“I think it’s caught everybody by surprise,” Wakefield said of the public outcry. “Oklahomans, by our nature, are really good people. There’s not a culture of hate here at all. It’s more, we’re proud of what we have and what Oklahoma is about. Obviously, this is a change that’s gotten a lot of people up in arms.”
He added that the video that caused much of the uproar was shot within the first few days of band practice, and that judging a performance based on one early rehearsal wasn’t fair.
“It’s a little unfortunate that the band couldn’t be in a position to have rehearsed it to fulfill the excellence we’re used to hearing from the Pride of Oklahoma,” Wakefield said. “It’s a little like Bob Stoops doesn’t want cameras to be in his football practice because maybe things aren’t ready, or you need the element of surprise.”
The current pregame routine has gone largely unchanged in the more than 30 years since legendary, longtime band director Gene Thrailkill implemented it in the 1970s.
Thrailkill, who retired 12 years ago, said he has “thoughts” about the proposed changes, but declined to elaborate on them.
“At this point, it doesn’t make a whole lot (of difference) what I think,” Thrailkill said. “I’ve been gone for 12 years. There’s gonna be changes. Sometimes they’re more dramatic than others, but anytime you bring a new person in, you expect changes.
“It hurts to see what’s happening with the kids. It’s not their fault. Unfortunately in education a lot of times, the kids are the last people to be considered. I feel sorry for them.”
Wakefield asked that fans be supportive of the band members.
“I think our students deserve our fans’ support,” Wakefield said. “I would sure hate to see a negative reaction toward the students in a university setting.
“Really, I mean there are people in Afghanistan being killed. This is not life or death. This is about entertainment, which is really important and there are high ticket prices, and an expectation for a return on that dollar that’s high, and we certainly are aware of that and we certainly wouldn’t want people to be disappointed or angry at the band.”