The longtime director of the UT's Pride of the Southland Band has been permanently removed from that position.
Dr. Gary Sousa has been on administrative leave as Director of Bands since October, because of what the university calls insubordinate behavior.
Sousa said he was unhappy with cuts to the band's travel budget and playing time during football games. Sousa, along with current and former members of the Pride, began speaking out.
The university said Sousa promoted misleading claims about the situation to alumni and band members, and that created a counterproductive environment. They said he also encouraged students and alumni to speak out against the athletic department about travel and reduced playing time.
On Sousa's complaints, UT did admit the band's budget had been trimmed because of the university's travel situation. They countered that the Pride's playing time had not been cut, but officials had decided to use more recorded music to increase fan engagement and to help with recruitment.
Sousa returned to campus in December as a faculty member, but not as band director.
In a letter dated March 6, Sousa was informed by Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs that a complete review of his actions was done, and the decision had been made to permanently remove him as director of the Pride of the Southland Band, effective March 31. He will remain on faculty, but at a reduced salary. Sousa was making $155,000 a year, and will now take home $105,150.
Dr. Don Ryder will continue to serve as interim director of bands. The university will do a national search for a new Director of Bands at a later date.
Sousa has helmed the Pride of the Southland Band since 1997.
UT's review of Dr. Sousa's conduct
The letter from Provost Martin to Sousa says "The university's review of this matter confirms my impression last fall that your actions were insubordinate by virtue of your failure to seek resolution of your concerns n the normal professional manner."
The report finds that the what Sousa termed "Athletic Battle 2013" and a "war" in various interviews and written statements came to a head in October, right after the Georgia game, but it says there were a number of events leading up that game and the subsequent public outcry.
In July 2013, the university changed the line of reporting for Sousa. Before, he reported directly to the UTK Chancellor. The report says he wasn't happy when he learned he would now be reporting to the Provost in this new chain of command.
The university also outlines hostility a communication failures between Sousa and campus administrators, which goes back to a 2009 letter Sousa wrote to SEC Commissioner Mike Slive to complain about recorded music being played over both bands at that years's UT/Alabama game. University officials did not know about the letter until they were contacted by the SEC for more information.
However, the report finds that this problem got increasingly worse when Dave Hart took over as Athletic Director. The two rarely met face to face, and the report says the Sousa usually sent his assistants to pre-game production meetings. Sousa is quoted as saying he felt Hart "shut him out" and that "walls went up" which had not been there with the previous athletic director. The report finds no record of Sousa tried to meet with Hart to express his concerns about the band's budget or playing time.
Another example of insubordination the report lists is the band's independent contract with Under Armour to provide apparel. In 2013, the athletic department told band officials they would no longer pay for matching clothing for band members to wear for travel or in the stands when it was too hot for the full uniform.
In response, UT says Sousa sought new proposals for band clothing, and struck a deal with Under Armour. The problem? UT has an exclusive contract with adidas to provide apparel. The university found out about the new gear when contacted by a representative of adidas, which also had exclusive rights to the use of the Power T on clothing.
Sousa expressed very public displeasure with the shrinking of the band's travel budget. The report traces that issue back to the 2011 Arkansas game, when athletics would not pay for the band to fly to the game. Sousa refused to take the band by bus because he thought the trip was too long. In 2013, the university did not take the band to the Missouri or Oregon games. The reports says that further damaged the relationship between Sousa and athletics.
To counter Sousa's complaints, athletics officials pointed out that the band often booked extra nights away for certain trips. In one example, the band got an extra day in Florida to travel to the beach.
"It appears that athletics officials perceived past band travel as extravagant. Cuts to travel funding may have reflected that perception as well as current fiscal realities," the reports says.
The biggest complaints raised by Sousa and band members was the use of recorded music at football games. The report says Sousa regarded "recorded music as a threat to the survival of marching bands in college football."
The athletics department acknowledges that the game-day experience is changing across the country, but say they are "committed to preserving the character of the college game-day experience and maintaining its character as distinct from the NFL experience."
Another issue arose during the Orange and White game in 2013, when the football team requested specific music be played during pre-game routines.
Here's how the report sums up the problems with Sousa: "By the beginning of the fall 2013 football season, mutual distrust had emerged as a result of lack of direct communication, the Under Armour incident, changes to the funding of band travel, and differing views on the use of recorded music."
The university concludes, "Dr. Sousa took the position that compromise with athletics was not an option" and that he allowed his relationships with university officials to deteriorate to the point that "it is no longer possible for [Sousa] to serve effectively as Director of Bands."
Dr. Sousa counters the university's review with a letter to Dr. John Zomchick, Vice President of Faculty Affairs at UT.
He points out his history of outstanding service at the university, with high marks on performance evaluations and recognition for "outstanding academic research/scholarship/creative activity, teaching, and service." He says his recent suspension was the first time he'd been formally or informally reprimanded in his 30-year career.
All of his actions are attributed to his love for the Pride of the Southland Band. He denies the implication that his actions are self-serving, because he did not stand to benefit financially or personally.
"To the contrary, I had a great deal to lost from taking a stand against the athletic department, and the UT administration has seen fit to make such a loss a reality.." Sousa writes.
He admits that his desire to uphold band traditions led to tensions with administrators and the athletic department. He reiterates his frustration with "canned music" and a reduced role for the band at football games.
"Perhaps I held too tightly to the ideal, traditions and history of the Pride of the Southland Band. My refusal to accept the march to profits is my mistake and one for which I paid dearly."
Sousa also answers specific points of the review, which he calls "factually inaccurate." You can read his full response here.
Sousa wraps up his letter with this: "Please accept that I love the University of Tennessee and deeply care for my students, alumni, and faculty colleagues. In every single instance referenced in the review, my actions are focused solely on providing the students in the Pride of the Southland with a world-class educational experience, utilizing the long history and traditions for which the program is known."