In a letter addressed to the Jacksonville State community, Reginald McDonald apologized for the incident which took place during the third quarter of Tennessee State’s 31-15 victory at Burgess-Snow Field.
After a 76-yard reception, Gamecocks sophomore Markis Merrill went down with an apparent hip injury. During an on-field delay while Merrill received medical treatment, Tennessee State University’s The Aristocrat of Bands began playing before being met by boos from the Gamecocks fans in attendance. The band did not play for the remainder of the third quarter.
In his apology letter, McDonald said his view of the play was obstructed, and was unaware a player had been injured when he instructed his band to play.
“We take the health and safety of athletes on both teams very seriously and would not intentionally show disrespect for something so serious,” McDonald said in his letter. “Members of the Aristocrat of Bands always strive to conduct themselves according to proper protocol, good sportsmanship and professionalism.”
Attempts Tuesday afternoon to reach McDonald and Rick DelaHaya, Tennessee State’s media relations director, were unsuccessful.
Greg Seitz, Jacksonville State’s senior associate athletic director, said the university had received the letter and accepted the apology.
“We didn’t think it was anything personal,” Seitz said. “Once they realized what was going on, they stopped.”
Seitz said he did not recall ever having received an apology letter from another university about an on-field incident.
“To be honest, I can’t remember our fans ever booing another band,” Seitz said. “But in our defense, I don’t think we knew what was happening. It was kind of confusing.”
Seitz said he sent the apology to the football team and Merrill. McDonald named Merrill in the letter and wished the player well in his recovery.
Kyle Schwartz, the commissioner of media relations for the Ohio Valley Conference, said the league did not have input on the letter, and were unaware of it until after Jacksonville State officials had received it.
“Completely independent from Tennessee State,” Schwartz said. “They did the right thing, and the polite thing.”
Schwartz said he could not recall an incident where one university had sent another an apology, but said he believes most on-field incidents are handled without the knowledge of the conference.
“We have a pretty collegiate group of schools,” Schwartz said. “I imagine any incident that happens at an athletic event is usually handled by one athletic director calling up the other and taking care of it without the conference ever getting involved.”
Staff Writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.