As July began, many of the realignments we knew were coming became official. West Virginia and TCU are now members of the Big 12. Missouri and Texas A&M are now in the SEC. And Temple has come back to the Big East. As the football teams prepare for new opponents, new trips and potentially new rivalries, what will realignment mean for the marching bands involved?
Both Temple and TCU are realizing an opportunity to step up to the big time. For the two years that such a designation continues to exist, both have moved into auto-qualifying conferences, putting a BCS bowl game within reach and increasing the level of competition. Both have also made geographically advantageous moves: Temple moves from the primarily midwestern MAC to a more eastern-centric (at least for now) Big East, while TCU leaves the Mountain West for a Big 12 in which it has three opponents in its home state and two more a state away in Oklahoma. With both schools moving from non-AQ conferences, I didn't capture either of their travel schedules from last year in the Band on the Road Project. At present, there isn't much to report from either school; TCU doesn't yet have its schedule up and Temple lists only its home games.
Each of the other schools has a bit more of a geographical hurdle to overcome. West Virginia is now a flight away from all of its conferencemates, and both Texas A&M and Mizzou are removed from the southeastern core of the SEC. Currently, the Pride of West Virginia's only confirmed travel game is a date with James Madison in FedEx Field outside of Washington, DC, though their calendar currently calls for holds of October 6 and 13, the date of away games at Texas and Texas Tech, respectively. Texas A&M's Fightin' Texas Aggie Band will have some presence at four of the Aggies' six away games, bringing a full band to SMU and Ole Miss and a pep band comprised of upperclassmen to Louisiana Tech and Alabama.
With the recent moves, I'm most impressed by the Marching Mizzou. While their website does not clearly delineate travel information yet, it does contain the following gem: "The full band typically travels to one away game each season. As Mizzou enters the SEC, we will additionally send a smaller pep band to each conference game to support the Tigers." That's commitment, especially with Mizzou playing in the SEC East. The language leads me to believe that they didn't do that last year in the Big 12--last year, they had no info on their website, so I can't confirm/deny via Band on the Road--so it's a clear decision based on the move to the SEC. Maybe it's the increased caliber of competition, maybe they looked across the conference and saw that the SEC is far and away the best as sending some band representation to away games, or maybe they realized that increased SEC revenue afforded them this opportunity. Whichever it is--possibly a combination of all three--Mizzou will be making its move in style.