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Sunday, December 16, 2018

2018 R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl

In the pre-colonial days, Middle Tennessee-App State would have been an instrastate (or intraprovince, I suppose) matchup. The states' shared fate continued on into the American Revolution's Overmountain Men, and the two cities' namesakes of the same era: Daniel Boone and Hardy Murfree.

Middle Tennessee:

Appalachian State:

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Bowl Bands: 2018 Raycom Media Camellia Bowl

It's an all-Eagle affair in Montgomery! After seeing Appalachian State as the Sun Belt representative for two of the past three years, fellow recent FCS callup Georgia Southern gets the call this year, while the MAC takes back its representation in the form of Eastern Michigan.

Georgia Southern:

Eastern Michigan:

Bowl Bands: 2018 Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl

It's the Group of Five team, Fresno State, that enters the Las Vegas Bowl ranked, but in its first year with potential CFB wild card Herm Edwards at the helm, Arizona State found themselves with a winning record as well.

Fresno State:

Arizona State:

Bowl Bands: 2018 New Mexico Bowl

The New Mexico Bowl draws upon two of the state's borders for this year's matchup. To its east, the University of North Texas, and from its northwest Four Corners-mate, Utah State.

North Texas:

Utah State:

Bowl Bands: 2018 AutoNation Cure Bowl

Orlandeaux? Tulane and Louisiana are bringing the Bayou to Camping World Stadium as a pair of programs separated by less than 150 miles take the show on the road.

Tulane:

Louisiana:

Bowl Bands: 2018 Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl

In the Celebration Bowl's fourth year of existence it sees its first rematch: A&T and Alcorn State played in the inaugural matchup in the Georgia Dome and will meet again, this time in Mercedes Benz Stadium. The Aggies have been the MEAC's representative in two of the three previous matchups, and seek a third championship.

North Carolina A&T:

Alcorn State:

Sunday, November 25, 2018

What A Sport

Oh, college football, you strange, magnificent, maddening, amazing creature.

A critical mass of fans just got done watching a game that went seven overtimes, with 91 points scored after the ultimately losing coach was doused in Gatorade prematurely.  In the stadium, Collin put it best:




Lacking the SEC Network, both in general and here in my hotel room in Baltimore, I "watched" via ESPN Gamecast and Twitter updates, hanging on every refresh. Nothing captivates like college football.

The sport is not without its idiosyncrasies. Unlike any other sport, nearly half of the teams will end their season with a win, thanks to the one-off nature of nearly every bowl game. And unlike any other sport, nearly half of the teams have no viable path to a championship, regardless of their own performance. The former fact is kinda cool. The latter is a travesty.

College football also provides the greatest opportunity for a financial disincentive for winning. Hypothetically, Texas A&M could have cost its conference millions by winning the game, likely knocking a now three loss, previously seventh ranked LSU down in the rankings. Realistically, they could still catch a New Year's Six spot, the void could be filled by a conferencemate like Florida, and even if not, the SEC is flush with cash anyhow. But consider: A week from now, Texas could end any hopes for a Big 12 spot in the Playoff by defeating Oklahoma. Or worse, Memphis could beat UCF, dropping them not only from the playoff spot they've got no chance at, but from the New Year's Six entirely, as the Mountain West champ would then likely be the highest ranked Group of Five champion. More than a decade ago, Pitt defeated West Virginia in the now-defunct Backyard Brawl to cost the Mountaineers a spot in the BCS championship game and the Big East the millions that came with that appearance and the only possibility for an appearance for the conference following the departure of Miami and Virginia Tech. In no other sport can one so directly work against their own self interest.

This sport, man.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

The Greatest


The Greatest Homecoming On Earth just got greater.

Earlier this month, North Carolina A&T's homecoming added a new element. Dubbed "The Battle and the Blowout," the Friday night slot typically reserved for the step show became a combined step show/battle of the bands, featuring A&T's Blue and Gold Marching Machine, and their homecoming opponent Norfolk State's Spartan Legion. While there was never a question as to whether I would attend, I was intrigued by how exactly they planned to combine the two.

For those who don't know, by day I'm a fraternity and sorority life advisor, and for far longer, I've been a fan of the art of stepping, so I was there for the combo. Still, it was clear from stepping into the arena that no one, myself included, was there for the step show portion. And if that was the sentiment throughout the arena, it was twice that where I sat - the "Heathen Section," with The 5th Quarter's co-founder Christy and many more 5th denizens.

After entrances, A&T began the opening salvo in a move that seemed counterintuitive but well planned. By playing first, the Aggies let Spartan Legion call their shot in the first volley, and the green and gold definitely brought it. The set up for the round was two volleys, so with a A&T/Norfolk/Norfolk/A&T format, BGMM ensured they'd use their home field advantage to bat last.

Then there was a commercial break, or rather step performance. The bandheads took it as exactly that, so much as hitting the concession stands and freshening up drinks. We would receive just three such impositions - Phi Beta Sigma and Sigma Gamma Rho competing, and Kappa Alpha Psi in exhibition.

To A&T's credit, they were committed to the seamless integration of bands and stepping, and planned their programming accordingly. In the section battles, both Golden Delight (auxiliary) and Cold Steel (drumline) put together programs that followed a step show style format, with Golden Delight using a NASCAR theme and including video as so many step shows do these days. Spartan Legion either didn't get the memo or chose not to play along, instead bringing what they would to any matchup.

To the Greensboro (and bandhead) crowd, Blue and Gold Marching Machine was a known commodity, but I think the consensus was pleased and even pleasantly surprised with what Spartan Legion brought to the table, both in that event and throughout the weekend. One of my favorite renditions from them was of Lucid Dreams, which got some burn in the media, social and otherwise:


While there's no doubt A&T's homecoming game will always feature a battle of the bands as long as there's another band in the stands, a format that brings it to a standalone (or mostly alone) ought to remain a GHOE mainstay.

Monday, November 12, 2018

IDFWUNFL: An Update

Last night, The Philadelphia Eagles played the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football. Living in the market of another NFC team, it was one of the few times I could be sure I could catch the Birds in action, and again Dallas, no less.

Not only did I not watch, I checked the score with the Eagles down a score in the 4th quarter, and couldn't be bothered to turn it on or check the final score, not knowing of the loss until this morning.

I spent last season without the NFL, before predictably backsliding once my team made, and ultimately won, the Super Bowl. As this season began, I casually lifted what had been an out-and-out ban of the league, wearing apparel once more and catching pieces of the occasional game. I don't have a solid reason why I let the league back in. Perhaps the time off wasn't sustainable. Maybe it's because Kap's getting paid, even if not by them. Maybe it's because for all of the NFL's ills, my team's all right. But the shift had already occurred. An already well-worn path had calcified. I spend my Saturdays focused on college football, and spend my Sundays also focused on college football, further aided by Solid Verbal and Best Week Ever episodes that air Sunday recaps. So while the NFL is not completely gone, it's been significantly deemphasized.

Friday, October 26, 2018

The Look

Back when USF unveiled their new Adidas uniforms this summer, there was one look that caught my eye. A look so wrong, yet so right. The Bulls wore it in game for the first time this past weekend at Homecoming.

Most of my uniform nerd sensibilities should lead me to hate this combo. It's black for black's sake. It contains shades of our colors that aren't actually ours. Some would be inclined to call it gawdy, and frankly they wouldn't be wrong.

Yet somehow, I love it.

It's flashy, and uses its bright colors in a way that look downright sharp. It was probably designed to go over well with "the kids," and while I'm decidedly not them, it's got me hooked. So while I prefer seeing us in the proper green an gold most of the time, this one can stay.

Here's what can't.

Apparently, it's rebrand season. My employer, UNC Greensboro, just underwent a rebrand - excuse me, "brand refresh" of both the athletic and institutional logos prior to the start of this school year. UMBC sent out a survey to alumni and stakeholders back in late August asking us to weigh in on a few options for an update to the institutional logo. And just recently, USF released - and quickly began pushing something fierce - a new institutional logo. It has been pretty unilaterally rejected by those of us with ties to the university - myself included.

Upon seeing just the logo,  a few things struck me. First, as many have noted, it immediately evokes the Merrill Lynch logo. I've been inclined to point out Johnson C. Smith as well. The bull used departs from our history as Brahmans (though admittedly, that ship sailed long ago). And while I just praised the mismatch for an alternate uniform above, it strays from our school colors, opting instead for green and "USF Horizon" - a shade of yellow that hearkens back to a previous colorway. I've admittedly been loud wrong being curmudgeonly and protesting a brand change before, but I remain unconvinced there was a need to stray from the previous institutional logo. Moreover, there's no need to incorporate the athletic mascot into the imagery of the institutional logo. If there was a change to be made, this ain't it, fam.

But if we whiffed on the logo, we doubled down on the messaging.

The website for our "new era" offers a hamfisted justification for the change. Our old brand "lacked awareness," citing meager numbers of parents and students who recognized the institutional brand. The one that literally  says "USF" and "University of South Florida" on it. A strawman argument that our brand lacked a consistent look presents a mosaic of identities including secondary and tertiary athletic marks (which will remain unchanged), division, unit, and student organization logos. In fact, that particular visual piece actually does a better job of showing how effectively the previous institutional logo shines through when used  for system campuses and academic units. It speaks of the story that's gone untold - again, unchanged by the institutional logo, but part of the brand packaging - and offers the backronym United we Shape the Future. Perhaps most egregiously, it positions as our primary belief "Ambition over Tradition." I wasn't alone in seeing that as a slap in the face to the many traditions myself and thousands of other proud alumni had the opportunity to help shape. It's not that I don't understand what they're going for: USF was founded more than a century after the state institutions we strive to emulate. The attempt is akin to that which Iota Phi Theta articulates far better with "Building a tradition, not just resting upon one". But to position ambition over tradition, rather than highlight our tradition of ambition, is a huge misstep in the eyes of many.

After the reveal of a logo they undoubtedly paid a marketing firm a whole lot of money to develop, they've been trying to make fetch happen in every venue, despite immense negative feedback from alumni and other stakeholders.

I am among them.

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