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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Bowl Bound

At about this time tomorrow, I'll be down in Charlotte, partaking in the festivities of the Meineke Car Care Bowl. While I know I said not long ago that there are too many bowls, I will despite that count bowl season as one of the most wonderful times of the year. Not only do college bowls combine the two primary topics of this blog--sports and marching band--but they bring in a few other pieces I hold dear as well.

Tomorrow's festivities begin with a street festival and a pep rally. In my professional life, I work in student affairs, specifically with campus programming, and this speaks directly to that. In fact, one of the companies with which I do a good deal of business will be providing equipment for this event. And, of course, both bands will be present. I haven't seen USF's Herd of Thunder live since Homecoming 2007, and I'm looking forward to Clemson's Band that Shakes the Southland as well; while I'm all Bull, there's a soft spot in my heart for Tiger Rag, being a Tiger from my high school days. After that, the USF faithful will likely take over an Uptown bar for the evening.

Friday morning, I'll get up and head out to the tailgate lot. It looks like I'll actually be sharing space with quite a few folks I knew when I was at USF, so it'll be a nice little reunion of sorts. I'm attending the game with my friends Kristy (no affiliation to either team, just a football fan living in Charlotte), Jenn (fellow USF alum) and Laura (a Clemson fan). I'll be switching my swag up a bit as well; with a noon kickoff, this'll be a breakfast tailgate, and I'll be doing breakfast casseroles prepared by the good folks at New York Butcher Shoppe here in Greensboro, one of my favorite spots. My in-laws also got me a set of cornhole boards for Christmas, so that'll turn it up a notch. And my new car, a Chevy HHR, is certainly an upgrgade from my previous 1995 Civic.

After fun in the lot, it is my intent to make it into the stadium in plenty of time to catch both bands' pregames. While I expect to be fully outnumbered by Clemson faithful, I'm hopeful that the Bulls can pull off the upset. After all, last time I was in that stadium wearing green (Eagles-Panthers last year) I walked out both outnumbered and victorious; here's hoping for a repeat!

Witnessing History

One way or another, I will be witnessing history in less than 24 hours. I'll be courtside in the Greensboro Coliseum as the Duke Blue Devils visit the UNCG Spartans. The expected outcome is that Coach K will get win number 880, surpassing Carolina's Dean Smith to move into second place behind Bob Knight for all-time wins. The alternative, of course, is an unlikely UNCG win, meaning that the unanimous #1 team in the nation would fall to the winless Spartans. Either way, I'm witnessing history.

This puts me in a strange place. As you likely know if you've read this for any amount of time, I hate Dook with a fiery passion. The hatred began when rooting for the Terps, but interestingly enough, I continue to dislike the Blue Devils more strongly than I like the Terps. So while I'll be present for history, it'll be for the chief engineer of a program I'd love nothing more than to see fall flat on its face.

But here's where it gets interesting: Despite my feeling for Dook, I actually don't hate Coach K. That will take many by surprise, but I find him to be a great coach (which few can deny), an effective leader (ditto) and at least from what I've seen and read--and yes, I even read a book of his--he seems to be a stand up guy. In fact, I was pleased when coached Team USA because I could actually root for him. So while it pains me to see Dook achieve any sort of success, good on Coach K, if and when he does reach that milestone.

That said, Go Spartans. Go to hell Duke.

Friday, December 17, 2010

As the realignment turns...

I'm starting to hear additional murmuring about possibilities for realignment, and this time there is talk of moves between the subdivisions. I'll admit my source was first Twitter, but I'm seeing a few outlets talking about the possibility of a move to FBS for UMass, who currently competes in the Colonial Athletic Association at the FCS level. Such a move would put a second New England state school in FBS (there were none before UConn made the jump nearly a decade ago), lead to MAC East matchups between the Minuteman Marching Band and the Marching 110, and perhaps most significantly, leave a hole in the CAA.

While the story is intriguing enough itself, the hole in the CAA piques my interest because, well, it's all about me and those with whom I associate. As I know I've stated before, I'd love to see UMBC get consideration for the CAA. We are a southern outlier in America East, and while they've been mostly good to us, moves certainly haven't been made to find us a travel partner. And, of course, selfishly, CAA membership gives me a few conference games within reach, including UNCW, James Madison, and VCU.  Granted, the current 0-for UMBC men's basketball squad won't make us attractive, but our generally well-performing lacrosse team just may.

But that may not be the only movement afoot. There are also rumblings that a consortium of schools, among them Delaware, may be looking to form a new FBS conference, which could contain several teams making the transition. As a card-carrying 302 representer, I'm excited about the prospect of UD making the jump, and of all of the schools in FCS, I think they are one of the most well-equipped, both in terms of the product on the field and the fanbase and attendance. I'll admit my bias towards having I-A ball in the First State, but again, any conference shakeups that trickle into the FCS ranks stand to potentially bring UMBC closer to my home in NC.

Finally some news that may or may not have been spearheaded by recent realignment. Marquette announced today that they will be adding men's and women's lacrosse in the 2012-13 season. Their programs will obviously compete in the Big East. It may be that I'm conspiracy minded, but I wonder if, with the addition of TCU, the non-football schools feel the need to prove their worth in an unwieldy 17 team basketball conference. Bringing something to the table as far as lacrosse is concerned certainly couldn't hurt your position, especially if you're currently an outlier, as Marquette is. Regardless, it means an expansion in the sport of lacrosse. I'll take it.

Bowl Season Q & A

In the style of Brian from Big Blue Homer, I'm going to do a little Q & A: I ask the questions, I give the answers.

There are 35 bowls this year. Are there too many?

The short answer is yes. I recognize that I say this as an alum of a school who has been to such prestigious contests as the Meineke Car Care Bowl, the Bowl, the MagicJack St. Petersburg Bowl, and the International Bowl, but yes, there are too many bowls. To be a little most specific, though, there are too many bowls after January 1. Folks older than I will tell you about how New Year's Day was once sacred, with the big name bowls playing and a national champion being decided. While I don't think we need to be there, anything occurring post 1/1 needs to be a BCS bowl (or perhaps one of the old stalwarts like the Cotton Bowl). There's no reason we should be watching the Bowl after the new year.

So you're for a playoff, right?

Well... that's where it gets tricky for me. In theory, yes, I would like to see a true champion crowned on the field, and that means including more than just two teams. Where I fall short is putting it into practice, simply because I haven't heard a solution that I'm in love with. My problem is this: Moreso than perhaps any other major American sport, college football is contingent upon the presence of fans, bands, cheerleaders, and all sorts of other moving parts to make the full experience that which we know and love. Unlike the NCAA basketball tournament, where teams can play a Thursday/Saturday or a Friday/Sunday schedule, football players need a week to recover from a games brutal beatings. If the bowls were used as playoff sites, that would mean that a team, fanbase, band, cheerleaders, and staff may have to be in New Orleans one week and Pasadena the next. One alternative is utilizing the same site, but again, with a week layoff, that's either having to house folks for a week's time, or have them travel somewhere and then travel back again. Another alternative is for all but the championship game to be played on campus sites, but in addition to the travel issues, it means that teams and fans that may have otherwise had an opportunity at a neutral site bowl game and the festivities that go with may now see their seasons end on another team's field.

So what would I like to see? My favorite option is the plus-one model, but even with that i'm not entirely convinced. One thing is sure though: More teams need a shot, and smarter folks than I can hopefully figure out how to make that work.

One last thought: Many who are against a playoff claim that it would make the regular season less meaningful. To those I say: Are you friggin' kidding me?! College football is, in an opinion that I hold and is shared by many, the most exciting sport in the world. Fears of a diminished regular season may be real for anyone not putting a quality product on the field, but then the playoffs aren't in their picture either. In fact, the fact that MORE teams have a legitimate shot at winning it all adds value to the regular season.

What bowl season band matchups are you looking forward to?

This is a question that I ask each year in the NCAA football LiveJournal community. Let's start with the BCS. There aren't any matchups this year where I know I'm a big fan of both bands, but that's mostly for lack of having seen one. You know that my bias tends to tilt Big Ten, but in addition to that, the fact that two Sudler Trophy winners will meet in the Sugar Bowl (Ohio State vs. Arkansas) makes it tough to deny. The National Championship game intrigues me as well; while I'm not as familiar with the Nike-clad Oregon band, I've sort of fallen for the AUMB this season.

Outside of the BCS, there are a few that catch my eye. First and foremost I'm excited about The Meineke Car Care Bowl (Herd of Thunder vs. the Band that Shakes the Southland) which I will be attending. Beyond that, I look forward to the Cotton Bowl (Golden Band from Tiger Land. vs. Fightin' Texas Aggie Band), Ticketcity (Goin' Band from Raiderland vs. Northwestern's Wildcat Marching Band) and New Orleans Bowl (Sound of the South vs. Marching 110).

Now that ESPN's got the BCS, I wonder how much we'll be seeing of halftime shows in the BCS and other ESPN bowls.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Give a Kid a Drum (pa-rum-pa-pum-pum!)

Each year, I spend a bit of time volunteering in Salvation Army's toy warehouse, where they separate and distribute donated gifts to kids who otherwise wouldn't have much of a Christmas. My wife used to work for the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Clubs, which is how we got started; she usually puts in quite a bit of time, but I usually get in a time or two each holiday season.

Megan shared with me recently that one of the toughest groups to buy for is early teenage boys. They overwhelmingly want video games, which are in short supply among gifts donated; often the bulk of the gifts for that age group are basketballs and footballs. It gave me a thought: Why not get a kid a pair of drumsticks?

My next thought turned to adding a drum pad to the deal so as to save the poor parents' sanity and house, but think about it: For relatively cheap, you can get a kid a pair of drumsticks and a practice pad and potentially start a kid down the path to a lifelong love of music. Some of my fellow drummers may scoff at the idea of a drum being a "toy", but in the same vein that a football or a basketball is simply enjoyment for a novice or a potential means to success in the hands of a skilled master, so can a drum be. In the best case, the kid could learn to play the drums and become proficient. In the worst, they've at least got something they can beat on.

If you so much as read the premise of this blog, you know I love sports and I love music. But for my money, I'd much rather put drumsticks into a kids hands, even if only to diversify the offerings.

But it goes a bit deeper. Given the socioeconomic climate in this country, it isn't a stretch by any means to assume that a critical mass of the underprivileged children receiving toys through this and similar programs are black. So often, young black men are told, implicitly or explicitly, that the only way to improve their situation is to become a ball player (or a rapper). Why not send a different message with a pair of sticks?

I'm not trying to start a movement here, nor do I even think that my thought is particularly revolutionary. But I know what I'll be giving this season. If you're doing Toys for Tots, Stuff the Bus, or any other charity, and you like the idea, give a kid a drum.

Monday, December 6, 2010

High Notes, Week 13

High Notes is a weekly topic dedicated to recognizing a collegiate marching band who had a notable performance in the week of college football.

Well, folks, it's the final High Notes of the 2010 regular season. With a few weeks' exception, I'd say I did a decent job of keeping up with the only series of any sort this blog has ever done. I expect I will also do some sort of end-of-year wrap-up or bowl game post--stay tuned.

In Week 13, it gives me pride, as a USF alum, to recognize the Herd of Thunder for this week's performance on Senior Night vs. the University of Connecticut. This may seem a homer pick, but you may recall that I've snubbed them before. But this Saturday night, HOT prevailed, although sadly the football team did not. What was most impressive is that most of what I heard from them was the basics--blocking and tackling, it you will--through the usual downs cheers and spirit songs, but it came across loud, clear, and extremely well done on the ESPN2 broadcast.

As we head into the bowl season, I'm glad that I will get to see the HOT live for the first time in over three years. USF is headed to the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte, and being just up the road in Greensboro, I wouldn't miss it. Since we're playing Clemson, I'm also excited to see the Band that Shakes the Southland. And I'm not going to lie, as a Tiger (my high school mascot), Tiger Rag does has a bit of a special place in my heart.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Making Spring Plans

UMBC 2011 men's lacrosse schedule is out. Just weeks ago, I was engaged in an annual tradition: There are usually other schools who release their lacrosse schedules before UMBC, and I spend a bit of time trolling all of them to attempt to piece together UMBC's schedule. It's always great when I get the real thing.

There are a couple of games I find notable, some of which I already knew about. One I hadn't previously discovered is that we'll be playing at Presbyterian down in South Carolina. It would be a doable trip for me, but I'll be in STL at a conference. I believe I mentioned previously that we've got a game at Carolina that I'll certainly head to. And I know I've mentioned the Face-Off Classic vs. Johns Hopkins, but with the full schedule out, I know that what I was hoping for is indeed the case: A full week to gameplan for Hopkins. Other notable out of conference matchups include the annual tilt with the Turtles and a game with former NEC foe Quinnipiac.

While the trip to Baltimore for the Face-Off Classic is entirely doable, I'll miss out. The date for that is March 12, which even falls during Spring Break here at UNCG. But to share a bit of news with the readers: My wife and I are expecting. The due date is March 24, which makes me uncomfortable being a couple states away at a lacrosse game that close. For a blessing such as this, I'll gladly stay home and catch the Dawgs on TV!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

And so it begins...

Last spring, we learned of a proposal by seven DCI corps--subsequently referred to as the G7 (or by by this blog as The Undersigned)--to change the face of DCI, including "Tour of Champions" events that would feature these perennial crowd- and judge-favorites. When the coming season's schedule game out not too long ago, I took a look and immediately noticed two things: One, FirstBEAT, Carolina Crown's early season show, was no more, and two, NightBEAT is now a Tour of Champions event, and will feature eight heavy hitters.

My friend, coworker, and fellow drum corps fan Joseph stumbled upon something that at worst is fun to speculate on and at best will make for a helluva show. At the very least, I can lay claim to the "toldyaso" should it come to pass.

We both recall that when the schedule first came out, the location of NightBEAT was listed as Rock Hill Stadium. For the past two years, that show has been held in Rock Hill District 3 Stadium, and an announcement made at least year's show led me to believe that they intended to be longtime tenants there. But upon looking today, we noticed the location was mentioned as Charlotte, NC. True enough, Rock Hill is in the Charlotte metro area, but there's no need to make that change unless something is afoot. And with eight premiere corps coming to town, my sneaking suspicion is that they are trying to make Bank of America Stadium--home of the Carolina Panthers--happen.

True enough, it could be that NightBEAT is moving back to its original home, American Legion Memorial Stadium, also in Charlotte. But all indications are that there is a strong desire to make these Tour of Champions events a huge deal; what better way than to hold them in major stadiums?

In addition to the change on the DCI schedule, I have one more reason to believe that NightBEAT is at least moving across the border: The following day, there is a "TBA, SC" event. If I were a betting man, I'd say that that show remains so that the promise of an event in Rock Hill can be fulfilled. But if my inklings are correct, that show will not be NightBEAT.
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