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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘We were the Vandogs’: University of Idaho band garners national attention for supporting Yale in upset victory at NCAA Tournament

Yale marched to the beat of the University of Idaho’s drum in its upset victory over the Auburn Tigers on Friday at the Arena.

The band from the Ivy League school in New Haven, Connecticut, was unable to make the cross-country trip to support its basketball team in the NCAA Tournament, so the Sound of Idaho Vandal Marching Band stepped in, threw on blue Yale shirts and performed the school’s fight song and chants inside the raucous arena.

“I’m just grateful for everything that we’ve been able to do, and it’s pretty cool to get free courtside tickets to an upset game like that,” said Andre Moore, a UI trombone player majoring in pre-physical therapy and allied health.

The 13th-seeded Bulldogs’ 78-76 victory over fourth-seeded Auburn made national headlines, but the Idaho band stole some of the spotlight.

“It seemed to resonate with people, that a band would offer to help out, and in music, that’s just kind of what you do,” said Spencer Martin, director of athletic bands at Idaho. “We’re Vandals. We’re Vandals first, for sure, but if we can help, we’re gonna come help.”

Martin said the viral ride has been exciting for him and his students.

“ ‘Look Mom, I’m on ESPN,’ ” Martin said, quoting his students. “ You’re a farm kid in the middle of a farm town. How often do you get that? Never.”

SportsCenter’s Facebook post about the UI band filling in for Yale’s musical group garnered 213,000 reactions, 6,000 comments and over 24,000 shares as of Saturday afternoon. The Facebook page hadn’t received that many reactions on a post since early February.

Many of the comments gave kudos to the Idaho band for stepping in for Yale’s.

“This is such a great show of collegiate athletics and why they are important! Well done!” one woman wrote.

“When ESPN picked it up, it exploded,” Martin said of the national attention.

Moore said the limelight has been “very rewarding for all the work that we put in.”

Martin said he’s received positive emails from Yale and Vandals fans, and even random people from across the country, like a man in Alabama and a pastor in Ohio.

Even Yale head coach James Jones acknowledged the UI band’s support in his postgame news conference when asked by a reporter.

“I’ve never had an experience like this,” Martin said.

Martin said it all started Sunday when he got a call from UI’s athletics department saying Yale’s band couldn’t make it to Spokane because its students are on spring break. Martin was asked if his band was interested in performing.

He said he thought it would be an exciting opportunity for his band and the university, and it would feel good to help another university that needed it.

“If you choose the Vandal band, you know that it’s going to come through,” Martin said. “It always has. That’s the tradition. There was no doubt that we would come through for them.”

Moore said he was eager to perform at the game because he loves playing his instrument and showing spirit.

“It’s always a fun environment to be in, but it’s also something I may never get to do as a student ever again, so I wanted to kind of pounce on that,” he said.

The band rehearsed Yale’s fight song (written by Cole Porter, Yale class of 1913) and chants Friday morning at the Kibbie Dome in Moscow before hopping on a bus to Spokane. Once they arrived, band members traded their UI shirts for blue Bulldogs shirts, which Yale’s athletics department provided.

Yale is also covering the Idaho band’s expenses related to its tournament performances for the Bulldogs, Martin said.

Moore, of Selah, Washington, near Yakima, said the fight song’s rhythm was easy to learn, but the hardest part was trying to make it sound like Yale’s band.

He said he and his band mates did well, considering their minimal rehearsal.

The members played the fight song “a ton” because it was the only Yale tune they knew on short notice, Martin said. They also played UI tunes, changing “Go Vandals” to “Go Bulldogs.”

“We were the Vandogs,” said Martin, who jokingly combined Vandals and Bulldogs.

Martin said he communicated with Yale’s band and watched its online videos to get a feel for how they play.

“We wanted to do a good job for us and for Yale,” he said.

Yale’s cheerleaders danced and performed their routines to the band’s music, Martin said.

“We chanted and cheered and yelled and screamed and went for it just like we do for us,” he said. “That’s our job.”

Martin called the atmosphere of roughly 11,000 people inside the Arena “wild.”

“There was a big Yale contingent, and then of course, everyone likes the underdog, and so the crowd kind of became a Yale crowd,” he said.

The environment only compared to an Idaho football playoff game last fall, Moore said.

“It was really electric, and it was something we’ve never really been a part of before,” he said.

Moore said he loves a good underdog story, and it was awesome he and his band members were part of one.

“I think being a Yale fan will probably last more than just yesterday and tomorrow,” he said Saturday. “It will probably last a lifetime just because they’ve given us this opportunity.”

Friday’s March Madness game was just the start of the weekend for the Idaho band.

The musicians returned Friday night to Moscow where several members performed at DancersDrummersDreamers, a university music and dance event.

The band had rehearsal at 8 a.m. Saturday for UIdaho Bound, a university event for incoming Vandals students. Wearing Vandals gear, they played that morning for students and their families at the university’s Idaho Central Credit Union Arena.

“I kind of got emotional because as cool as it was to play for Yale, I mean, we’re Vandals,” Martin said of the band’s UIdaho Bound performance.

Moore was one of the members who performed at UIdaho Bound. He said it’s been a busy couple of days, but he’s not bothered because he enjoys playing music.

“I would take this any day of the week if I could,” he said.

The band will end the weekend Sunday at the Arena as Yale takes on fifth-seeded San Diego State for a chance to go to the Sweet 16. The game starts at 6:40 p.m.

“There’s no rest in show business, I guess,” Martin said.

Moore said he looks forward to the atmosphere again and supporting Yale.

“I look forward to playing my horn again, and this could be the last time that I do it all year, so I’ll leave it all out there,” he said.