One of the NCAA tournament’s best assists came off the court

Overshadowed by the dramatic wins and heart-wrenching losses that make March Madness truly maddening, 29 students personified sportsmanship in the truest sense of the word.

In Loyola Maryland's 78-59 opening-round loss to second-seeded Ohio State, the powerful, deeper Buckeyes ran the Greyhounds up and down the court and showed why they're a Final Four contender. But throughout the game, the Greyhounds were spurred on by their pep band, which played all the usual fight songs and cheered with passion.

Except it really wasn't their pep band as not one member attended the Baltimore school, nor was band director Carl Hess employed by Loyola. Hess and all the band members came from nearby Duquesne University, which hosted the sub-regional at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.

"Loyola does not have a music program academically, and therefore we have not had a band of our own," Loyola director of athletic communications Ryan Eigenbrode said.

"During the season, we work with a local high school band that does a tremendous job for us. However, NCAA regulations prohibit us from traveling a high school band more than 150 miles for an NCAA event. So, we reached out to Duquesne's band, and they agreed to play for us."

And play they did.

Duquesne provided 29 student musicians for the game, the maximum number allowed by NCAA regulations for the tournament. Hess led the group of students, dressed in shirts adorned with pins supplied by Loyola, in a number of songs, from Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" to even the '60s rock anthem "Born to be Wild."

Hess admits that it was a bit of an "out of body" experience to be playing for Loyola.

"It was quite strange, especially when I saw friends who were working the game," Hess said. "They had to look twice, for sure.

"The kids loved it. Before we went over to the arena, I reminded them that they were now representing two universities, and I think they did that wonderfully. They were into the game, and I think our presence added quite a bit for the fans."

Hess said fans, athletic department officials and even Loyola's vice president greeted the band and thanked them for their support.

"One fan remarked to me that it was great to see two Catholic universities working together," Hess said. "The basketball team was a little preoccupied, but I'm sure they appreciated it as well. I thought it was great that Duquesne University officials supported this cause. It taught the students to put aside differences, competitiveness and rivalries for a moment to help others. I can't think of a better lesson."

Finally a bit of sanity amidst all the madness.

Follow Kristian R. Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer

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