UW's 'push-up guy' hopes band can play on
The renovated Husky Stadium won't have room for the UW Alumni Band, spelling the end for the post-scoring tradition of 95-year-old Bert Pound's one-armed push-ups.
Seattle Times staff reporter
If you're at Saturday's University of Washington football game, keep an eye on the track at the west end zone for Bert Pound, the 95-year-old guy doing one-armed push-ups with the Husky Alumni Band every time the team scores.
It'll be the last time the three-decade-long tradition will take place.
"I don't know what will happen," says Pound, who plays the snare drum. "The band has been my whole life."
The upcoming renovation of Husky Stadium also means the end of some emotional rituals for Husky Nation.
Gone will be alumni doing push-ups on the track, as the track will be replaced by closer seating. It also means no more motorized Husky helmet circling the field after a score.
At CenturyLink Field, where the Huskies play in the upcoming Apple Cup and all of the next season, there is no easy access from the stands to the field.
Even up in the air is how the Alumni Band — which had gotten free end-zone seating for 60 to 120 members — might mesh with the redone stadium when it opens for the 2013 season.
The student section and the Husky Marching Band — now at the 50-yard line — will be moved to the end zone, where the alumni band now sits. The sideline seats will be turned into premium-priced seating.
"Every single seat in the renovated stadium will be a ticketed seat," says Brad McDavid, director of Husky Athletic Bands, who will be canvassing other universities about how they handle alumni bands.
He asked the Husky Alumni Band to present options. The band has responded with such suggestions as letting the band purchase seating at student pricing. Or they could be brought in for a couple of big games a year.
Says Pound's wife, LaVerne Pound, 87, about the push-ups: "I'll be glad. I worry too much about him."
A very rough estimate is that Pound, who attended the UW from 1935 to 1939, has done at least 15,000 push-ups since he began the tradition in 1980 and got other alumni band members to follow along.
He joined the alumni band right around when it was formed in 1977.
He's done the push-ups despite having both hips replaced.
He's continued despite having fainted twice, the last time in the 2010 season, says his son, Bruce Pound, 60.
"It was a very warm day and he just keeps wandering around with the band and got dehydrated," remembers Bruce Pound.
The Alumni Band is a common sight at tailgate parties before game time, playing in various parking-lot spots, putting out a donation can for scholarships the band gives out — some $24,000 to $26,000 a year.
"Hey, Bert!" yell out the partyers. "It's the push-up guy!"
Pound, who truly is a born showman, loves it all. Like when he and LaVerne go on a cruise, he always takes his drumsticks along for talent night.
At the tailgate parties, Pound tells his well-wishers, "I'll do one extra push-up for you!"
And he does. If the Huskies have scored seven points, he does eight. At 14, it's 15.
The push-ups are cumulative. At last Saturday's game, by the time the Huskies reached 42 points, Pound had already done 110 push-ups, all with one arm. Finally, for the last few, he was so tired he used both arms.
Pound can't remember exactly when he switched to doing one-arm push-ups. Some years ago, he says, he saw a Husky cheerleader decide to do some push-ups, too. She finished off by doing one one-arm push-up.
That got to Pound.
"I said to myself, 'She's stealing my thunder!' "
So, then, when he and LaVerne were on another cruise, he stopped by the ship's gym and talked to the guys there about how to do one-arm push-ups.
"The trick is to keep doing them fast," says Pound.
LaVerne says that even for the away games, when they watch them on TV in their Mercer Island living room, her husband insists on doing push-ups after the Huskies score.
"I make sure I do them by the coffee table, so I got something to grab," he says.
LaVerne just sighs.
Because of the hip replacement and because, well, Pound is really old, at the actual games a couple of other band members always help him get down to the ground, and help him up.
Says Crystal Eney, a clarinet player with the band, a 1999 UW history and psychology graduate and now an academic adviser at the school, "Bert lives life to the fullest. He symbolizes all the good things about the Husky band — never-ending enthusiasm. He bleeds purple and gold."
Last Saturday, the band presented Pound with a plaque and instituted a scholarship bearing his name.
Says LaVerne, "I think the band thinks he's their mascot or something."
She remembers attending a Husky game in the late 1970s, and how her husband reacted when he saw the alumni band playing in the end zone not long after it had formed.
"He went crazy," says LaVerne. " 'Oh, that's what I gotta do.' "
Pound still had the sweater with a big "W" on it from his Husky Marching Band days in the 1930s.
He had been enthralled with marching bands since joining the one at Queen Anne High School when he attended there, graduating in 1934.
"I love the comradeship, the whole atmosphere of college football," says Pound.
Really, on a crisp, sunny fall afternoon, playing the drum part of "Tequila," the crowd around cheering ...
"It's the joy of playing for people."
But what about no longer doing those memorable push-ups?
Says Bert, "I guess I'm getting older all the time. Maybe that's a good thing."
Seattle Times researcher Gene Balk contributed to this report.
Erik Lacitis: 206-464-2237 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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