Stale uniforms leave bad taste

With USF anticipating its eventual membership in the Big East, the uniforms of athletic teams were modified to include the University’s new “U” logo.

That wasn’t the case for the band. The Herd of Thunder is still wearing uniforms with USF’s old logo.

A meeting in June 2005, convened by USF President Judy Genshaft, Provost Renu Khator, Associate Provost Ralph Wilcox and others, had approved a half-million dollar budget that eventually failed to fund new uniforms for the marching band.

The Herd of Thunder’s monetary constraints are paired with the pressures of a growing band. Wade Weast, the director of USF’s School of Music, said that the Herd of Thunder, which now has about 250 members has “barely enough” uniforms as it is.

Weast said that shortfalls in fundraising on the part of the Athletic Department, the College of Arts and Sciences and the band itself were responsible for this postponement. Weast emphasized that the School of Music wasn’t “pointing any fingers” or “blaming anyone” and was awaiting a report from the Provost’s office on the issue.

Wilcox, who spearheads the effort to develop a sustainable budget plan, said that it was difficult to pinpoint specific failures.

“But I can assure you that Academic Affairs, the Provost’s office, and the President’s office, which carried that largest share, did indeed contribute their portion”.

Wilcox said that the planning committee had suggested working the $125,000 uniforms into the budget with an amortized payment of $25,000 a year over a period of five years to cover the added cost.

Though this plan was written into the budget, it will not be implemented quite yet.

The $25,000 payment equates to about 5 percent of the band’s yearly budget. More than 75 percent of that budget comes from education and general dollars allotted by the state.

Weast said that USF is supportive of the Herd of Thunder.

Though contingency plans, such as dressing the percussionists in all black, have been discussed, he admitted that the Herd of Thunder has not had to resort to such measures but is nevertheless at a “critical point.”

When asked how the reformulated budget failed to include enough money for the uniforms, Weast said, “The uniforms were factored in, but several parts of the funding model … were not implemented. So, in other words, we were hoping that part of the Student Activities Fee would be able to go towards this, then it was established that that was not possible because I think the students enrolled are in the class and then there’s no longer a club. And so by virtue of the … bylaws or whatever of the student organization … it was not possible to use any of that money.”

In an e-mail, Billy Schmidt, Student Government’s director of external affairs, attributed part of the shortfall to the Student Activities Fee bylaws as well.

“Student Government statutes and Florida statutes pertaining to use of A&S funds are strict on how we use A&S funds,” he said. “SG assumes that we are not able to fund an organization like the athletic bands. The athletic band is considered a closed membership organization in which, in some cases, auditions are required to join. A&S fee language does not allow A&S funds to be allocated to closed organizations.”

According to Schmidt, the June 2005 budget also proposed an Athletic Band Fee to help cover the costs of the marching band, which SG did not approve.

“Student Government was not in support of a fee taxing every student to assist the program,” Schmidt said. “Extensive discussion on the subject of a fee never took place.”

Schmidt also said that the Legislature’s recently approved budget, which allocates less money to USF than did last year’s budget, should not prevent the Herd of Thunder from getting new uniforms.

“The state Legislature does not appropriate funds to programs such as the marching band,” he said. “Educational and general (E&G) funds are used mainly for the faculty and any scholarships. A decrease in the E&G funds should not affect the uniform issue.”

Despite the delays, Weast remains optimistic.

“There is interest on the part of the administration to keep the marching band moving forward,” Weast added. “Exactly how that comes down is still being discussed.”

At that meeting several weeks ago, Wilcox, Genshaft and Woolard agreed not to use budgetary money for the band uniforms because the state intended the money to be used for educational purposes.

“It is not appropriate for us to use a taxpayer’s money to purchase band uniforms,” Wilcox said. “It is important to the University of South Florida that those funds coming to the University from Tallahassee all directly contribute to the core mission of the University, which is, as you well know, academic and research in nature.”