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When the University at Buffalo returns to major-college football Saturday, a brand-new UB marching band will take the field as well.

Called "The Thunder of the East," it is close to 100 members strong and is the university's first marching band in 27 years.

"We plan to celebrate by inviting band members from the '60s and '70s to join us for our debut," said Barbara J. Ricotta, associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students at UB.

That debut will be made at 7 p.m. Saturday when the UB Bulls meet the University of Akron's Zips at UB Stadium on the North Campus in Amherst.

Band members will march in white pants with blue pullovers. But next season, they'll be in custom-made uniforms -- thanks to a $50,000 grant from the John R. Oishei Foundation, UB officials said.

A permanent uniform will be designed, incorporating the university's blue and white colors, Ms. Ricotta noted.

"The Western New York region has a strong tradition of high school marching bands, so it's very exciting that UB can now expand on that tradition with the help of the Oishei Foundation," said Ronald H. Stein, UB vice president for advancement and development.

Thomas E. Baker, executive director of the foundation, expressed pride in its support of the band's revival.

"After all, what is big-time college football on a Saturday without the marching band?" he asked.

The marching band at UB has a certain level of built-in national notoriety, dating back to the tempestuous years of the Vietnam War. On Oct. 31, 1970, during its half time show for a nationally televised game against Holy Cross, the band created a major controversy by forming a peace sign at Rotary Field.

The revival of the band is tied to the university's return to Division I-A football, and student response has been strong, university officials said.

Nearly 100 students showed up for a band camp held last month, among them Nathan Kress, a former drum major for the University of Nebraska's Cornhusker Marching Band who is enrolled in UB's master of business administration program.

Music teachers from several local high schools also attended the camp, working with members of the new marching band. Kenmore West High School loaned the university a number of band instruments.

Marching band members now practice every Thursday night. Mark Flynn, who also has led the UB pep band, is its director.

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