The University of South Florida started playing intercollegiate football in 1997 and shortly thereafter it became apparent that the University needed a marching band as well. This project was spearheaded by University President Betty Castor, with tremendous input from Christopher Doane – the Chair of the School of Music, and Ivan Wansley – USF’s Associate Director of Bands. They also received considerable direction from USF’s Athletic Department and Alumni Association. The committee decided they wanted a traditional collegiate marching band, and that it should be called the “Herd of Thunder” to go along with the Bulls mascot.
Sid Haton (1998-2002)
Once the name was decided upon the next step was to hire a director. A national search was launched and Sid Haton was selected as the inaugural Director of Athletic Bands in 1998. Mr. Haton came to USF from the University of Oregon and was given a full year to order instruments, design uniforms, recruit for the band, along with attending to the thousands of other details that it takes to build a band from scratch.
Haton was a voracious recruiter so in the summer of 1999 the Herd of Thunder began its first camp with 140 members. With each passing day more and more students joined and by the time the first game rolled around the Herd of Thunder (HOT) boasted nearly 200 members, including 24 in the Color Guard.
The HOT Band made their public debut on Saturday, September 11, 1999 at Raymond James Stadium when USF defeated South West Texas State 17-10. Unfortunately this momentous occasion was dampened by rain, and the Herd of Thunder was unable to perform their halftime show. However, members of the band have fond memories of playing in the stands that day despite the soggy conditions.
Sid Haton remained at the helm of the HOT Band for two more seasons during which membership continued to grow and performance opportunities – including an exhibition show at the Bands of America (BOA) Regional Competition in Orlando in 2001- began to appear. Following the 2000-01 academic year Haton left USF to become the Band Director at Charleston Southern University in South Carolina. Shortly thereafter he accepted a position at Gardner Webb University in North Carolina, where he tragically passed away at the age of 45.
The enormity of creating a college marching band from scratch cannot be overstated and the band will forever be indebted to Mr. Haton for the work that he did in its inception. Haton’s contributions to the Herd of Thunder were enormous and many things that he instituted, such as the “Running of the Bulls” to enter the field for the pregame show, and the playing of “The Mission” following each home game, remain important parts of the band to this day.
Of all the things that Haton did for the band, none were more significant than the hiring of Mary Dooley in 1999 to run the Color Guard. From humble beginnings Mary turned the guard into one of the finest in the world of collegiate marching bands. In addition, she founded the USF Winter Guard in 2002, which now is widely recognized as one of the prestigious programs in the country. In addition to the 13 years that she directed the guards, Mary was also the band’s Office Administrator for 10 years before moving to a position in the University President’s office. She remains a trusted consultant and friend of the band and guard.
Michael Robinson (2002-2008)
In 2002 Dr. Michael Robinson was hired from Ft. Hays State University in Kansas to be the second director of the Herd of Thunder. One of Dr. Robinson’s first acts was to establish the HOT Show Band. The Show Band (since renamed “Horns Up”) is an elite group of 30 students selected by audition to perform at special functions around the University and Tampa Bay area. During Dr. Robinson’s first year the USF Winter Guard and Indoor Percussion Ensembles were formed by Mary Dooley and Ron Lambert respectively. Both groups made numerous appearances in the bay area as well as in state events. In their first year the Winter Guard finished 2nd in their appearance in the FFCC Independent Class A Championships which began a meteoric rise to excellence. By the 2007-08 season the Winter Guard had reached the finals in the WGI National Championships and in 2015 they were silver medalists in the WGI’s Open Class.
In the 6 years under the direction of Dr. Robinson the HOT Band’s numbers grew to over 300 members and performed at 40 football games including appearances at 3 bowl games (Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte, NC; PapaJohns.com Bowl in Birmingham, Alabama; and The Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas). 2007 was a significant year for the HOT Band and for USF football. The band took their first out-of-state-during-the-regular-season trip to Auburn to support the Bulls in their 26-23 victory which propelled them to a national ranking (#2) for the first time in the program’s history. They also continued to play exhibitions at high school marching band competitions, and performed at their first Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFL game. Other significant performances included the HOT Band’s first away game (University of Miami, 2005) and Band’s 100th game (Meineke Car Care Bowl, 2005).
One of the longest lasting impacts of the Robinson era was the introduction of the HOT Stands Book in 2004. This was the first compilation of the many school tunes and short pieces that the Band plays during games. In addition to school songs such as “The Golden Brahman March” (Fight Song), “March Victorious”, and USF’s “Alma Mater” the stands book contains “The Bull” also referred to as “#8” by many of the early fans and members due to its original location in the stands book (though it is no longer in that place and is now simply called by its title). Over the years “The Bull” has become the most recognizable tune the HOT Band plays. In 1999, HOT graduate assistant Keith Sanz composed this short piece inspired by a familiar rift found in many Spanish-inspired works. It has become a favorite of HOT members and USF fans. Dr. Robinson is also credited with starting the annual band banquets, and with the tradition of having the band sing the alma mater at the end of every rehearsal.
At the conclusion of the 2007-08 academic year Dr. Robinson left USF to take a similar position at the University of Georgia. His many contributions to the band are still appreciated by members and fans alike.
John Schnettler (2008-2009)
In 2008 John Schnettler assumed the position of Interim Director of the Herd of Thunder while a national search was being undertaken to find Dr. Robinson’s successor. Schnettler had just completed his masters degree at USF where he had served as a Graduate Assistant with the HOT Band, so his appointment made the transition between directors as smooth as possible. Under his direction the HOT band hosted the first annual “HOT Day” which brings hundreds of high school students to join the Herd of Thunder in a halftime performance. Schnettler also organized the first HOT Alumni Band to perform with the Herd during pre-game on Homecoming. That year the HOT Band finished their season performing at the St. Petersburg Bowl at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, FL.
After completing his interim year Mr. Schnettler continued his education by pursuing a doctorate at the University of Georgia. He currently serves as the Director of Athletic Bands at Austin Peay University in Tennessee.
Matthew McCutchen (2009-2018)
In 2009 Dr. Matthew McCutchen became the director of the Herd of Thunder after completing his Ph.D. at Florida State University. During his time at USF the bands have continued to grow in numbers and in the caliber of performance. This is largely due to the fantastic staff that he has assembled. Jason Bombaugh was hired as the band’s administrator in 2009 and has had a hand in practically everything the band has done since. In addition Jim Lindroth served as Assistant Director for three years while working on a Ph.D. in music education, Peter Belk was on the job for one year following the completion of his masters degree, and Bryan Braue joined the staff in 2013 and became a fulltime member of the USF faculty in 2015. Furthermore, the Drumline was under the direction of Doug Moser for the first five years of Dr. McCutchen’s tenure, and has been directed by Kevin von Kampen since 2014. In 2011 Mary Dooley stepped down as Color Guard Director and was replaced by Jamie Dyer. In 2017, he passed the baton to Elizabeth Bannon who has continued to maintain the program that Mary and Jamie developed before her.
In addition to the performances at football games, University and community events, the Herd of Thunder as become nationally and internationally recognized under Dr. McCutchen’s leadership. In 2012 the HOT Band was the honor band for the New Year’s Day Parade in London, England, and they accepted a similar invitation and performed in Rome, Italy for the 2017 New Year’s Day Parade. Also, Horns Up’s notable performances include the opening ceremonies for the 2012 Republican National Convention, and an appearance on an episode of ABC’s “Extreme Makeover Home Edition”.