Wisconsin band suspended for hazing

By Scott Bauer

MADISON, Wis. – The University of Wisconsin marching band has been suspended indefinitely while allegations of hazing, alcohol abuse and sexual misconduct are investigated.

The band won’t play Saturday during a nationally televised football game between the No. 18 Badgers and No. 14 Ohio State at Camp Randall Stadium.

The university made the announcement at a hastily called news conference Friday night, saying the behavior is consistent with conduct that put the band on probation in 2006.

Mike Leckrone, band director since 1969, said he made the decision and it was the first time in his tenure the entire band has ever been suspended and prevented from playing at a game.

Leckrone said he informed the 300 band members at 4:30 p.m. Friday.

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“My feeling was I hit them between the eyes with a sledgehammer,” he said.

No details were immediately released about the behavior, only that it involved inappropriate alcohol use, hazing and sexualized behavior. Leckrone said it involved only a small number of band members, but it was significant enough to warrant the suspension.

He and Dean of Students Lori Berquam refused to discuss any details while the investigation by Berquam’s office is ongoing.

The band will practice again starting Tuesday with the understanding that it will not perform again until the investigation is done, Leckrone said.

Penalties for students who violate the university’s code of conduct range from a reprimand to expulsion, Berquam said.

It’s the latest in a series of high profile problems for the band.

In 2000 the university established a written code of conduct for the band.

In February 2007 the marching band’s assistant director Michael Lorenz resigned after an internal report criticized his treatment of a female colleague during a rowdy band trip to Michigan in 2006.

Reports of band members’ hazing, alcohol use and inappropriate sexual behavior prompted the university to put the band on probation after the trip.

Then-Chancellor John Wiley threatened band members with losing performance and travel privileges.

Wiley, in an October 2006 letter to Leckrone, called band members’ behavior “boorish to patently dangerous and unlawful.”

At that time, seminude band members were alleged to have danced suggestively and there were reports of women being forced to kiss other women to be allowed to enter bathrooms on a bus.

The university said in a statement that the latest allegations were consistent with the 2006 troublesome behavior.

The award-winning band has a storied tradition on campus and a special place in the hearts of Badgers fans.

Leckrone said he believed the latest allegations breached the band’s code of conduct and warranted a swift and significant response.

“I don’t think it would be appropriate for me just to ignore it,” he said.