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Rice apologizes for band mocking Baylor’s sexual assault scandal in halftime show

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Rice University apologized Saturday for its marching band’s halftime performance Friday. The Marching Owl Band, also known as the MOB, had mocked Rice’s opponent, Baylor, with several formations and comments by the stadium announcer that referred to a sexual assault scandal that has rocked the latter school.

“The Marching Owl Band, or MOB, has a tradition of satirizing the Rice Owls’ football opponents,” Rice said in a statement. “In this case, the band’s calling attention to the situation at Baylor was subject to many different interpretations. Although the band’s halftime shows are entirely the members’ projects with no prior review by the university administration, we regret any offense, particularly if Baylor fans may have felt unwelcome in our stadium. While we know that the MOB did not intend in any way to make light of the serious issue of sexual assault, we are concerned that some people may have interpreted the halftime performance in that vein. Sexual assault is a matter of serious concern on campuses across the nation, and all of us have an obligation to address the matter with all the tools at our disposal. The MOB sought to highlight the events at Baylor by satirizing the actions or inactions of the Baylor administration, but it is apparent from the comments of many spectators and Baylor fans that the MOB’s effort may have gone too far.”

The band appeared to have a special message for ex-Baylor coach Art Briles, who attended the first half of the Owls-Bears game in Houston. During its performance, the MOB formed a “IX” in front of the visiting fans section in an apparent reference to the scandal, one involves several Baylor players over a number of years and got Briles fired. Here’s the view from the opposite side of the field.

“There are nine judges on the Supreme Court, or is it?” a narrator said during the performance on the stadium’s loudspeakers, according to the Houston Chronicle, apparently referencing the multiple Title IX lawsuits the victims of sexual assault have filed against the school in the wake of the scandal.

Briles was one of a handful of high-level school officials fired after an investigation conducted earlier this year revealed Baylor officials tried to cover up sexual assault allegations.

Art Briles on Baylor’s sexual assault scandal: ‘I feel responsibility’

Along with Briles, Rice’s marching band also apparently trolled ex-Baylor president Kenneth Starr, who was demoted amid the scandal and ultimately resigned. While playing a rendition of “Hit the Road, Jack,” the band formed itself into a star shape.

According to the Chronicle, the performance was proceeded by an image of the Muppet Fozzie Bear on the stadium’s video board, while the announcer quipped, “Some jokes can be unbearable.”

Unsurprisingly, some Bears fans really did find Rice’s jokes unbearable, according to Rice’s student newspaper, the Rice Thresher, which reported an angry Baylor student confronted some members of the marching band later in the night.

“Rice students calmed the situation,” however, the Thresher reported on Twitter.

Reaction to the performance has been mixed overall, with some finding the jokes that pertain to a sexual assault case distasteful. Others, however, think the performance shed light on the situation.

Briles, it appears, did not get to see the performance. According to ESPN, he left the game at halftime.

“I’m not trying to be a distraction,” Briles told ESPN when he was leaving. “It’s about the coaches and it’s about the players.”

Baylor beat the Owls, 38-10.

Note: Earlier versions of this post incorrectly referred to Rice’s student newspaper as the “Thrasher.”