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Friday, November 30, 2012

Don't give up. Don't ever give up.

It's the last day of Movember, an initiative through which men seek to raise awareness for men's health issues, particularly testicular and prostate cancer. Given my piss-poor ability to grow facial hair, I'm a bit ashamed to admit that I participated. ESPN is also celebrating Jimmy V Week, seeking to eradicate cancer through its fundraising efforts.

Jim "Jimmy V" Valvano, former coach of NC State men's basketball, is perhaps best known for this inspiring speech at the Espys:

Don't give up. Don't ever give up.

BOTR Game of the Week: 2012 Championship Weekend

While not every conference has a championship game, all six major conference championships are/were in play this week/end. The party began last night as Louisville clinched the Big East and will continue through championship games tonight and tomorrow for the Pac-12, Big Ten, SEC, and ACC. the Big 12 is in play as well, as Oklahoma fans root for archrival Texas to knock of K-State, giving the Sooners the title. Even MACtion is in play, as Kent State has a realistic shot at a BCS berth with a victory in the MAC championship.

Normally, I've got one of two go-tos. Having a Big Ten marching bias, the matchup in marching music's capital is always appealing, and Nebraska-Wisconsin is no exception. In Atlanta,  a rematch of last year's SEC championship reprises a battle of two Sudler Trophy winners. But this year, I'm making the short trip down the road to the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte, where I'll catch the Marching Chiefs and Yellow Jacket Marching Band.

Florida State:

Georgia Tech:

High Notes, 2012 Weeks 12 and 13

So I'm late in getting you week 12's high notes. I'll blame Thanksgiving.

Back during Week 12, Tennessee headed to Nashville to take on Vanderbilt. Not only to the Vols get thumped by little brother and lose their head coach, but the Spirit of Gold put in work and earned that week's honors.

Vanderbilt featured into Week 13 as well. While I didn't catch much football at all, I did do some traveling, visiting my grandma in Poughkeepsie, NY. The travel piece included trips to the Vanderbilt Mansion and FDR national historical sites in nearby Hyde Park - increasing our national park passport stamps - as well as the Walkway over the Hudson and Roadside America. Great times with family and getting some travel into the mix

Thursday, November 29, 2012

And Another One...

They're gonna need more dots.
The ACC zagged when I thought they might have zigged.

I knew another robbery of the Big East was coming, but I expected the ACC to have stuck a little closer to its footprint and taken UConn. Instead, they walk away with Louisville in what was probably the most advantageous move they could have made. While I continue to believe UConn would have been the best fit for the ACC, Louisville was the best choice for the conference. Put another way, UConn would have been more of the same, while Louisville raises the conference profile. Academics notwithstanding - and frankly, I think it's lip service when they're brought up in athletic conference realignment anyway - Louisville brings in strong football and basketball, as well as an athletic program that seems committed to growth. The Cardinals seem to be most closely replacing the Terrapins, and in doing so, the ACC is trading in the Preakness for the Kentucky Derby, an analogy which - with all due respect to College Park - runs deeper than just location.

I'm not going to wax poetic on this departure as I did with another, but in this move, in addition to striking another death blow to the Big East, we lose the school I probably most thought of as a rival to USF. Louisville and USF's kinship has spanned three conferences, and while I joked earlier that this surely means USF is headed to the ACC as well, I know this is probably goodbye.

Another one finds the life raft. See y'all here in Greensboro.

Lost in the shuffle, however, were the teams that the Big East picked up to replace Rutgers and Louisville. While I raise an eyebrow at Tulane, I'm pleased that they made the move I've been pushing all along and brought in ECU as a football only member. It's only for the selfishness of a game local to me, but beyond that, I've thought of them as the next available anyway. Now we're just an addition of Southern Miss, UAB, and Charlotte away from having every team we can from 2003 Conference USA.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Realignment Twitrospective

I don't have a chart or graph, but I'm positive there was a spike in my tweets as the latest Big Ten expansion news was coming out. I figured pertinent tweets were worth holding onto for posterity. I'm pretty sure I went through the five stages of grief in the process.

I started back when it was still very much in the rumor phase…

This never materialized.

Shit just got real.

Realignment Roulette

Round and round it goes, where it stops, nobody knows...

I know most folks consider realignment talk a distraction from real college football, and are particularly annoyed that it's taking place during the season. I agree with that to some degree, but I also find it fascinating, especially because (or despite the fact that) it almost always involves a blow to my conference. Still, if you follow me on Twitter (and you should) you know that nothing gets my tweet rate up like realignment talk

Just for shits and/or giggles, I figured I'd put together a "next targets" list for all the major conferences (I'M STILL COUNTING THE BIG EAST IN THAT, DAMMIT) based somewhat in prediction, somewhat in fantasy, and somewhat in who-the-hell-knows. This will likely be ever-evolving; all opinions are my own, no sources were harmed in the creation of this post.

ACC: It seems that after losing Maryland (College Park) to the Big Ten, their next target will be UConn. There have been whisperings of Navy as well; not a bad look to pick back up that Baltimore-DC market. I've long said they should go Hopkins for a lacrosse-only membership--also back to Maryland--and Temple would bring Philly, the most major mid-Atlantic city not in play (if you believe that Syracuse brings New York.

Big East: Look, as much as I hate tot admit it, all the Big East has been playing for for some time now is the hope of being the best of the rest. Today, announcements are reportedly on the way to invite Tulane in all sports and ECU as a football only member. Let's just go all out and make it Conference USA circa 2003, and get UAB, Charlotte, and Southern Miss in the mix as well.

Big Ten: Jim Delany and the pursuit of product for the Big Ten Network started this mess up again. To that aim, why not invite Army and Navy and try to get BTN on bases nationally and internationally? Barring that,   the Big Ten's contiguous state doctrine only put one more state in play that wasn't before: Virginia. Adding Virginia and Virginia Tech gives you decent football in Tech, academic prestige in UVA, and what they care about the most: a decent sized metro area in Virginia's Tidewater region. They could also go after Missouri, who, after a lackluster first SEC season decides that's where they'd rather be anyway, or make one final embattled plea at the great white buffalo: Notre Dame.

Big 12: Since we're cannibalizing the Big East anyway, might as well go with Louisville and Cincinnati. Pick up some Florida eyeballs with USF (hey, a guy can dream, can't he?) and reach west for BYU and Boise State.

Pac-12: They should actually probably be the ones making a play for BYU or Boise State; also in the mix would be San Diego State, or, since Larry Scott's a wily sort of guy, get really Pacific on them and bring in Hawaii. And hey, all indications are that the University of British Columbia's football isn't up to snuff, but hell, why not take it international?

SEC: I'm going to side with Clay Travis' Virginia Tech and NC State theory. That'll give the SEC what they should truly have: Presence in every state that seceded from the Union.

One final thought: the College Athletics-Industrial Complex steals all of our rivalry games and sells them back to us as bowl games and specialty matchups. Be on the lookout for the Texas-Texas A&M Cotton Bowl and Maryland vs. Duke in the Big Ten - ACC Challenge.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

BOTR Game of the Week, 2012 Week 13

It's Thanksgiving, and it's one of the weeks that rivals traditionally do battle, making strained relationships in mixed families and good football for all.

While there are plenty of gridiron marching matchups to point you to, I'm going instead to the parade route. Outside of New Year's Day, Thanksgiving features some of the highest profile parades. Most attention goes to Macy's in New York, but I've got a personal bias towards the Philly parade. Whether you're catching one of these or another parade entirely,  kick your turkey day off right. Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Delany Shall Not Call In Vain

Well, that which I wrote about as a most likely this weekend is now a definite. College Park will announce this afternoon that they are Big Ten bound, and Rutgers is slated to announce tomorrow. There goes the neighborhood.


And we all believed expansion had quieted for the time being.

What started as seemingly baseless rumors now seems to be a done deal: The University of Maryland, College Park is reportedly headed to the Big Ten, and Rutgers will be joining them. I've got a few thoughts on the matter. Here they are.

First of all, losing Rutgers, while I can't say I'm sad to see them go at face value, is another blow to the Big East. Add to that the fact that the next domino many see falling is UConn to the ACC, and the everpresent Big East Sword of Damocles gets closer to dropping.

As for College Park, I live in the capital of the ACC, and they are the conference team I tend to pull for the most. It wasn't much, but there was a bit of familiarity seeing them in the ACC Tournament here in town each March. They'll be leaving a conference of which they were a charter member and turning their back on rivalry and good old fashioned hatred.

From the Big Ten's standpoint. I won't ask why this is on the table. Certainly it's the $ame rea$on it alway$ i$. Still, it seems to dilute its identity in more ways than one. Even with the most recent expansion, adding Nebraska, the Big Ten remained a midwestern conference (yes, I'd include Penn State's part of Pennsylvania in this). Adding the DMV and the Tri-state very clearly dilutes that.

The geographical mismatch is what stands out to me the most. I can't claim to speak for the Rutgers or UMCP fanbases, but as a native of the east coast, having grown up a state away from both schools, there's frankly a hubris that comes with being the first to see the sun each day. This is intensified in the BosWash megalopolis that both schools inhabit; if it's not on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor, we're not sure it exists. There is even a coast privilege that typically manifests itself as the east coast bias many mention. Why, then, would these two align themselves with a primarily midwestern conference? College Park already keeps company with southern schools and Rutgers with a host of others, but the "Atlantic Coast" and "East" parts of their current conferences are part of each schools' identity.

The Terps and Scarlet Knights aren't exactly football powerhouses, but then, neither is the Big Ten these days. And perhaps most importantly (from the perspective of this blog, at least) adding College Park and Rutgers is a huge blow to a marching conference in which ten of the current 12 members hold Sudler Trophies. Both schools will struggle mightily at halftime and frankly aren't even a good fit stylistically.

And then there's lacrosse. While I know it didn't play a huge factor in the decision making, this potential move affects the lacrosse landscape in a few days. First of all, the mighty ACC, while still mighty, becomes the conference that could have been. Syracuse and Notre Dame would be joining College Park, Duke, UNC, and UVA to form a now-legitimately-sized conference that would gain an autobid it didn't need, as it would routinely put all six in the tournament. Terps and Rutgers to the Big Ten gives you another "almost" conference; they'd join Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan. Northwestern, with its private school status, success in women's lacrosse, and Chicagoland's embracing of the sport would be my next callup, but who knows if that's happening. Meanwhile, Rutgers' departure leaves the Big East without enough for an autobid and all but dissolves the conference after only three years of existence, at least until Navy comes along.

My leaning is probably clear in this, but I don't particularly want to see this happen, and as I've thought about it, I realize it's less because it's poised to wreck my conference (again) and more the cultural disconnect I feel as a part-time Terps fan and Marylander-by-association. Should this come to pass, as all indications are that it will, at least throw this geography and history nerd a bone and call the College Park-Penn State rivalry Cresap's War and award a Mason-Dixon crownstone as the trophy.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Itch

I'm  a relative Johnny-come-lately to the world of college football. Growing up in an area where it's not big and attending undergrad with no football team, I really first became a fan when I started grad school at USF just under a decade ago. After catching every home game in my two years down there, I've averaged about 1-2 games a season since. Some of it's been USF on the road (and in just one case, USF at home), a couple have been bowl games, some's been FSU with my friend James, and a couple have been games to which I have no direct tie.

The itch is getting stronger.

Some time a few weeks ago, I found myself inexplicably mourning the season's mortality, despite being only about halfway over. When this season's done, I'll catch three games (maybe one more if someone comes through with bowl game tickets for my birthday or Christmas): USF at Temple, SC State at A&T, and the ACC Championship game. James and I are already talking plans for catching FSU as well as going to a game to which neither of us are directly connected. We've talked half-jokingly about hitting a different game each week of the season.

If I had the resources--both time and money--I'd be all over that. Some of my favorite literary escapism is the likes of Clay Travis' Dixieland Delight, Warren St. John's Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer, and Adam Goldstein's Tailgate to Heaven, all of which involve spending a season on the road with football. I'd love to do this with a band nerd twist, hitting Band on the Road games each week and catching great football and bands each Saturday. If I had my druthers, each game would involve tailgating but still getting into the stadium early enough to catch everything from pregame to the 5th quarter, when applicable. I don't know how well that book would sell, but I'd sure have a lot of fun writing it.

Friday, November 16, 2012

BOTR Game of the Week, 2012 Week 12

Robert Champion
(Image from

Band on the Road typically serves to recognize a football and marching matchup where two marching bands are present. This week, it's going to recognize a game where that's not the case.

Game of the Week is going dark this week in honor of Robert Champion, the FAMU drum major who lost his life to hazing following last year's Florida Classic. This weekend it is once again the Florida Classic, and the much anticipated matchup will only feature one marching band, as the Marching 100 was suspended following Champion's death.

This weekend, as part of the Florida Classic's festivities, Bethune-Cookman University and Florida A&M are partnering on an anti-hazing and anti-bullying symposium. Sadly, even in the wake of such a high profile hazing death, other bands at the high school and college levels have been suspended following hazing allegations. I would like to believe that it is a sign of programs being rightfully vigilant and possibly too careful, but I fear that not all of these allegations are unfounded.

Chances are good there will be a moment of silence before the game to commemorate the anniversary. To that aim, I'm repeating something that I posted after this year's Honda Battle of the Bands:

[...] But I hope sincerely that during that moment of silence, something else enter[s] folks' hearts and minds. To those who have ever swung a paddle, a fist, a foot or an instrument so that a fellow bandsman or woman could "get down", or stood idly by as a party to such offenses, you are sadly part of a much darker legacy. It is this legacy, this insidious institution of hazing, which claimed the life of Robert Champion.

 Let's end hazing.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

High Notes: 2012 Week 11

Despite the obvious natural rivalry, North Carolina and South Carolina don't face off on the gridiron to the frequency one may assume. While Clemson and NC State meet annually in the Textile Bowl as conference and divisional rivals, UNC and South Carolina have met just once in the past two decades. But each year, in a rivalry some may miss, North Carolina A&T and South Carolina State, the states' two HBCU land grants, meet in a rivalry matchup.

SC State had bested the Aggies the previous 11 meetings coming into this past Saturday's game. The Aggies ultimately emerged victorious, 17-7, over the visiting Bulldogs to snap this streak. But as you can probably guess, this post isn't about football.

The premise upon which this blog is founded is that I enjoy both sports and marching/athletic music. And while I know this stands on uneven footing in favor of my band side, never has the imbalance been as evident as it was this past weekend. I realized very quickly that the football game served only as a conduit to get the two bands directly into my veins.

To be fair--and one of the few detriments I'll mention about the day--the bands didn't much care that there was a football game going on either. While SC State's Marching 101 typically responded on first downs and on their Bulldogs' lone touchdown, the Blue & Gold Marching Machine couldn't much be bothered to acknowledge that a game was taking place at all. While I am a band nerd first, it is my belief that in a game situation, the band's first duty is to support the team.

That said, it didn't keep me from thoroughly enjoying the battle that took place for all of the requisite 80 minutes and then some. I began the game sitting next to A&T's band (conversation with a gentleman in my section, a Vietnam vet and former Aggie football player: Him: You know the drumline will be right there? Me: That's why I'm here.) and following both halftime performances, made my way to the other end to get a closer look at the 101. After the game was over, I went to the midway point between the bands--behind the goalposts--for a fair and balanced take on the 5th.

The two bands went at it all game long and into the 5th. I've captured one of the key matchups here, across two media: Sadly, my Flip battery died right as the 101 was starting Hay, so I had to catch the rest in much diminished quality on my phone. Here they are:

There'll be far more video coming once I get everything uploaded; I'll probably do a second post here and share it all over on the YouTube channel.

After Saturday's game, I couldn't help but admonish myself for living across town from A&T for the past 7+ years and never attending a game. This is something I'll certainly correct in the future. I knew I was headed to the right place when I purchased my tickets online and the seating chart clearly delineated the seating for the home and visiting bands.

To answer the question that's likely on everyone's mind: Who won? While both bands definitely brought it, I think I'd score this one for the 101. I could further subdivide and give some sections to the Marching Machine, but SC State took halftime (A&T had far too much park and bark for my tastes) and narrowly took an excellent 5th (the clincher was the 101's rendition of Someone Like You. Extremely well done, and with A&T following up with a medley that included the same piece, it made my preference for SC State's version clear). Sadly, the battle we didn't get to see was the up close and personal battle. A&T's Cold Steel drumline blocked up down on the field, but in what originally looked like a 101 retreat, I learned later that Greensboro PD stopped both bands from going toe-to-toe. All of our loss, really.

Team Check

I love my teams, but it's a good thing I don't live and die by them. I'd certainly be dead right now.

This football season's been a tough one. After starting out with a couple of improbable wins in turnover-laced games, the Eagles dropped one to the Cardinals. Seemingly righting the ship with a win the following week vs. the division rival New York Giants, the Eagles started the season 3-1. They haven't won a game since. The most recent loss was against the hated Cowboys in Philadelphia.

Meanwhile, at USF, I'm pleased to report that it's basketball season. If you've been familiar with the sports landscape at USF, you know that's not something that is typically said with glee, especially not at the expense of football season. But following a great 2011-2012 campaign which resulted in an NCAA tournament berth and advancing to the field of 32, USF basketball was picked in the preseason to finish a respectable 8th (of 15) in Big East hoops. Coincidentally, USF football may find themselves at the same spot (of 8). USF finally picked up a win vs. UConn this past weekend after having dropped six straight, one of which I was present for (in the home of the Eagles, no less). For those keeping track at home, that's one weekend victory my teams have to show in the past six weeks. It's been rough.

On both Saturdays and Sundays, the calls for coaches' heads has risen from a whisper to a roar. With the Eagles, we knew that this season was going to be a re-audition for Andy Reid, as his contract was not extended as season's beginning. With that knowledge, it's doubtful we'll see him on the sidelines in Philly this coming year. In Tampa, Skip Holtz took a team that hadn't missed the postseason since 2005 to its first losing season in as much time last year, and, barring winning out this year, its second consecutive for the first time in program history. And while this is no fault of Holtz', the remaining victories may be a little more difficult to come by, as quarterback B. J. Daniels sustained a season- and career-ending injury in the UConn game.

Hopefully both squads right the ship, if not this season, then by doing what needs to be done in the offseason. Until then, it's not easy being green.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

BOTR Game of the Week, 2012 Week 11

This is an easy one for me. Week 11's Game of the Week is North Carolina A&T vs. South Carolina State. The Marching 101 will be making the trip up to Greensboro to take on the Blue and Gold Marching Machine, and I'll be there.

There'll be a thorough recap afterwards. In the meantime, keep up in realtime via Twitter, @80mins.

High Notes, 2012 Week 10

Some things just bear repeating.

LSU and Alabama met for the third time in two years this past weekend, and once again, it was a band matchup with noting. Unlike last year, when LSU only brought a pep band to Tuscaloosa, this game featured two bands at full strength--oh yeah, and the football wasn't bad either.

There's something a little rebellious about being the road band. While the home band's director or drum major is typically on headset with the gameday management folks, adhering to instructions of when to play and when not to, the road band typically has--within common courtesy that they may or may not exercise--carte blanche to crank it up whenever. For that reason, plus the eventual victory, Alabama's Million Dollar Band once again gets the recognition.

I've mentioned before how the SEC West is the division most adept at putting together an All 80 performance--that is, excellence in both football and marching band. Five of the bands have Sudlers, and while Auburn and Arkansas have recently fallen off their football prowess, A&M is certainly stepping up, and Mississippi State is ranked as well. So as tired as you may get of SEC love from the football media, I'm here to tell you it's founded on the band side as well.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Field is Set

The field was unveiled earlier today for the Honda Battle of the Bands 2013. The bands are:

  • Albany State
  • Alcorn State
  • Bethune-Cookman
  • Edward Waters
  • Jackson State
  • North Carolina A&T
  • Tennessee State
  • Winston Salem State
I don't know that I'll make it back down to Atlanta this January, but there's plenty of local angle here for me. After all, I sit across town from A&T's Blue and Gold Marching Machine and across the Triad from Winston Salem State's Red Sea of Sound.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Band on the Road, 2012 Week 10

Sometimes, you just gotta believe.

I wanted so badly to believe that one of this week's marquee matchups, a 2012 edition of last year's GAME. OF. THE. CENTURY. and national championship game, would feature a fully traveling Million Dollar Band. After all, during last year's matchup in Tuscaloosa, despite being the biggest game of the regular season easily, LSU only brought a pep band. I revisited the schedule, took to the tweets, and found one lone piece of evidence upon which to hang my hat:

Aha! For reference, the internet leads me to believe that DSHS is Denham Springs High School in Baton Rouge. That's all the evidence I need. I read full band, and it's in Baton Rouge. I'll use that to extrapolate that the Million Dollar Band will be in the house on Saturday night, matching a pair of Sudler Trophy winners and a pair of SEC heavyweights in a night game in Tiger Stadium. An LSU loss gives the game slightly less luster than it had last year, but it may be all the more potent in the stands and at halftime.

High Notes, 2012 Week 9

I'll admit, I don't have much to go on. Not much football, and really nothing to speak of from my usual closely related topics. This week's high note may be the fact that I all-but-solidified that I'll be headed to the ACC Championship game. I had toyed with the idea of going anyway, with chances growing stronger as my boy James' FSU Seminoles inch ever closer to a championship game berth, but my friend Josh, who'll be up in the Carolinas for business, made the decision that he, and thus we, are going. He really had to twist my arm with that one.

High notes may be back in the saddle this week, but I warn you all: It's homecoming at UNCG, so I make no promises.
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