud of the fact that we lasted this long. We took extraordinary precautions to stay safe and continue playing band with great support from many on this campus.”
Tracz looks forward to brighter days ahead.
“WE will get through this,” he wrote, “and we will be stronger for it when we get to the other side of this pandemic.”