UD’s Flyer Pep Band will receive national sportsmanship award

Musial Award ceremony will take place in November in St. Louis

The Flyer Pep Band made national news in March by playing for Fairleigh Dickinson, which did not have its own band, during the NCAA tournament — and now the UD band will accept a national award for its efforts.

Dr. Willie Morris, the longtime leader of the Dayton Flyers band, learned in June the band had been nominated for a Musial Award, which “honor the year’s greatest moments of sportsmanship and the biggest names in sports who embody class and character.”

The Musial Awards are named after St. Louis Cardinals great Stan Musial.

Morris received this message from the Musial Awards, inviting him to the ceremony on Nov. 18 in St. Louis: “By embracing the team and treating them as your own, you not only learned the school’s fight song, but taught it to the fans who had never heard it before, along with several new cheers to keep the fans engaged. We were also impressed with the kindness you showed in traveling to two games and arranging a hotel send-off for the athletes in both locations. The Flyer Pep Band is most deserving of an award that stands for class, character, and sportsmanship. Stan the Man would be proud! It would mean so much to us to have you represent the Flyer Pep Band and personally accept the Musial Award in St. Louis.”

Morris will travel with 34 members of the band to the ceremony. The group is raising money for the trip through the University of Dayton website to pay for chartering a bus, hotel rooms, meals, etc. As of Monday, it was less than $500 away from its goal of $7,000.

“The kids are really excited to be recognized in such a manner,” Morris said.

Among the other honorees in 2023 are: Bill Bradley, a former U.S. Senator and New York Knicks player who will receive the Stan Musial Lifetime Achievement Award; St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright, who will receive the award for “extraordinary character”; and Noah Bjerke-Wieser, of La Crescent-Hokah High School (Minn.), who earned headlines for online support of officials who were being ridiculed by fans.

In 2017, Russia High School baseball player Dion Puthoff won a Musial Award for his efforts in returning a ball hit by Minster’s Jon Niemeyer to drive in the winning run in the state championship game to Niemeyer. Puthoff was the fielder who ended up with the ball as Minster celebrated its victory. He drove the ball to Niemeyer’s house weeks later.

The band has played for many schools during the NCAA tournament over the years. It attracted extra attention this time because No. 16 seed FDU upsets No. 1 seed Purdue in the first round in Columbus before losing to another Cinderella, Florida Atlantic. The Flyer Pep Band played for FDU in both those games as well as in a First Four game against Texas Southern at UD Arena.

The band played for FDU with as much energy as they bring to Dayton Flyers games.

“They never stopped cheering for Fairleigh Dickinson,” Morris said in March. “They cheered for them just like they cheer for the Flyers. As the clock started ticking down, they got louder, and really got the crowd into it. The crowd loved the band.”

The band plans to play at the Musial Awards ceremony. The event will be broadcast on CBS on Dec. 24.

“I’m going to go up and accept the award,” Morris said, “and as I’m stepping up, the band’s going to start playing. They’re going to play the FDU fight song. Hopefully, we’ll get the crowd into it and bring energy to the place.”

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