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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Turning the Page to a Playoff

Without this,  it's just not college football.
The commissioners  proposed it. The presidents accepted it. We are headed to a playoff in major college football.

There's been much rejoicing in the college football community, and while there remains criticism, many believe this is a step in the right direction, and a welcome replacement for the BCS. But with increased postseason demands, what will it mean for schools who may now be looking to send their marching bands to three postseason games?

Let's first take a look at what got us here. The winds of conference realignment that have been sweeping through for a couple of years now and setting the stage for the playoff, arguably one of the largest changes college football has ever seen. This particular round led to extraregional associations like Colorado and Utah to the Pac-12, Texas A&M and Mizzou to the SEC, and West Virginia to the Big XII. While each of these moves was made for financial windfall, they also put additional strain on travel for the football teams, basketball and non-revenue sports, and, of course, the marching band and spirit units. While several Big XII brethren were within relative reach, I don't see the Marching Mizzou making the trip from Columbia to Columbia for a division game against South Carolina, nor do I expect  the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band to march in between the hedges in Athens. The length of the trips and number of moving parts make it unlikely, even for these two schools entering the SEC, a conference historically strong in band travel.

With the addition of the playoff, teams, fans, bands, and other moving parts may find themselves called upon to travel to a conference championship game, a semifinal matchup, and a national championship game in relatively short succession. With all that travel, would a team consider not bringing the band to one of their stops? After all, it frees up a couple of hundred seats and saves the athletic department untold thousands. You'd think that with the increase in revenue that will no doubt come out of the playoff, there's be no reason, no excuse, so here's hoping.

Beyond that piece, something also worth considering: The national championship game will be put out to bid, much as the Super Bowl is. As cities prepare their bids, what all will the festivities entail? Moreso than simply the stadium and its amenities, I not so humbly think that any proposal worth its salt would include a parade.

I'm not suggesting for a second that whatever Johnny-come-lately comes into being in early 2015 would rival the Rose Parade or any others with considerable tradition. I actually make the suggestion for a more practical, less band-nerd-centric reason. Consider that as the national championship pushes necessarily later and later into January, it's sharing more time with the NFL playoffs. As rabid as college football fans are, the fact of the matter remains that college football still plays second fiddle to the NFL in terms of national draw. So what should college football's championship do? Remind us all why it is what it is and what makes it unique, special, and beloved. While the game takes place on a Monday night, this gives any given host city the opportunity and excuse to reach into the weekend and truly embrace the whole weekend. Timed right, a televised parade could not only display the host city, but also precede Saturday NFL games, keeping the college landscape in the forefront even as eyes are on the professional league. In fact, the right media partnership (CBS or Fox) or city partnership (someone likely to be in the playoffs--sorry, Dallas) could even lead to increased synergy, either including the parade in the pregame or even having the home football team prominently featured.

The national championship festivities should be a culmination and celebration of all that is college football, and that includes marching bands. Without them, all you have is a minor league Super Bowl.
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