As it stands now, only Oregon State University and Washington State University remain in the Pac-12. On Friday, officials at both schools filed a legal complaint against the rest of the conference and its commissioner to protect the Pac-12′s assets amid the ongoing uncertainty over its future.
Much of the conversation around the conference’s collapse has centered on football, since the lucrative TV deals the sport generates largely fueled the implosion.
But what about the marching bands, cheer squads and other student groups that support athletics?
As reported in the Daily Barometer, members of OSU’s marching band are facing their fair share of distress and uncertainty about the Pac-12′s future.
Mayri Ross, a fifth-year saxophonist and recruitment officer for the OSU Marching Band, said the news that the Universities of Oregon and Washington were leaving the conference brought an onslaught of dialogue across band group chats.
“When that news broke… I don’t want to say it was frenzied, but it was definitely curious, it was definitely fearful, and it was definitely angry,” she said.
Ross said band members were concerned about losing the camaraderie and rivalry of a geographically-centered conference.
And much like the athletes they perform alongside, they’re wary of the toll increased travel might take on students if OSU joins a different conference.
“None of us were in the room where it happened, and so I think there was a lot of frustration on the part of, ‘What about the students? What about the athletes?’” Ross said.
In her role as recruitment officer, Ross is responsible for overseeing the band’s signup process for new members.
With many of the traditions and community bonds built between Pac-12 bands now unraveling, Ross said the recruitment process will take on a different tone.
“Of course, a lot of those will naturally change as our conference is changing,” she said. “I do kind of question, especially in my position, how the draw will change as those connections and community cultures change.”
The band hit a record 305 signups this year, Ross said, with the signup period closing just before UO and UW announced their Pac-12 departure.
Still, she thinks the band’s “Beaver spirit” might be enough to keep recruitment numbers up — allowing the band to play on.
“We’re still our goofy [selves], you know, your local favorite band,” Ross said. “That energy and that excitement for our craft and our school… I don’t see any of that stopping.”
Another thing Ross doesn’t see stopping — even in the face of realignment — is the support of the community who show up whenever the band performs at Reser Stadium.
“Corvallis really is, in my opinion, one of the best college towns in the Pac-12,” she added. “Our student section, our alumni, our community just bring so much of that life that it’s really hard not to love.”
OSU marching band saxophonist and recruitment officer Mayri Ross spoke to “Think Out Loud” host Dave Miller. Click play to listen to the full conversation: