Carleton University, with a football playoff spot at stake, is silencing one of Canadian university sport's longest-standing traditions on Saturday. .
Not that the some 80 members of the Queen's University Bands are being silent about being barred from bringing instruments to Saturday's Queen's Golden Gaels-Carleton Ravens clash in Ottawa. As per Carleton's request, they will leave the flutes, clarinets, saxophones, trumpets, trombones, French horns, sousaphones, and drums at home in Kingston. Instead, they will have another noisemaker that is permissible under Ontario University Athletics rules.
"Our solution that we've been given, basically, is that we are bringing vuvuzelas," said Bridget Rusk, a highland dancer who is also the Bands' finance manager, referring to the notorious noisemakers that assailed eardrums worldwide during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. "We'll be very noisy, so I hope that Carleton is happy that they asked for no instruments.
"Anyone in that stadium can bring vuvuzelas, so we're going to bring them too," the third-year geography student added. "And the athletic department at Queen's is providing the vuvuzelas."
"We have pretty great lung capacity," added fellow highland dancer Laura Stemp, the Bands' operation manager.
On Tuesday, after receiving confirmation for a purchase of 80 tickets in the 4,000-seat stadium, the Bands received a friendly reminder that they would not be allowed to perform.
The Bands — pluralized since it encompasses a colour guard, brass band, pipe band, drum corps, highland dancers, cheerleaders and a mascot, Boohoo the bear — have played at Queen's home and away football games since 1905. The organization is older than the Grey Cup. It's generally accepted among fellow Canadian football-playing schools that when the Gaels come to town, the Bands come too.
Queen's retaliatory move also includes offering a vuvuzela to any fan with a ticket.
'Keep all the home-field advantage that we can'
Carleton relaunced football in 2013 and can secure an OUA playoff berth by beating the 2-5 Gaels, who are out of playoff contention and are playing for pride. It is also trying to incorporate its own fledgling pep band, which is fundraising to buy instruments, into its gameday presentation.
The Bands say they have filed a complaint to the OUA, but it appears a century-old tradition has been benched by a second-year team with post-seasoon dreams.
"The Queen's band has been around for a really long time; our band was a little bit concerned about them coming and we wanted to make sure that our band got an opportunity," said Shannon Chinn, Carleton's manager of interuniversity sport, adding that Ravens use a 'compressed' gameday script that skips having two media timeouts in each quarter.
"They even have a hard time getting in, because of the rain we've had at a couple games and with the instruments they happen to have. So we've had a challenge getting our band into a game to date this year. They played out front a couple times and played at the Panda Game [which was held off-campus].
"Our program is on a bit of surprising upswing right now and this is an important game for us," Chinn added. "We want to keep all of the home-field advantage that we can. We had some concerns with the size – they have 80 people in their band, when we're on offence and whatnot. So our request was that we keep our home-field advantage. We spend a lot of money on our DJ and our game-day experience that we're trying to establish here."
Rusk said there has "never been an issue about us bringing our instruments" when the Bands have followed the Gaels to other OUA stadiums and they have followed rules about when to be quiet. Their performances at both Guelph and McMaster earlier this season coincided with those universities' homecoming games. Guelph beat Queen's 66-0 that Saturday, by the way.
Hence being taken aback.
"I was a bit surprised when I got an e-mail saying 'no instruments for our band,' " said Ed Charbonneau, Queen's drum major. “I had a short conversation with them regarding whether they were actually serious about this. Essentially, it boiled down to, they were very serious.
"They said it was best for our university to leave all of our instruments at home, due to the fact... well, they cited a number of reasons. The first being that their coaches that had personally requested that we not bring instruments. Other reasons that they cited was that their own university band is rather inexperienced and young and they didn't want to, I suppose, overshadow them."
Chinn cited her experience working with the CFL's Saskatchewan Roughriders, noting that its Gainer the Gopher mascot was once barred from a crucial late-season game in Calgary.
"There were many times I wasn't allowed to bring our cheerleaders," she said. "We'd gone to Winnipeg many times for the bounce-back game after the Labour Day Classic. But there were times when it there was a big game down the line where there was a lot at stake and they didn't want the visiting team to have that little bit of an advantage of getting some fans onside and getting momentum going.
"Like I said, our band is really brand-new and we're just figuring out how to get them into our game day. Our timing of the entertainement part is shorter because we run a compressed script [with no mid-quarter media timeouts]."
Chinn maintained the move was not driven by Ravens coach Steve Sumarah and his staff.
"We collaborate as a department, all together," she said.
(Speaking of collaboration in the OUA, the Bands and the Western Mustangs cheer team performed together in 2008. So anything is possible.)
Carleton and Queen's did not play during the former's first season back in 2013.
Over the years, the Bands have followed the Gaels across Canada from Halifax to Saskatoon, even performing during national semifinal games that had much higher stakes than Saturday's game. That's an exception to the rule in Canada, and they believe a rule was flouted.
"I don't think they're really within their rights to do this, it's really confusing," said Stemp, a fourth-year student who will be performing at her final football game on Saturday. "If you look at the OUA's strategic plan for this year, they've specifically emphasized that they're looking for exposure, visibility and attendance at games. And this is 80 people who are happily planning to attend and pay for tickets, bring a lot of supporters to the game whether or not they're for Carleton.
"If the OUA is looking for visibility and exposure, one way to get it is to allow us to attend and perform."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.