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Monday, August 19, 2013
VCU band leader gets more cash, assistant

By Myron Medcalf

Memo to all band directors: The game just changed.

On Monday, VCU announced that band director Ryan Kopacsi has signed a contract extension, following a week filled with uncertainty.

Last week, the leader of VCU’s popular pep band, The Peppas, announced his retirement. Through Facebook, Kopacsi said he’d made a decision to “step away” from the group after 15 years.

Kopacsi, 34, didn’t offer any details.

But that’s when the frenzy began. His numerous supporters created a “Keep Ryan at VCU” Facebook fan page, which quickly attracted more than 2,000 likes. And then, the school released a statement that said it was negotiating with him. It might have been the first official statement about contract discussions with a band director in college basketball history.

And this might have been the first band director holdout in the sport’s history, too.

I don’t know the details of the discussions. But here’s my guess. Kopacsi wasn’t happy with whatever VCU had originally offered. So he went with the negotiating tactic perfected by former NFL star Brett Favre, who threatened retirement about nine times and made more money every time he returned.

His fans went public with their frustration. And things got real for VCU, which suddenly faced scrutiny and pressure as the story grew.

Game. Over.

From the official statement:
For 15 years, engaging Director Ryan Kopacsi has led the VCU Pep Band, The Peppas, as it entertained the masses at VCU athletic contests and other events.

That tradition will continue, as VCU Director of Athletics Ed McLaughlin announced Friday that Kopacsi has agreed to a contract extension to remain as band director.

“Since my arrival last summer, it is clear to me how much value The Peppas bring to VCU Athletics and the university community. After several months of negotiations, we have agreed on a contract with Ryan Kopacsi to continue serving as director of the band,” McLaughlin said. “While it is our policy not to discuss specifics of any contract, I am able to say that our agreement includes an increase in salary, compensation for undergraduate classes at VCU and first-time funding for an assistant. As part of the agreement, The Peppas will have an increased presence at many additional intercollegiate events as well as VCU Athletics corporate and donor events.”

Kopacsi’s new deal also includes a school-sponsored fundraising campaign that aims to raise $100,000 to support the band in the coming years. This is huge for both Kopacsi and the band. The story alone has elevated their profiles. Plus, VCU promises a greater on-campus presence for the Peppas and more resources for Kopacsi.

Again, a week ago Kopacsi had unofficially retired.

But the people spoke. And now he’ll continue to lead one of the best bands in the country. Amazing plan if that was really the original plan. Either way, the 34-year-old wins.

If you need to reach him, talk to his new assistant.