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Friday, January 13, 2017

Points in Transition

It may be one game, but tonight will be a home-and-home.

The NBA Developmental League's Greensboro Swarm began play this pat season, and tonight, via an opportunity through my daughter's school, I'll be headed to a game.

The opponent? Delaware.

I've known this would happen for as long as the Swarm had existed, and in fact made soft plans to attend the game since I saw it on the schedule. It's happenstance that this is the game I'm attending, but it presents an interesting quandary: Who am I rooting for?

Swarm-87ers isn't the only opportunity locally that pits hometown against current home. I've threatened for 12 years now to go see the Wilmington Blue Rocks play the Winston Salem Warthogs/Dash and root for the Rocks, though I've still not made that one happen. But while I grew up rooting for the Blue Rocks, the Sevens get my support only because they're based in Delaware (and, secondarily, because they're the 76ers' affiliate). I've never been to a game, and in fact they and I have never shared Delaware soil - the Sevens came into being in 2013, 14 years after I last lived in my home state year round. The Swarm, in contrast, are of the city where I now live, have started my career and am raising my family. They should certainly have my allegiance, but the pull of Delaware may prove hard to resist.

I will root root root for the home team, but tonight may be a bit of a ceremonial transition. My in-laws got me a Sevens shirt for Christmas, and I will wear it proudly. But at the game, it is my intent to buy Swarm gear for my Greensboro native daughter, and who knows, I may even get some for myself. I have every intention of supporting the home team. It just may be a bit tougher when they're playing... the home team.

Rank and File

USF football's 20th season was one for the ages. After notching an 11-2 season and a Birmingham Bowl win over an SEC team, the Bulls end the season ranked for the first time in program history: 19 in both the AP and Coaches polls. Notable to many Bulls fans, USF sits just above in-state Miami and longtime conferencemate Louisville. It cements the legacy of the Willie Taggart era and gives hope for the impending Charlie Strong era. While star running back Marlon Mack has announced for the NFL draft, the cupboard is far from bare for Strong; among those returning is quarterback Quinton Flowers, the CFPA Performer of the Year.

From a ranking standpoint, I remain peeved that the College Football Playoff committee does not rerank at the end of the season, their most important job having been accomplished on the field by the Clemson Tigers. In the committee's final rankings, USF was left off in favor of a NAvy team who would lose twice more since the early December ranking.

The future is bright for the Bulls, who are looking to capitalize on this year's successes. CBS Sports ranks USF at 10 in its way-too-early top 25, and uses the H word (Heisman) in conjunction with Flowers. USF's schedule should prove favorable for results - the only Power 5 program, an Illinois team that finished 2016 3-9, is coming to Tampa, as are conference foes Temple, Houston, Tulsa, and Cincinnati. It may also prove a hindrance as the Bulls seek the heights: The non-conference slate that also features UMass, Stony Brook, and San Jose State, none of whom had a winning record in 2016. We'll also miss Navy, the American West's champion, so even if USF should go undefeated (a "problem" I'd welcome, to be clear) we would likely lack the national respect. Nonetheless, I'm proud of this year's Bulls and optimistic for the season to come.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Whirlwind Trip

image via AL.com
Nearly two years ago, I was questioning whether or not relative upstart Talladega College was the Boise State of black college marching. Now, folks have some other choice names for the Marching Tornado Band.

Talladega has been invited to participate in the Inaugural Parade for President-Elect Donald Trump. They're not the only band to participate - Tennessee, Marist, Citadel, and Olivet Nazarene are among them - nor are they the only to draw criticism for their participation. There have been rumblings since the news first hit before Christmas, and they've gotten louder as Dega's name was included on the official list from the Inaugural Committee.

While Trump's campaign, candidacy, and ultimate election has sparked controversy since its inception, the fact that a historically black college marching band would participate in the inauguration of the preferred candidate of white nationalists has been pretty roundly decried, especially among HBCU bandheads. The Tornadoes have been taken to task on various message boards and social media, and I'm certain the college's public relations team has had their hands full these past couple of weeks. While President-Elect Trump claims to a friend to "the blacks," in the words of Jay-Z, we don't believe you, you need more people.

In early December, it was noted that there would be no participation from DC area high schools or Washington-based HBCU Howard University in the inaugural parade. While a variety of reasons were given, the assumption of many is that this was a referendum on the president-elect and his reception in the black community. This isn't simply a matter of partisanship; both Grambling and Southern participated in George W. Bush's inauguration. Rather, Donald Trump specifically has found himself persona non grata with a sizable swath.

Worth noting about the Marching Tornado Band: While Talladega is Alabama's oldest HBCU, they've only fielded a band for five football seasons, supporting Talladega's NAIA Gulf South Athletic Conference program. They rose quickly, earning a Honda Battle of the Bands invitation and battling formidably with Southern. At face value, an invite to inauguration is a huge honor and a logical step, especially for a program so young eager to make a name for itself. But as many critics have noted, all publicity isn't good publicity. Participation in Trump's inauguration calls into question Talladega's commitment to the very community they were created to serve. Some have considered Talladega a "token" participant. And of perhaps of most concern, Talladega is a private school, which means they rely heavily on alumni giving. If this move has alienated alumni, might it cost them more than they stand to gain?

While the announcement has been officially made, a school representative reports that the college president hasn't yet made a decision on whether or not the band will participate. Whether the band is considering pulling out amid controversy, or whether a statement similar to Marist's on the role of the inauguration is being crafted remains to be seen.

Should Talladega participate? It's not my call to make. But they should know, and they've now undoubtedly seen, how they'll be perceived for the choice they've made. At least they'll confuse some folks looking for Ricky Bobby when they hear Talladega is coming.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

B4: College Football Playoff National Championship - Alabama vs. Clemson

Here we go again! The two top seeds advance to give us a rematch of last year's championship. After last year's thriller, the Tigers get another crack at the Crimson Tide with a title once again on the line. Clemson carries forth the Yamaha mantle in a field full of Pearl drumlines.

Alabama:

Clemson:

Thursday, December 29, 2016

80 Minutes, 80 Bands - 2016-17 Big Band Bowl Battle

Eighty bands from the football bowl subdivision - well, minus one notable absence - will head to 41 bowl games this year, with two bands participating in the Celebration Bowl, and another two emerging from the FCS playoffs to compete in the championship game. In the sixth year of the Big Band Bowl Battle, a few notes:

  • After last year, with a record number of dual Sudler matchups, the 2016 postseason boasts just three, with the possibility of a fourth should both Alabama and Ohio State win their playoff games. (And as always, the Sudler caveat)
  • Conversely, the possibility exists for the first 
  • No fewer than six bowls match former conferencemates. 
  • The College Football Playoff games return to New Year's Eve, but at least this time they'll find some college football familiarity falling on a Saturday.
  • Unfortunately, the corollary is the complete dearth of college football or major televised American parades on New Year's Day.
  • My favorite byproduct of the playoff persists: Elimination of the ain't-shit bowls (Looking at you, GoDaddy) from the new year. We do, however, have a "New Year's Six" bowl taking place way back on 12/30.
Every single game is listed below, except for the CFB Playoff National Championship, which will post as soon as the matchup is finalized. You can also follow on Facebook or Twitter, where each new bowl will post prior to its start. If you've grown accustomed to following #B4 on Twitter, they'll still be there, but I pivoted to a more unique hashtag midstream, so you can get used to #BowlBands for the future.

Happy bowl season, everyone!





B4: 2017 FCS Championship

The FCS Championship will feature a Sudler Trophy for the first time since... well, since the Marching Royal Dukes were last there in 2004. Youngstown State's plucky Penguins are helmed by former Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini.

Youngstown State:

James Madison

B4: 2017 Allstate Sugar Bowl

The Sugar Bowl gives us one of this season's few Dual Sudler matchups between two programs who have competed for national championships in the not-so-distant past.

Auburn:

Oklahoma:

B4: 2017 Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual

While it happens, on average, every seven years, a January 2 Rose Bowl just seems odd. While Penn State had late season hopes at a grander prize, far be it for any program - especially one in the Big Ten or Pac-12 - to consider a march down Colorado Blvd. a consolation prize.

USC:

Penn State:

B4: 2017 Outback Bowl

It feels like this is an Outback Bowl that's played out several times, and I found out why: I saw the Pride of the Sunshine and the Hawkeye Marching Band parade through Ybor on the eve of 2004, and the two programs returned the year after I left Tampa.

Florida:
Iowa:

B4: 2017 Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic

Living in the Big Ten footprint, the Broncos have at least one B1G program on the schedule each year, but their trip to DFW to face Wisconsin will be a payday of another kind for one of this season's only two undefeated teams.

Western Michigan:

Wisconsin:
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