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Friday, July 22, 2016

Here We Go Again...

As a USF alumnus, I've always felt a certain kinship with the University of Houston.

This may sound like convenient, revisionist history, but let me explain. Over a decade ago, when preparing to graduate from grad school at USF, Houston was a school (among many others) I considered, and interviewed with at a conference. When doing my research, quite a few things stood out to me. Geographically, both UH and USF are large schools in major metropolitan areas that sit a bay away from the Gulf of Mexico. Each is a multi-campus system with a Research 1 main campus. Their home states are the second- and third-largest in the US, by population. Both states are unequivocally considered football powerhouses.  Both schools sit in the next tier of state schools with a pair of vaunted state football programs and a heavy hitting private school or two. We were conferencemates in Conference USA, and are once again in the American.

As the Big 12 once again kicks the tires on realignment, there's another commonality in which I'm interested: Leadership. Long considered a longshot because of Big 12 saturation in the state already, the University of Houston is emerging as a frontrunner, with support coming most notably from Austin - both the state house and the flagship university (and Big 12 800 pound gorilla) located there. How does this relate to USF? Houston's president, Dr. Renu Khator cut her academic teeth at USF, spending 22 years there before taking her current post at Houston. During my time at USF, Dr. Khator became the interim and ultimately permanent provost and senior vice president, and while serving in the role, helped USF into its previous major conference step up: The move to the Big East in 2005. It's reasonable - likely, even - to assume that she played a big role in ushering in the change and in doing so, she worked alongside USF's then- and current president, Dr. Judy Genshaft. While I don't know what their relationship is, I would imagine that anything other than abject bad blood would leave Khator with a favorable impression of her former school and her presidential colleague.

Every step of realignment to date has shown that it's far less about things like academic ranking and university prestige and more about media markets and network dollars. Still, USF stacks favorably on all of these metrics, and having a friendly face after the same goal can't hurt. Ultimately, university presidents cast the votes, and while it's true that Houston isn't yet in and thus doesn't have an official vote or voice, I would imagine that if they're a serious candidate, their opinion may be valued. While the academic portion is often lip service in realignment, it's worth noting that USF was recently designated an "emerging preeminent" within the state of Florida, continuing to carry the baton passed by Khator in her days as chief academic officer. While USF hasn't been engaged in the open lobbying some other potential candidates have been, those in the know will note that real Gs move in silence, and leveraging such a relationship would certainly be a strong behind-the-scenes move.

My read? If we're truly cranking the realignment wheel once again, USF's fate remains intertwined with Central Florida's. If the Big 12 expands to 12, there's a good chance that USF gets left out in the cold, pairing UH for a top independent in BYU or a closer-to-the-footprint Memphis or Cincinnati. If they go to 14 - where currently, every other Power 5 league except the Pac-12 sits - I think USF and C. Florida get the call.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016


Just two quick hits for today:
-My attempt to bring Scouts Honor to the Triad has unceremoniously faded into oblivion; the deadline for reaching a critical mass of reserved tickets has passed, and I missed the mark. At the risk of sounding like the losing team's postgame interview, I didn't hustle hard enough, I missed some opportunities, and at the end of the day, I couldn't get it done. That said, I still believe in the film and intend to see it; if you feel the same way, it's now available on home DVD and Blu-Ray.
-I'm re-reading Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer by Warren St. John this college football preseason. The book spends a season amongst the RVs that follow the Alabama Crimson Tide throughout a typical football season. I've been known to revisit my favorite college football escapism before the season before - see also Clay Travis' Dixieland Delight - but a decade or more after my first read (if I recall, I read it after grad school but prior to moving to Greensboro), I've got a more mature sports fan palate and a current fascination with RVing, so I look forward to enjoying it all over again.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Fundraising for FREE

Photo courtesy of
A special needs drum corps has been invited to perform during DCI Championship weekend, and they need your help.

The FREE Players Drum Corps is an Old Bethpage, NY-based ensemble that emerged in 2010 from the Family Residences and Essential Enterprises (FREE) Inc. Theatre Arts Day Program, which serves individuals with intellectual disabilities, mental illness, and traumatic brain injury. Already, the FREE Player Drum Corps has put its stamp on the marching arts world, having performed at DCI's Eastern Classic in Allentown and WGI's World Championships in Dayton. As they prepare to make a 2018 appearance in Indianapolis, they need help with the cost to get them there. If it's in your means, please consider helping them out on their GoFundMe page.


I am not a brand.

Sure, the website, the social media accounts, and the occasional use of an unnecessary first person plural may lead this to be perceived as such, but 80 Minutes of Regulation is, at present, the work of one man. Specifically a black man living in America, where the past few days have been tough.

I've always stayed obsessively on-topic, sticking to sports, marching/athletic music, and related sports-adjacents, but somehow it didn't feel right to just pick up and write another post as though all was as it was when I last posted a week ago. in the time since, the particularly harrowing past few days have seen the loss of life of two black men at the hands of police: First Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, LA; and then Philando Castile in the Twin Cities metro of Minneapolis a day later. Last night, in Dallas, a sniper killed five police officers (not all names have yet been released, the only reason for their omission), wounding several more, in an ambush that broke out following a peaceful Black Live Matter protest.

It's been a trying few days, and I'm simultaneously hopeful and fearful for what's to follow for any individuals and for us as a nation.

And now, I hop down from the podium. Y'all be good to each other. March on...

Friday, July 1, 2016

But Please, Don't Dare Call It...

The Cadence of Gameday wouldn't be complete without tailgating, food, and beverages. Every now and again, and especially now for the holiday weekend, that's the focus.

Cackalacky makes the finest barbecue sauce that would never dare call itself that.

It wouldn't dream of it. North Carolina-based Cackalacky draws its name for the vernacular of a region where barbecue is taken seriously, and its sauce is distinctly vinegar- or tomato- (or, if you must, mustard) based. Cackalacky's sweet Cheerwine sauce, in contract, edges much closer to the sweet, sticky sauces one might find in Memphis or Kansas City.

But that doesn't change one fact: It's damn good.

The good folks at Cackalacky started in the sauce business over a decade an a half ago. Their flagship offering is a tangier sauce that's sweet potato-based, and also delicious, but when they joined forces with fellow North Carolina product Cheerwine, the results were legendary. As a soda, Cheerwine's taste is unique among typical offerings, but the cherry flavored treat is undoubtedly of the Carolinas. In similar form, the Cheerwine sauce is sweet and tangy, and while it wouldn't call itself barbecue sauce, following the lead of your favorite sweet sauce might give you some guidance as to where you'd like it best. That may be topping a sandwich, saucing something on the grill, or flavoring shredded chicken or ground beef. Rumor has it it's even great on pulled pork, which is probably as perfect as it is sacrilege. In another Carolina collaboration, the sauce is now the feature of a new pork chop sandwich from Biscuitville. I treated myself to one yesterday (for research. Yeah, that's it. Research.) If you're still figuring out your eating plans for the 4th of July, I'd highly recommend grabbing some if it's within reach.  It's available by the jar, though I tend to go for the family size bottle.

Whatever you do, just don't be like this guy.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Let's Play Two

While it's not yet a done deal, it's looking more like I'll be making it to two drum corps shows this summer. Carolina Crown's event arm has brought back its early season show, CrownBEAT, and a friend and former fellow band member of mine have been talking about going down to South Carolina to see it. If we make the trip, it'll be my first true multi-show season in a few years: Last year, as money and time was tied up in a home purchase, we went to Crown's preview show and were lot rats at NightBEAT; two years ago, car trouble kept us from NightBEAT in Charlotte, so we "only" made it to Championship weekend semifinals.

Since the advent of the Tour of Champions concept, the closest show has been such an event. NightBEAT, which has called Rock Hill, SC; Charlotte, NC; and now Winston-Salem, NC home has featured the seven corps who constitute the series, plus whoever joins them at that show in any given year. While I expect no sympathy for being forced to watch seven of the best in the activity year after year, I do appreciate that catching an additional show allows me to see some of the mid-majors.

The term, which many will recognize from college athletics, is a fitting one for several of the corps that make up the next tier behind the G7. Several of the corps I look most forward to seeing are perennial or near-perennial finalists, while others may dance near the border of top-12 territory or pray each year to make it to Championship Saturday. At FirstBEAT this year, I'll get to see the activity's Mountain West and Big East/American: Boston Crusaders and Madison Scouts, respectively: Boston is a force each year, and often finds its ranking among the top corps (a similar case could be made for Blue Knights, who also share geographic interest with the Mountain West); Madison shares that distinction, but is also the only existing corps from outside the Tour of Champions group to have actually won a championship. CrownBEAT will bring both of those, plus a few more corps I always enjoy seeing: Crossmen (formerly of northern Delaware, like yours truly), Jersey Surf (from right across the bridge), and Spirit of Atlanta (who will be playing Georgia this year!), along with The Cadets and Bluecoats from the Tour of Champions group, and Legends from Open Class.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

New Kid on the Block

Those who consume a variety of marching media know that the landscape has been pretty thin when it comes to drum corps podcasts. The Field Pass with Dan Potter is tried and true, but it a mouthpiece for the League itself. The Marching Roundtable has been in the game for over five years, though they are as much pedagogical as they are fan-focused. But there's a new kid on the block:  Drumcast can be found wherever you find your podcasts (I can personally vouch for Stitcher). It's always great to have a new voice in the fray talking about the activity.

Corey, the series host, hails from Canada - notable in itself, as there are currently no live shows and no World Class corps based north of the border. So far, and he's four episodes and a pilot in at this point, his location hasn't prevented him from reporting on the activity as corps news was coming out late in the spring. Now that the season is upon us, I look forward to what he has to add as we seek more news on the tour and the corps.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Decrescendo in Force

Lee and I at least agree on the importance of military music.
Let me start by acknowledgimg, with the appropriate weight, that our legislators have a number of important issues in front of them currently. I say that not to belittle the issue at hand, but rather to underscore it.

This is important.

 Currently before the US Senate - having passed a House vote - sits Amendment 48 to H.R. 5293, the 2017 Defense Appropriations Act, which seeks "to limit the Defense Department from using money to have musical military units perform in an official capacity for certain entertainment purposes [...] including dinners, dances, and social events." The impact on the missions performed by military musicians would be huge; this amendment would limit military ensembles' ability to perform in parades, exhibitions, touring programs like Spirit of America, and honors for veterans and active personnel. Also at stake could be pieces that many sports fans would take for granted, like the marching units that perform at Army, Navy, and Air Force football games.

At the risk of hyperbole, it's an affront to John Philip Sousa himself.

It's easy to dismiss military musical ensembles as extracurricular (and as a student affairs professional by trade, I have my own thoughts on the value of "extracurriculars"). But such ensembles serve as valuable ambassadors, advertisement, and recruitment for our armed forces. As more than simply musicians, I was reminded - and heartened - in the facebook group #savemilitarymusic of the stories of military musicians who traded reeds for rounds and went from battery to battery as they took up arms alongside their fellow troops. While their instruments may have inspired their service, it didn't end there.

I'm not against taking a realistic budgetary look at the entirety of defense spending, including potentially scaling back musical missions. Paramount is, of course, the safety of the men and women who serve. But a near complete elimination of musical finding from the appropriations is not the way to go about it.

If you're interested in taking action, there are a few resources below.

Link to contact info for U.S. Senators:

Links to petitions:

Monday, June 20, 2016


I've got a thing for homecomings, and a soft spot for long-suffering sports cities. Best of luck to LeBron and the Cavaliers." -July 2014

I realize now that that post was the only other time I've used the Cleveland Cavaliers tag, though a few more feature their name-likeness in Rosemont. But last night, the Cleveland Cavaliers were crowned champions of the NBA with a game 7 victory over Golden State, exorcizing a 52year old championship drought demon from the city of Cleveland. Akron's own Lebron James was a necessary piece of the puzzle, restoring glory to God hjome region, precisely as he set out to do when he returned to northeast Ohio just two years ago.

I don't have anything particularly profound to add to the discussion. In fact, I can probably count on one hand the number of NBA games I caught this year. But as I've said before, homecomings and long-suffering sports cities are a soft spot of mine, and Cleveland is no longer the latter.

Your move, Bluecoats.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

No Longer Banned from Tigerland

It's a little embarrassing when something lands squarely in your wheelhouse and by the time you get to cover it, the story has gone full circle. Still, all's well that ends well.

It seems LSU has a knack for peering over the edge of reason before backpedaling. It happened with the potential firing of Les Miles, and while it didn't save former band director Roy King, we're seeing it now in the marching band as well. Nearly a week ago, it was announced that LSU was no longer welcoming visiting bands to perform at halftime in Tiger Stadium. This disappointing news came as many wondered aloud if Jacksonville State's Marching Southerners would make the trip to Baton Rouge. While disappointing, the original decision was not without basis: LSU may very well have the least sideline clearance of any SEC stadium, and an additional 800 bodies on the sideline during live game action late in the second half is a risk management nightmare. Still, after considerable discussion from the band community, LSU has reversed course, instead working with risk management to devise a plan that will keep safety at the forefront while still allowing two bands to participate.

While the reversal took less than a week, it may or may not salvage Tiger Stadium's Band on the Road season, which best case scenario would feature Southern Miss, South Alabama, Jacksonville State, and Alabama. Still, LSU competes in one of the three most Sudler Trophy-rich divisions in college football, with regular visits from Alabama, Auburn, Texas A&M, and Arkansas. Even so, full band visits haven't always been the norm among divisionmates, perhaps due to the challenges that led to the temporary ban in the first place. With a new plan in place, we'll hopefully even see an increase in visitors to Death Valley.
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