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Wolverines keep big teeth off band

February 03, 2008|By LYN WIDMYER

Good news, West Virginia University Mountaineer fans!

The University of Michigan may have stolen head football coach Rich Rodriquez but Jay Drury is staying in Morgantown.

Jay Drury is director of the West Virginia University marching band. The 350-member band is referred to as "The Pride of West Virginia" because, according to Drury, the band "belongs to the state."

After the University of Michigan plucked Rodriguez and head basketball coach John Beilein from Morgantown, I worried that Drury might be next. I called the University of Michigan and asked if Drury was on their "to steal" list.

A top-level marching band spokesperson (who sounded a lot like a receptionist) said no.

Just to make sure, I called Drury and asked him about his plans. To my relief, he said he was not accompanying Rodriguez to Ann Arbor.

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I did not attend West Virginia University, but that doesn't matter when it comes to supporting the marching band. I found this out at the Buckwheat Festival in Kingwood, W.Va., in 1995.

The point of the Buckwheat Festival is to gorge yourself on buckwheat cakes (referred to as pancakes by out-of-towners) and sausage patties. The festival record for sausage consumption is 37,000 patties.

I was enjoying my buckwheat-cake dinner at the Kingwood Volunteer Fire Department when everyone started migrating toward the nearby high school football field.

My friend Carol (a Preston County native wise to the festival schedule) dragged me to my feet. "Come on," she said excitedly, "the WVU band is going to play and they're wearing their BRAND NEW UNIFORMS!"

Moving my feet was not easy. They felt like 20-pound blocks of margarine.

The stands were packed, even though there was no football game and no promise of more buckwheat cakes.

People were there just to see the WVU marching band members in their new uniforms. When the Pride marched onto the field, people started yelling and cheering. My 8-year old daughter insisted on having her picture taken with one of the band members. I attribute this experience to her later joining the Jefferson High School band.

Jay Drury is the 11th band director for WVU. The band offers no scholarships. Anyone is welcome to try out. Drury says the drum line, the color guard and the featured twirler are the most competitive slots.

He would like to have a larger tuba section, but limited funds prevent him from buying more instruments.

Drury says he will stay at WVU "as long as they'll have me."

Coach Rich Rodriquez said something similar at a press conference at the University of Michigan. "I hope this will be my last coaching job." he said.

I believe Drury, but not Rodriquez. If Rodriguez could leave his native state of West Virginia and abandon the Mountaineers before a major bowl game, I question his promise of allegiance to the University of Michigan.

Meanwhile, WVU has just paid Rodriguez a $287,000 incentive bonus for goals reached during the 2007 season.

I think buying tubas for the WVU marching band would have been a better investment.

Lyn Widmyer is a Charles Town, W.Va., resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.

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