Columbia reverses its ban on band

NEW YORK -- The Columbia University marching band will be able to participate in Saturday's home finale against Brown, the athletic department announced Thursday night.

The marching band had been banned from performing Saturday after poking fun at the winless football team following a 62-41 defeat last weekend at Cornell.

"The band is grateful to have been told this evening that the athletic department will allow us to attend the football game this Saturday against Brown," the marching band said in a statement, according to the Columbia Spectator, the university's student newspaper.

"We look forward to honoring the senior class -- both on the football team and in the band -- and cheering the Columbia Lions on to victory."

Columbia is 0-9 this season, 0-6 in the Ivy League. The Lions are trying to avoid their first winless season since 1987, when they went 0-10.

After every game, win or lose, the Columbia marching band plays the school fight song, "Roar, Lion, Roar." But after the game against Cornell, the band revised the lyrics to highlight the team's struggles.

The altered verse began with, "We always lose, lose, lose; by a lot, and sometimes by a little," according to the Spectator.

Columbia athletic director Dr. M. Dianne Murphy explained Thursday night why the athletic department decided to change its mind.

"We are proud of our talented and dedicated student-athletes -- but as we have discussed this issue over the past day, we come to the conclusion that the core free speech values of the University are best served by providing a forum both for speech that might sometimes offend -- as well as for the kind of open discussion that ultimately leads to greater understanding and collegiality among all members of our community," she said.

Columbia senior José Delgado, the band's manager, had emailed a statement to ESPNNewYork.com after learning of the team's ban:

"The Columbia University Marching Band would like to apologize to the members of our community, in particular to our fellow classmates and coaches, who were offended by the incident that occurred on November 12 at the Columbia vs. Cornell football game. We accept the consequences and look forward to continue to be a part of our school spirit for future athletic events."

Mike Mazzeo is a frequent contributor to ESPNNewYork.com. ESPNNewYork.com's Kieran Darcy contributed to this report.