Courtesy of David Schamis

Governor Ned Lamont SOM ’80 proclaimed Thursday — March 28, 2024 — to be “University of Idaho Day” in Connecticut, honoring the student band that played for the Yale men’s basketball team during two national tournament games in Spokane last weekend.

“The University of Idaho student band, a tribe from the North, brave and bold, bearing banners of Silver and Gold, donned blue and white, tried and true, to subdue all Yale’s foes,” the official statement from the governor said.

With Yale’s marching band unable to make the trip over spring break, Yale Athletics reached out to Idaho’s Vandal Marching Band on Sunday, March 17 — the day Yale defeated Brown to earn a spot in March Madness — asking if it could sub in.

The musicians, wearing Yale T-shirts and calling themselves the “Van-Dogs,” gained national media attention after performing during Yale’s first-round win over Auburn and also earned praise from the team’s players and coaches.

“It’s outstanding that the government did that to recognize the band,” head coach James Jones told the News after Lamont’s proclamation. “It was such a selfless act and I’m humbled that they were able to come out and support us and be recognized in this way.”

Lamont’s statement commends the band’s effort to learn “Bulldog,” the Yale fight song, and its commitment to “understanding Yale traditions.” It also credits the band as a contributor to the Bulldogs’ upset victory over Auburn.

After that game, the band briefly returned to the University of Idaho for a campus recruiting event before making another 90-minute trip to Spokane on Sunday to perform during Yale’s second-round matchup against San Diego State.

“Our entire goal was to do the best we could to represent Yale University and the State of Connecticut as well as the University of Idaho and the Gem State,” Spencer Martin, Idaho’s director of athletic bands, wrote to the News. “We are so humbled to be honored by Governor Lamont and the State of Connecticut.”

By all indications, Lamont is a big fan of college basketball.

The University of Connecticut men’s team won last year’s national championship, and the UConn women boast a record 11 national championships. Lamont has taken to calling the state “the basketball capital of the world.”

On March 21 this year, Lamont released his March Madness brackets, accompanied by a nearly two-minute video discussing the prospects of each of the five Connecticut teams that had qualified for either the men’s or women’s tournaments. No fewer than ten of the governor’s 26 posts on X in the past two weeks have concerned college basketball.

David Bednarz, a spokesperson for Lamont, wrote in a statement to the News on Thursday that the governor decided to declare “University of Idaho Day” after seeing news coverage about the Idaho band’s service to the Bulldogs.

“Proclaiming a day in the university’s honor is a fun way to show that while our two states may be on opposite sides of the country, acts of good sportsmanship like this can bring us together,” Bednarz wrote.

Thursday’s announcement was not Lamont’s first time focusing the ceremonial power of the governorship on March Madness.

Last spring, after the UConn men’s team qualified for the Final Four, Lamont proclaimed a “Husky Weekend” before traveling to Houston to watch the games. But Lamont ruffled feathers by saying on a radio show that Houston was “butt ugly” during his visit. He later apologized to the city’s mayor.

For the University of Idaho, there is no apology — only thanks.

Yale and the University of Idaho are 2,193 miles apart.

Ben Raab covers faculty and academics at Yale and writes about the Yale men's basketball team. Originally from New York City, Ben is a sophomore in Pierson college pursuing a double major in history and political science.
Ethan Wolin covers City Hall and local politics. He is a first year in Silliman College from Washington, D.C.