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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Damaged Goods

Position available. Inquire within.
They're the self-professed Best Damn Band in the Land. And for a second year, they'll be without a permanent director.

Amidst allegations and a subsequent report of a sexualized culture and hazing in the Ohio State marching band, director Jon Waters was relieved of his duties in July of 2014. Understandably, the band was under interim direction during the season that started just over a month later, but since then, they opened up a nationwide search. One could argue it's the best damn job in all of college marching, and yet the position went unfilled, and not for pickiness on TBDBITL's part either: Two finalists, both sitting directors at Sudler Trophy-winning programs, withdrew themselves from the search.

There doesn't seem to be much evidence as to why these candidates withdrew themselves, but speculation abounds. It's possible that they saw the value in what they had with their current program, or that compensation rose to meet a previously unmet need. It's just as likely, however, that the decision was not simply to their current programs, but from Ohio State. Perhaps the fact that Waters still has a lawsuit pending - the potential damages including restitution of his position - looms large. Maybe reports of irregularities in the search gave candidates pause. Perhaps the weight of walking into a band room at least partially full of loyalists of your ousted predecessor was too heavy. Perhaps the situation that lost Waters his job in the first place seems a tough environment to enter. Or maybe, just maybe, there's a fear that the current administration wouldn't hesitate to oust another director. Whatever the case is, at least those candidates decided that the grass wasn't necessarily greener in the Horseshoe. And as Ohio State seeks to re-open the search, they'll need to make sure their t's are crossed and, as always, their i's are dotted.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


I've been out of pocket for over two weeks; first on vacation and then at the Leadershape Institute. If you missed me while I was gone, I appreciate your readership, and I'm back!
A few key stories hit while I was away, and while I'll touch on them briefly, I hope to flesh them out into whole notes later. Today's post is brought to you by the colors cardinal and scarlet.
-The Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band is on a travel and alcohol ban for the 2015-16 academic year, citing a culture of alcohol, drugs, and hazing.
-The Ohio State University Marching Band will vamp on for another year under an interim director, as their search has stalled out.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Best of Both Worlds

For those who follow college football and the NFL with equal fervor, this weekend - in fact, Thursday on - might at well be a holiday. The NFL Draft is upon us, and we'll finally get to see where our favorite college players end up, who our pro teams pick up, and if any of these mock drafts actually knew what they were talking about.

On the pro side, I hope we'll finally get some sense of the method to Chip Kelly's madness. On the college side, well, 17 Bulls from last year's squad came out for USF's pro day, and I wish them all the best of luck. I've always put more stock in the college side of the equation, since there's no telling how a standout college player will perform in the league, but having gotten to know them as players for the past 2-4 years, it's also cool to imagine they'll do when they get to teams filling a need. After all, it's still fun to speculate; everyone's still undefeated!

While my primary sports-adjacent is marching band, a few others come into play come draft time. While it's possible that there'll be folks out in Chicago tailgating, draft parties are a more likely scenario. And if the lack of live football since the Super Bowl has left you off of your betting game, the draft gives you the great opportunity to pick it back up, with plenty of draft odds available in American football betting site at William Hill. Of course, when the preseason rolls back around, there'll be opportunities for stadium travel, catching your favorite team or others on the road.

Now more than ever, football has become a year round sport. I've found that recently, my sports/activity attention has become sequential. Football gives way to basketball season, which then yields to lacrosse, followed by drum corps. Still, more than any other sport, football is the one I keep an eye on in the off-season. It certainly doesn't hurt that there's plenty of media available to feed my passion, with networks and podcasts also covering the sport at both the pro and college levels year round. In that sense, the Super Bowl is followed by National Signing Day, spring ball and spring games, release of the NFL schedules, and the NFL Draft before we're plunged back into the darkness of offseason shenanigans and waiting for the fall. Draft day's almost here - drink up, football fans!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Style Guide

Dear major conference bands and conference networks: Your excuses are invalid.

I've argued before that a conference- or team-specific network would do well to create a marching-related show for all of the time they need to fill with a narrow focus. While far from a crusade, I'll admit it's something I've mentioned more than once. At least one of these times was within social media earshot of the Big Ten Network who offered the reasoning that getting reproduction rights to some of the band's music was a barrier to being able to do this sort of program justice.

Enter Bama State Style.

Debuting on Friday, April 17 on the Lifetime Network, Bama State Style follows the Alabama State University Marching Hornets. While music is certainly played, it is far from the focus as the show thus far as chronicled drum major auditions; the band's two dance squads, the Stingettes and the Honey Beez; and tree shaking in the percussion section. The show does deftly what was said couldn't be, while also chronicling the band's relationship in the social strata of an HBCU. And it's not the first.

Frankly, it has been HBCUs who have gotten this right. ESPNU aired two seasons of The Battle, focusing first on the Grambling's World-Famed Tiger Marching Band and then on the Marching Wildcats of Bethune Cookman. The Marching Wildcats continued on their own, producing Beyond the Fifty for YouTube. And now, despite there being plenty of players in the sports media game, it's Lifetime that brings us halftime through Bama State Style.

Your move.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Most Unkindest Cut of All

Chances are, you have an ex. And if you do, it's likely that person still knows how to cut you the deepest, even months or years later.

Louisville is that ex.

In the strongest year in USF basketball history, our women's team went to the tournament as a 6 seed and in the round of 32 met the Louisville Cardinals. While I don't have the stats to back this up, it wouldn't surprise me if Louisville is our most faced opponent. After all, we've been conference foes in the Metro, Conference USA, and the Big East/American. And while familiarity can breed contempt, I've personally thought of Louisville as an amicable foe, unlike my blinding hatred for Rutgers and intense annoyance at C. Florida. So when the Cards' card was pulled and they got the callup to the ACC, I was generally happy for them. They were the best choice and I wished them well.

Fast forward to last night. Through a scheduling anomaly - Louisville hosting first and second (yeah I said it) round action in the men's tournament - the Cardinals had to travel to Tampa to face the Bulls on what I'm told was a raucous home court. In the waning moments of the game, the home crowd, ever supportive of a team that was soon to succumb to the higher seed, began a chant of U-S-F. The Cardinal faithful had a rebuttal. Not U-of-L. Not C-A-R-D-S CARDS.



Conference chants aren't new, nor is conference pride. But this was more than that and they knew it. This wasn't conference pride, this was every bit of "we made it, and you didn't." It stung. And it stung most because it's true. I immediately dismissed it as boorish and new-money of them, but the fact of the matter is, they kicked us right where it counts. The chant cut us down exactly as it was intended to.

I'd be remiss if I didn't include positive denouement. It was said that the chant was started by the Louisville pep band. That made it a bit tougher - and in my opinion, a tad inappropriate, as they are an official representative of U of L athletics. To their credit - and full disclosure, I've become friendly with their Twitter presence - they owned up to it and apologized to the team, band, and athletic department.

I wish them well in the Sweet Sixteen. But in case you forgot: Birds don't have teeth.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

It's a Celebration

While its existence may have been the worst-kept secret since January, It has now been officially announced that the MEAC and SWAC champions will play one another in what has been dubbed the Celebration Bowl. With all respect due to Tennessee State, the CIAA, and the SIAC, the Celebration Bowl seeks to accomplish what the Heritage Bowl before it rarely did: a black college football national champion.

A challenge to previous matchups between MEAC and SWAC champions has been the MEAC's participation in the FCS playoffs. The decision to forego that participation is an interesting one: On the one hand, except for the possibility of Tennessee State or a MEAC at-large bid, the move pretty much guarantees that HBCUs will be absent from the FCS playoffs. But the Celebration Bowl offers the opportunity for a MEAC school to do what has only happened once in the FCS playoffs: be called a champion. It's a judgment call that may have no right answer: Save for dynastic runs that have involved victories over FBS programs (Appalachian State, North Dakota State) the general media cycle ignores the FCS champion - much less the playoffs - outright. Will the fate be any different for black college football's champion?

The Celebration Bowl will be held on December 19 in the Georgia Dome. The venue is interesting because while there are no schools located there, Atlanta reads to me solidly as a MEAC city, at least when compared to the SWAC. Atlanta's role as a de facto black capital plays into this, and it already hosts major HBCU events in the Atlanta Football Classic and the Honda Battle of the Bands. But Atlanta also serves as a crossover market: Home to the SEC Championship, Chick Fil-A Peach Bowl, and the College Football Hall of Fame, which served as the venue for today's announcement.

At present, the MEAC enjoys what could be another advantage: While the SWAC championship game will take place just two weeks before the Celebration Bowl, the MEAC will have ended its season back in November. No telling if in future years, the MEAC will look to extend its schedule or even add a championship game of its own.

Finally - and this wouldn't be 80 Minutes of Regulation if I didn't go there - the Celebration Bowl festivities will no doubt include a battle of the bands. In fact, both because both conferences host major classics and the Georgia Dome hosts other major football events, some care will need to be taken to ensure this game isn't just another from one of those ranks. It will be interesting to see how the event organizers - notable among them, ESPN - create the full atmosphere of the on-the-field black college football national championship.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Godspeed, ACC Tournament

That which I once called a twitrospective has taken on new life, and has come to be a roundup of the various types of social media I engage in. This past week, I attended the first two rounds of the ACC men's basketball tournament, and here's what I had to say across platforms:
Since then, the Coliseum has gone silent. Last night, conference newcomer and part-timer Notre Dame took home the championship, and save for games vs. UNCG or neutral site tilts to rally the Triad base, ACC men's basketball won't grace the arena until 2020.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Gone Baby Gone

Tournament Town is about to be short a tournament.
I spent today at opening day of the 2015 ACC men's basketball tournament, the last of its type to be held in Greensboro for five years. Knowing the tournament isn't long for this city is bittersweet, and while it's probably in the ACC's interest in a lot of ways to court a larger market. my interest lies with Greensboro, not the league, and I hate to see them go. i see the next decade or so for the ACC playing out like so: The next five have already been slated: 2016 will be in DC, 2017 and 2018 in Brooklyn, and 2019 goes to Charlotte before returning to Greensboro in 2020.

In the half decade to follow, I predict we'll see Brooklyn again, if only to keep their eye across the bridge. The south gets a nod, probably in the form of Atlanta, especially since the SEC would return after 2025 at the earliest. We may even see them throw a bone to the northern/western contingent of the conference, in the form of, say, Pittsburgh.

I think it come back home to Greensboro in 2025, not unlike the every-five-years schedule the NCAA has with their home base in Indianapolis. We may even get it in 2026.

And it will be the last time we see it.

Why 2026? It's in that magical year that the reportedly ironclad contract between the conference that calls itself the Big East and Madison Square Garden is up. Knowing the Garden is in the habit of long term contracts, I foresee the ACC signing on the dotted line in Manhattan and never looking back.

I'd love to be wrong about this, but I think the attraction between the east coast's premier league and the east coast's premier city will be too strong.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Monday, March 2, 2015


They say a dog is always happy to see you when you come home.

It's fitting, then, that my wife and I, both UMBC alumni, were welcomed with open arms when we headed back to campus last weekend for the 2015 Spirit Groups Alumni Day. I made the trip alone two years ago (the destination of my 2013 Basketbinge) but this time we made a family trip out of it, spending the weekend with my in-laws.

While I wasn't there in the very beginning, I joined the Down and Dirty Dawg Band in just its second year of existence, meaning that the folks gathered there, especially when I come through as the designated old guy, span nearly the entire history of the organization. There were members I had met on the last trip, others I had connected with on social media, still others who shared the stands with me during my time in the band. And among us all, and even those to whom I never spoke a word, there was as shared experience, a pride in the teams we support (even the one that would move from three to four wins on the season that day) but just as importantly, in ourselves, a band that is routinely mentioned by television announcers and regarded at the top of our conference. Head men's basketball coach Aki Thomas and assistant coach and former player Jay Greene even came and spoke at our bruncheon, a mere hour an a half before tipoff. The fact that they would take such a break from a gameday routine to address us all - and while my experience was with the pep band, the day included the dance team, cheerleaders/tumblers, and Fever Retrievers as well - shows that they support us right back.

Musically, I spend a few tunes on drumset, including my once-signature Sing Sing Sing, and while I ain't as good as I once was, I can still get by. I also got to jam out some with the rest of the rhythm section, some of which made it to the ESPN3 broadcast. And while my son stayed with his grandparents, my daughter got to enjoy campus with us and even hang out with "the doggie".

If I had known that the snow that arrived while we were on campus would make a 25 mile trek around the beltway take three hours, we might not have gone. If I had known we'd return to Greensboro to the gushing water of burst pipes, we might not have gone. But while both of those were unfortunate, I'm glad I was able to return home.
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