Former LSU football player makes big donation for band’s trip to Ireland

The LSU Tiger Marching Band is leaving Friday for Ireland — and the upwards of $700,000 trip won’t cost them a dime.

The band announced it would be taking all 325 members to Dublin to march in the city’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Plans were to pay for the trip through proceeds raised at its annual Tigerama concert.

Then Houston businessman Ralph McIngvale pitched in $100,000.

“He’s a former LSU football player,” said Roy King, director of athletic bands.

“He came into my office, and he told me how in the late 1990s, he took his sons on an SEC football tour. He was tailgating at the LSU-Arkansas game in Fayetteville, and he said he remembered seeing me get off the bus with the pep band.”

King gathered the pep band for an impromptu pep rally.

“I used to do that all the time at away games,” King said. “And on that day, the pep rally was right outside of his motor home. He said he always remembered that, so he donated $100,000 to our Ireland trip.”

That made up the difference between the funds the band raised and what they needed to go.

“I told the band members in the fall that they might have to provide some of their own funding for this trip,” King said. “We didn’t know how our fundraising efforts were going to be. All of the stipends that go to the students at the end of the fall went to this trip.”

The stipends, funded by the LSU Athletic Department, usually come to the students at the end of the football season. The department paid $350,000 toward this trip.

“It won’t cost the state anything,” King said.

Band members will leave for Ireland at different times Friday morning from New Orleans, Houston and Atlanta.

“We were booking so early, because we didn’t know what kind of prices we would get later,” King said. “So, we were aiming for the best prices possible.”

Still, there was a problem. Airlines couldn’t accommodate all the band’s instruments.

“We were going to check them in as extra baggage, but the airlines couldn’t guarantee they could get them there in time,” King said. “They couldn’t accommodate the number and the weight, so we had to look for alternatives.”

King decided to contract UPS for the job.

The instruments, including the band’s 30-plus tubas from the 1940s, were shipped to Dublin three weeks ago.

“A trucking company that’s under contract with us picked them up and delivered them to a warehouse,” King said. “That will be the first place I’ll go when I step off the plane.”

Traveling with the band will be staff members, along with LSU President and Chancellor F. King Alexander and former LSU Director of Bands Frank Wickes.

“We’ll have 350 people all together,” King said.

The band will march in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade at noon, Dublin time, on March 17, playing the Tigers’ fight songs. A series of staggered city and country tours have been planned for band members, and all will sit down to a traditional Irish meal at Taylor’s Three Rock restaurant.

“We’ve rented out the whole place,” King said. “Other than that, the band members will have a lot of free time. Some have already planned other tours, and we gave them the option of staying an extra day. About half the band opted to stay, but they had to fund the extra day themselves.”

The rest of the band will return to Baton Rouge on Wednesday.