Van-Dogs? Vandals and Bulldogs come together to create unique March Madness marriage with bands

Yale players, including guard Yassine Gharram, center, celebrate with fans after their 78-76 win against Auburn in a first-round college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament in Spokane, Wash., Friday, March 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)

Yale players, including guard Yassine Gharram, center, celebrate with fans after their 78-76 win against Auburn in a first-round college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament in Spokane, Wash., Friday, March 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — For this weekend, the University of Idaho marching band has adopted a new name.

It’s not the Vandal Marching Band. It’s the “Van-Dogs Marching Band” after becoming the adopted band for the Yale basketball team during its run in the NCAA Tournament.

Yale’s band was unavailable to join its team in the Pacific Northwest for the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament because it’s spring break on campus and pulling together a traveling group wasn’t possible.

But the school found some willing stand-ins in the form of the Idaho band, which quickly became a viral sensation on social media following 13th-seeded Yale’s upset victory against No. 4 seed Auburn on Friday.

“We want to help out another university. We want to help out another band,” said Spencer Martin, director of athletic bands at Idaho.

The Vandal Marching Band — or “Van-Dogs” as they’re jokingly calling themselves this weekend — wore T-shirts provided by Yale. They learned “Bulldog,” the Yale fight song, and performed it five or six times during the win over Auburn despite not practicing it as a group until 9 a.m. Friday morning when the musicians gathered inside Idaho’s Kibbie Dome for practice.

Yale would have brought its band if not for it being the end of a two-week spring break. Yale was also without its band last week at the Ivy League Tournament.

But the Vandals were willing to help, especially with Idaho serving as the host school for the tournament site. Yale is covering the expenses for the Vandals to make the 85-mile trip from campus in Moscow.

“We just wanted to do a good job and I think it sounded pretty good,” Martin said. “It certainly got stuck in our heads.”

Martin said the first call about the possibility was made on Sunday night, and the process for pulling together a group to perform started quickly. Idaho’s band had not completely unpacked its gear from traveling to the Big Sky Conference Tournament in Boise, Idaho, last week, so that was ready to go.

It also became a chance for musicians who weren’t part of the group that traveled for the conference tournament to get the opportunity to perform in the postseason.

“A whole bunch of younger students got to go and do this with Yale. This was not our most advanced band,” Martin said. “We had a lot of youth, which was really cool. So it was neat to be able to give those students that experience.”

Even the Yale players took notice of suddenly having a band after not having one there for the practice day on Thursday. And the “Van-Dogs” will be back Sunday when the Bulldogs face No. 5 seed San Diego State in the second round.

“In our shootaround we didn’t have a band, we just had our cheer team that flew with us. I remember looking to my coaches and being very confused as to how we had a band all wearing extremely interesting Yale-branded gear,” Yale’s Danny Wolf said Saturday. “But for the University of Idaho to be gracious enough to come here and be able to play our fight song to the best of their ability, I just appreciate that, and I think it goes without saying that it was a very gracious thing they did, and we appreciate it.”

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AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness

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