The story behind the Stanford band’s ‘cow’ at the Rose Bowl
The last three times Stanford made the Rose Bowl, its band made national headlines for an eye-catching halftime performance. This time, it was a fake cow that caught attention.
Television broadcasts cut away from the performance. Opposing fans from Iowa paraded the field with boo’s. Or were they moo’s? That would have been more consistent with the theme of this year’s practical joke. During the halftime performance, Stanford’s band poked fun at Iowa fans using the dating website FarmersOnly.com as the primary theme to tease opposition.
“When we think of farmers, we think of cows,” said Stanford band member Aaron Sabin. “Every Iowa football player has a sticker on their helmet that reads ‘A.N.F.’ for ‘America Needs Farmers’ so it’s a big thing with them. (We were) playing on that.”
Sabin, a mechanical engineering major from Los Angeles, has been in the band since his freshman year. He is a junior now and serves as the band’s properties manager.
Iowa fan behind me said, “They got the cow shape all wrong.” He might have been serious.
— Ivan Maisel (@Ivan_Maisel) January 2, 2016
Better known as “propz” among band members, Sabin’s position covered everything from equipment management to medical assistance. With help from two friends, his controversial cow took him over a week to complete.
According to Sabin, the band was told Stanford has a field show review committee — the cow prank passed. So where did such intense scrutiny come from after the cow incident?
— Edward M. Beaux (@lsjumb) January 2, 2016
Sabin, who expected at least some reaction, has a few ideas.
“It was all pretty innocuous,” Sabin said. “But I think a lot of it comes from our reputation of being goofs. We don’t look like every other marching band. People are confused. They (the Iowa Hawkeyes) were already down 35-0. They (Iowa fans) weren’t super happy in the first place.”
The Stanford band is a joke. That’s just so disrespectful. Essentially spitting on the tradition of everything that is the Rose Bowl.
— Kyle Parmley (@KyleParmley) January 1, 2016
Stanford’s Rose Bowl performance, which Sabin said was designed to “tickle” and not offend, played off a recent halftime skit used against California. For that sketch, the band looked for a “rival” using a fake dating website and matched with Cal’s band.
The plot continued during the Rose Bowl as Stanford’s band looked for a new rival. The props requested included bales of hay, a large pitchfork and a 9-foot tall cow that existed mostly to be paraded around.
“All of what we do is an attempt to be funny,” said Sabin, who designed the now-infamous cow. “We don’t take ourselves all that seriously. We got a real kick out of watching a gigantic, messed-up cow with dangling legs and a crazy head running around.”
Sabin describes Stanford’s band as “a little bit irreverent” because its members are not concerned with the traditional ideas of what a football team should be. Sabin, however, thinks the "cow prank" fits perfectly with the culture of Stanford’s band.
But now what’s to come of the cow? Most of it was broken down and disposed, but Sabin said the head may be mounted in the band’s on-campus shack.
“This is something the band will be talking about for awhile,” Sabin said. “Because it really got a reaction.”
Bryan Kalbrosky produces digital content for FOXSports.com. Follow him on Twitter for more.