OKLAHOMA CITY -- Tulsa has filed a complaint with Conference
USA regarding a halftime performance by the Rice marching band
ridiculing coach Todd Graham, who left Rice after one season to
coach the Golden Hurricane.
The theme of the performance by the Marching Owl Band was a
search for Graham through nine circles of hell based on Dante's
"I think anyone has an opinion and can express a view about
people's behavior, but creating a production and presenting it to
fans is entirely different than expressing an individual's view of
behavior," Tulsa athletic director Bubba Cunningham said.
The Rice band has a history of edgy performances dating back for
several decades. Director of bands Chuck Throckmorton compared the
band's approach to those at Ivy League schools and Stanford.
"I think that a lot of times those bands set out seeking to
start a controversy and we set out seeking to be entertaining and
the controversies end up being a bit of a surprise," Throckmorton
Throckmorton said the band was conveying the "general
atmosphere of displeasure" and betrayal that students felt when
Graham signed a two-year contract extension to stay at Rice only
days before he agreed to return to Tulsa.
Graham, who had previously been a defensive coordinator for
Steve Kragthorpe at Tulsa, took the Owls to their first bowl game
in 45 years in his only season in Houston.
"It's been conversation among students all campus of, 'Boy we
can't wait for the Tulsa show because that's the chance to let him
know how we feel about it,'" Throckmorton said.
The performance suggested that Graham's shredded contract was
found in the fourth circle of hell with the greedy and the
avaricious -- also claiming that former Texas A&M coach Dennis
Franchione was in that circle -- and the coach could be found beyond
hell's greatest depths behind a door marked "Welcome To Tulsa."
"I think they have a long tradition of priding themselves on
being irreverent and sometimes you cross the line, and we think
they did this time," Cunningham said.
Cunningham said Tulsa sent its complaint to the Conference USA
"We haven't requested anything specifically," Cunningham said.
"What we're hoping to achieve is trying to create environments at
all of our athletic events that are supportive of student-athletes
and not vulgar or demeaning to individuals, institutions or other
Cunningham said it's common for schools to make suggestions to
each other about the game day atmosphere and what constitutes a
"If somebody has a bad experience at our place, I want to know
it so we can correct it," Cunningham said.
Throckmorton said the band's intent is to entertain and not to
cause harm, although he said it's also common for the band to
receive letters criticizing its performances. He said the band
expected Tulsa "to be a bit indignant."
"The best reaction from an audience is laughter, which by the
way we did [get]," Throckmorton said. "I think the next best
reaction is that they're shocked because they did not know which
direction you were going with that."