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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Home Stretch

We are but hours from 2014, and in less than two weeks, the 2014-15 college football season will close as a new champion is crowned. In the first year of the College Football Playoff, let's start at the end.

For starters, I think they got the four teams right, though I can acknowledge it was but one of a few possible "right"s. Like it or not, TCU and Baylor were shorted at least in part by the fact that 12-1 > 11-1. I've heard it stated that the story would have been different had the team been Texas or Oklahoma instead of TCU or Baylor, but I'm not certain it would have been - after all, either of those names would still be evaluated against fellow blueblood Ohio State, and interestingly enough, they wouldn't have the benefit of victories over both of those names, as both TCU and Baylor do. That said, it will be interesting to see how the Big 12 will react. The obvious calls are to allow a championship game with just ten teams, or to expand. A lesser thought-of petition would be to simply allow them to play 13 games, a mechanism that already exists for teams that play Hawaii during a season. Of course, getting either in place by the start of next season would be a tall task.

The most stink when the final rankings came out in early December came about the fact that TCU was #3, won convincingly, and then "dropped" out of the top four. I think most folks have seen around this by now, but it bears noting: The laws of physics as we previously knew them do not apply to the new rankings. While inertia would have kept such a team in place in all previous systems, the College Football Playoff simply doesn't work like that. Perhaps this was the best illustration we could have received.

While this shouldn't have been a factor, I will note, as a fan, that the two semifinals are as fine as we could have asked for. The Rose Bowl boasts a pair of Heisman winners, while the Sugar Bowl pits SEC vs. Big Ten, Meyer vs. Saban, and two of the sport's most storied programs. A few of the early polls were without Sudler Trophy-winning bands in the final four, but all has worked itself out, and with Alabama and Ohio State meeting, at least one will find its way into the championship game. And while I couldn't ask for better games, I could allow for either of the following amendments to the seeding: The first is that while measures to select the best four teams should be preserved, they could then seed based on record. Which is to say, the idea of an undefeated FSU team being a #3 just doesn't sit right with me. The other would be, against once selecting the best four, to seed geographically. This would have put Alabama and Florida State in the geographically advantageous Sugar Bowl this year, with the unintended side effect of preserving a Big Ten/Pac-12 Rose Bowl. In other years, it could help to prevent one conference from dominating a championship game, ensuring, say, two SEC schools meet in a semifinal rather than advancing to the championship, preserving regional interest in the season's final game.

Finally: The New Years Six concept, culminating in the national semifinals, has restored the integrity to New Years Day. My friendly amendment for this year would be to swap the Cotton Bowl and Citrus Bowl, making the non NY6 bowls - Outback and Citrus - a clear undercard to the other three, and allowing for two hours of Rose Parade prior to the start of the Cotton Bowl, which would still, under normal circumstances, end in enough time for the Rose Bowl to begin unimpeded at 5pm. The parade would, in effect, be the halftime between the bowls on New Years Eve and those on New Years Day. And as I've bellowed about in year's past, it's not that I don't believe there's a place for bowls like the GoDaddy and Birmingham Bowls; I'd just rather not see them in the new year.

The new system has created a lot more excitement and intrigue to the regular and post seasons. And unlike others, I refuse to engage in conversations about expanding the playoff before the first one has even played out. Happy new year, everyone!

B4: 2015 National Semifinal – Allstate Sugar Bowl

As the rivalry between the SEC and the Big Ten plays out, Bama may indeed be Dixie’s football pride as their fight song suggests. The Million Dollar Band and the Best Damn Band in the Land represent two of the three most Sudler rich divisions in football – both the SEC West and Big Ten East boast five Sudlers for seven schools, matched only by the Big Ten West.

Ohio State:


B4: 2015 National Semifinal - Rose Bowl presented by Northwestern Mutual

While Florida State won the national championship last year in the Rose Bowl, this yea the Marching Chiefs will take their first trip down Colorado Boulevard marching in the Rose Parade. While the Ducks are no stranger to the Granddaddy of ‘em All, this season takes on special meaning for the Oregon Marching Band: Trumpet player Eric Humphrey lost his battle with cancer the summer preceding this season, and Oregon continues to march on in his memory.

Florida State:


B4: 2014 Capital One Orange Bowl

In a game that kicks off at 8pm, it doesn’t take but an overtime or two for this match to stretch into the new year, so perhaps inviting Georgia Tech’s option offense is a move to keep the game moving along. As is Orange Bowl tradition, neither the Famous Maroon Band nor the Marching Yellow Jackets will perform at the half. Through an interesting wrinkle caused by the playoff, another school will rightfully hold the title of 2014 Orange Bowl champion, joining last year’s winner Clemson. 

Mississippi State:

Georgia Tech:

B4: 2015 Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic

The Spartan Marching Band got to do the Rose Parade last year, and while the venue differs, they’ll be playing early on New Year’s Day once again. Baylor’s Golden Wave Band had New Year’s Day in mind, but not necessarily in this venue. With the Cotton Bowl leaving Fox, there’s no guarantee we’ll get to see either band.

Michigan State:


B4: 2014 Vizio Fiesta Bowl

The BCS is behind us, but Boise State is still all too happy to play the role of party crasher and joins the big boys as the Group of Five’s emissary to the major bowls. Of course, neither Boise State nor Arizona are unfamiliar with the area or this bowl.

Boise State:


B4: 2014 Chick Fil-A Peach Bowl

Things are peachy once again in Georgia as the bowl returns to its Peach Bowl moniker as one of the acclaimed New Years Six bowls. While it shouldn’t feel like a consolation prize, both TCU and Ole Miss fans and bands have reason to wonder what could have been.

Ole Miss:


B4: 2015 Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl

I’ll admit back when the realignment dice were being cast, I fully expected Missouri, not Nebraska, to find themselves in the Big Ten. The Marching Mizzou may seem a fit, but with two straight trips to the SEC championship game, I think they ended up alright.



B4: 2015 Outback Bowl

Once again Wisconsin finds itself without a head coach for their bowl game, and once again I make the plea for band director Mike Leckrone to take over playcalling duties (“available for all quarters except the fifth”, someone more clever than I said). Former football coach and current athletic director Barry Alvarez will step in to fill the role once again, as the Badgers end their season like it began – in an NFL stadium playing a set of Tigers from the SEC West. The Auburn University Marching Band is the only SEC West Sudler winner not matched up against a fellow Sudler winner, but they'll find no less of a formidable foe in the Badger Band.



B4: 2015 GoDaddy Bowl

Both Arkansas State and Toledo have proven to be fertile breeding grounds for successful SEC coaches: both Nick Saban and Gary Pinkel once took the field to the sound of the Rocket Marching Band, while the Sound of the Natural State has ushered in the likes of Gus Malzahn and Hugh Freeze.


Arkansas State:

B4: 2015 Birmingham Bowl

The Marching Pirates can pour one out in Legion Field for their fallen comrades, longtime conferencemates UAB, who recently shuttered their program. Then it’s game faces on – they’re up against the newest Sudler winner in the Pride of the Sunshine.



B4: 2015 Ticketcity Cactus Bowl

It took Bedlam to get the Cowboy Marching Band to this point – literally, as they beat their archrival and became bowl eligible in one fell swoop at season’s end vs. Oklahoma. The 8-5 Huskies fared a bit better under a new head coach, as the Husky Marching Band goes to its fifth consecutive bowl game.

Oklahoma State:


B4: 2015 Valero Alamo Bowl

While two 9-3 squads will meet in San Antonio, both the Pride of Wildcat Land and the Solid Gold Sound had reasonable expectations of their team taking them to more prestigious bounty earlier in the season.

Kansas State:


B4: 2015 Taxslayer Bowl

In a world where Chick Fil-A added the Peach back to their name, the Taxslayer bowl dropped the Gator. The Hawkeye Marching Band and the Pride of the Southland last met in the postseason in 1982, but with two stalwart traditional programs, it wouldn’t surprise me if their programs haven’t changed much. If you know me, you know that I don’t see that as a bad thing.



B4: 2015 Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl

In a bowl featuring Houston and sponsored by Lockheed Martin, I’ll spare you the “Houston, we have a problem” (whoops). The Spirit of Houston and Pitt’s Varsity Marching Band are bound by an interesting tie: Like ships passing in the night, the two never shared a conference, and the conference they didn’t share never shared a name, as Pitt left on the sunset of the Big East and Houston entered at the inception of the American.



Tuesday, December 30, 2014

B4: 2014 Foster Farms Bowl

It’ll take a while before I can wrap my head around the Terps occupying a Big Ten bowl spot, but they’re headed out west and taking the Mighty Sound of Maryland with them. The Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band doesn’t have to stray far from their Bay area home to attend the game in Santa Clara.



B4: 2014 Belk Bowl

As the newest members of the ACC, the Marching Cards had hoped to be here a few weeks earlier in the ACC Championship. The Redcoat Band, on the other hand, will represent the SEC’s first entry in a bowl game that until this year paired the ACC with the Big East/American.



B4: 2014 Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl

Three of this season’s dual-Sudler matchups take place within a two day span, and what better place for the third than the Music City itself? While both the Band of the Fighting Irish and the Golden Band from Tigerland have played on the sport’s grandest stage in the past few years, Nashville’s as nice a spot as any if you’re not there.

Notre Dame:


Monday, December 29, 2014

Big Band Bowl Battle: 2014-15 Edition

Just because something has some history doesn't mean it doesn't deserve an introduction.

While I failed to introduce the series at it began this year, perhaps it's fitting that I take a break at about halftime to let you know what's going on. Now in its fourth year, the Big Band Bowl Battle (B4) has, since the 2011 season, previewed each of the bowl game marching band matchups. Each year, it's 80 Minutes' most ambitious undertaking, taking shape between bowl announcements in early December and being completed prior to the each respective bowl, with all posting before the new year. With 38 bowls and 76 bands prior to the National Championship game, B4 grows each year, and provides insight into each of the bands you'll be seeing (or more likely, not) during the bowl season.

For the fellow Sudler Trophy aficionados: This season features four dual Sudler matchups, with three of them - Texas A&M vs. West Virginia in the Autozone Liberty Bowl, Arkansas vs. Texas in the Advocare V100 Texas Bowl, and Notre Dame vs. LSU in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl - taking place in the current two day span. The fourth, Alabama vs. Ohio State, will take place in one of the national semifinals, guaranteeing that either the Million Dollar Band or the Best Damn Band in the Land will tote the trophy into the championship game. Not unlike football this season, the SEC West is on display - each of those pairings feature four of the division's five Sudler winners, while the fifth, Auburn, takes on Wisconsin on New Years Day in the Outback Bowl.

Each post features a peek at the two schools - and as often as possible, the band matchup - and features a video of each of the bands, typically from this season. As I've mentioned before, I'm confident it's the most thorough preview of its kind. You can see all of the posts from this year and years past at the B4 tag. I hope you enjoy!

B4: 2014 Advocare V100 Texas Bowl

The Texas Bowl gets to rekindle an old Southwest Conference rivalry, and while this matchup may be well served in the home of Arkansas’ Jerry Jones, Houston’s still well within the footprint. The Showband of the Southwest and the Razorback Band meet in one of this bowl season’s four dual-Sudler tilts.



B4: 2014 Russell Athletic Bowl

With all due respect to both the Pride of Oklahoma and the Band that Shakes the Southland, this game may not feature the most variety in song selection. Both Boomer Sooner and Tiger Rag are likely to be heard quite a bit this evening.



B4: 2014 Autozone Liberty Bowl

It was Texas A&M’s departure from the Big 12 that paved the way for West Virginia’s admission. While their styles differ greatly, the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band and the Pride of West Virginia are each formidable in their own right.

Texas A&M:

West Virginia:

Saturday, December 27, 2014

B4: 2014 National University Holiday Bowl

Nebraska and USC are two of the sport’s most storied programs, and the Cornhusker Band and Spirit of Troy are no slouches either. Red – or cardinal, if you'd rather – will undoubtedly fill the stands in San Diego.


Southern California:

B4: 2014 New Era Pinstripe Bowl

It’s easy to disregard the Northeast corridor when talking college football, so perhaps Penn State vs. Boston College in the Bronx seems like a bit of an anomaly. The Screamin' Eagles may have to exercise restraint not to deface Yankee Stadium "For Boston". Derek Jeter won’t be the only one tipping his cap to end an era this year; Blue Band director Dr. O Richard Bundy will be directing his last game, as he will retire following this academic year.

Boston College:

Penn State:

B4: 2014 Duck Commander Independence Bowl

Miami enters its bowl game riding a losing streak, but the Band of the Hour can hope as they face the Carolina Band that history repeats itself: The last school Miami beat also called itself Carolina. 


South Carolina:

B4: 2014 Hyundai Sun Bowl

A perennial cellar dweller in football, Duke is bowling for the third straight year. Atlanta and Charlotte were far more manageable trips for the Duke University Marching Band, who now has to haul their way out to El Paso to take on a devil of a different sort - the Sudler-toting Sun Devil Marching Band - in the desert. 


Arizona State:

B4: 2014 Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman

Given Virginia Tech’s considerable military history, the Corps of Cadets and the Highty Tighties should be representing ol’ VPI at this bowl game. It’s not unreasonable that they’d make the reasonable trip from Blacksburg to Annapolis, but it’s far more likely that the Marching Virginians will be the ones squaring off against the Bearcat Band.


Virginia Tech:

Bonus: Virginia Tech's regimental band, the Highty Tighties:

Friday, December 26, 2014

B4: 2014 Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl

Neither team is a stranger to Tampa Bay; both played USF this past year. While the Marching Knights made the last trip, the Power Sound of the South didn’t previously accompany their Wolfpack down to the Bay area.

NC State:

C. Florida:

B4: 2014 Quick Lane Bowl

The Marching Scarlet Knights are getting used to postseason travel – Rutgers, enjoying relative riches, has headed to a bowl nine of the last ten years. This year, they’ll take on the Marching Tar Heels in Detroit. No telling if notoriously band unfriendly Lion Dominic Raiola - currently suspended - will be in the house.


North Carolina:

B4: 2014 Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl

Were it not or the very last game of the season, a victory over in-state rival Northwestern, the Marching Illini would have been sitting at home this bowl season. Instead, they head down to H-Town to take on Louisiana Tech’s Band of Pride.


Louisiana Tech:

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

B4: 2014 Hawaii Bowl

The bowl game in Hawaii may be looking askance at the Bahamas Bowl played earlier in the day. Hawaii has been inviting the deserving to play in the islands for years, and they at least have a team that plays there full time. In fact, the Rainbow Warriors used to be WACmates with both the Bulldog Marching Band and the MOB.

Fresno State:


B4: 2014 Popeyes Bahamas Bowl

The later the marching season gets in both Bowling Green, KY and Mount Pleasant, MI, the colder it gets, so I can only imagine wintering in Nassau is a welcome respite for both the Big Red Marching Band and the Chippewa Marching Band.

Western Kentucky:

 Central Michigan:

Saturday, December 20, 2014

B4: 2014 San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl

Which team's the home team? While the Marching Aztecs won't even have to alter their gameday routine in Qualcomm Stadium, Naval Base San Diego ensure the Midshipmen will have plenty of support as well. The Marching Aztecs and Naval Academy Marching Band will square off in the Gaslamp district the Sunday before the game in the annual Gaslamp March and Battle of the Bands.


San Diego State:

B4: 2014 Boca Raton Bowl

Marshall and Northern Illinois may very well be the class of the group of five conferences - Marshall rode most of the season undefeated and hoping to play in a New Years Day bowl; Northern Illinois rang in 2013 doing exactly that in the Orange Bowl.

Northern Illinois:

B4: 2014 Miami Beach Bowl

BYU's bowl picture tends to keep the Power of the Wasatch pretty firmly rooted in the western US, but they're headed down to Miami this bowl season. The last time they headed east of the Mississippi? The 2001 Liberty Bowl, played in the home of their foes, Memphis' Mighty Sound of the South.



B4: 2014 Raycom Media Camellia Bowl

The South Alabama football team and Jaguar Marching Band are both only five years old, and they're heading to their first bowl game this year, making the short trip up the road to Montgomery to take on the Falcon Marching Band of Bowling Green.

Bowling Green:
South Alabama:

B4: 2014 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

There should be no surprise as Broncos go marching onto the blue turf in Boise, except that it's not their normal home team, but rather Western Michigan's Bronco Marching Band, who will meet the Air Force Academy's Flight of Sound in this year's Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

Western Michigan:

Air Force:

B4: 2014 Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl

The Colorado State Marching Band and the Marching Utes get to come down off of their respective high horses to meet in the Las Vegas Bowl. No really- both Fort Collins and Salt Lake city sit at elevations over twice as high as Vegas' 2,000 feet; fitting, as both schools are charter members of the Mountain West.

Colorado State:


B4: 2014 Gildan New Mexico Bowl

UTEP's Marching Miner Regiment and Utah State's Aggie Marching Band just missed being conferencemates - Utah State joined the WAC in 2005 as UTEP departed for Conference USA.


Utah State:

B4: 2014 R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl

At this rate, it may make sense for the Pride of Acadiana to set up a satellite band room in the Superdome. This is Louisiana's fourth straight trip to New Orleans; this year they'll be taking on the Nevada Wolf Pack.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Memento Mori

Memento Mori - Remember you are mortal.

Announced just over a week ago, the University of Alabama at Birmingham is ending its football program, effective immediately. The program began in 1991 and began playing at the I-A (FCS) level in 1996. The program was closed citing lack of financial viability.

Elsewhere in the story - how large a factor it played depends on who you ask - is the fact that UAB, as part of the University of Alabama system, shares a Board of Trustees with the campus in Tuscaloosa. You know, the one that's currently entering the inaugural College Football Playoff as the #1 seed. Said Board is heavily populated with Bama alumni, not the least of whom is its president, Paul Bryant Jr., son of legendary Crimson Tide coach Bear Bryant. While the finances may have looked bleak, it seems something else - ensuring resources head down the pipeline to Bama unimpeded - may have been afoot.

Certainly, my heart goes out to the fans, students, alumni, and supporters of that program, but most importantly the players and coaches. While many may simply remember UAB football's 23 year existence as a momentary blip in the sports history, I have a different memory of the Blazers: That of conferencemates. I attended USF in the Conference USA days and have memories of playing UAB. And because our pasts were once intertwined, I'm hit with the gravity that it's not too improbably that we may again be kindred spirits. UAB and USF share a lot of markers: Young programs in have-not FCS conferences that are part of a state system with strong programs. Add to that our current underperformance on the field, and it's not hard to see shades of our own mortality. 

UAB became the first I-A/FCS program to shut down since nearly two decades ago, in 1995, when Pacific closed its doors. It's entirely possible that they won't be the last.

Twelve Drummers Drumming

Years ago, I began what has become a holiday tradition for me: Donating a pair of drumsticks and a drum pad to a child in need during the holiday season. I had dubbed my act Give a Kid a Drum, and while it's really only been a personal practice, I thought I may at some point reach beyond just myself and involve others.

Last year, holiday shopping was such that my wife happened to be over near our local Guitar Center, so I asked her to pick up my annual gift. Apparently when she told the staff in the drum room what she was getting it for, they thought it was a pretty cool idea, and it gave me the idea to potentially involve them in growing the gift.

In preparing to ask for help, I wrote up a quick summary of the newly renamed Little Drummer Project (the original name was a direct ripoff of another charity in this area). I headed over to the Guitar Center here in Greensboro to ask for their help - not a donation mind you; my original thought was being able to leave a box and a flyer in hopes that those engaging in their holiday shopping may feel compelled to join me in giving. I spoke with Josh in the drum room, and after running it by his higher ups, they came in with more than was asked - they were able to donate 12 pairs of drumsticks! I, in turn, donated these through the Salvation Army Toy Warehouse and 12 children will have the opportunity to wake up to a new pair of drumsticks on Christmas morning. Sorry, parents?

Huge thanks to Guitar Center Greensboro for joining me in the spirit of giving this holiday season. If you'd like to join as well, consider giving drumsticks, a drum pad, or other music-related gifts to your local charity.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Our Alma Mater Grand

I got to see UMBC men's soccer's postseason begin here in North Carolina. Now I'll be watching it end here.

UMBC has made it to the College Cup, which will be contested in Cary, NC. There's no doubt the road ends in the Old North State; it will end one of three ways: A loss in the final four, a loss in the championship game, or with the ultimate victory.

Retriever soccer has been building a program and knocking on the door for some time now. The Dawgs have won four of the last five America East championships, and advanced in the tournament two years ago - I was also there as their season ended in NC, that time in penalty kicks in Chapel Hill. This year, with a team that has advanced as far as any UMBC program has in the Division I era, and I'm looking toward to seeing the journey continue.

A Classic in Lexington

Two weeks later, a recap on my trip to Lexington for the Military Classic of the South.

I've mentioned before that there's something that makes getting up to head to a game easier, and that Saturday was no exception. I was on the road and headed north to Lexington by 7 in the morning, eager to check out the game and Lexington itself.

As a history nerd, Lexington offered plenty. It was once the home of both Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. In higher educational history, it boasts the founding of three fraternities, commonly called the Lexington Triad, and my own honor society, Omicron Delta Kappa.

I parked in a recommended lot just off campusa spot where tailgating could have been an option, has I come equipped. I made it by foot first to the campus of Washington and Lee, where I visited Lee Chapel, where Robert E. Lee is entombed. Unfortunately, Washington Hall, directly across the walk, was closed; that building contains a plaque commemorating the founding of ODK.

From there, it took mere minutes to walk onto the adjacent campus of VMI, where I checked out the post and the tailgating scene before ultimately making my way down to the stadium in plenty of time for the pregame pageantry.

I'll admit that, while certainly impressive, the Military Classic of the South wasn't quite what I expected. Perhaps I was expecting Army-Navy redux, featuring cadets from Citadel as well as VMI, and hopefully Citadels band as well. Instead, is was simply a VMI home game, but it did feature a full march on of the corps, including the Regimental Band and  Pipes and Drums. The corps marched in, appropriately, to Shenandoah played by the pipers. Foster Field at Alumni Memorial Stadium was a venue appropriate for a school at VMI's level, seating 10,000 with the vast majority being on the home side. Significat seating was occupied by the corps, who emptied the stands at each VMI score to knock out some pushups, accompanied by the firing of their cannon, Little John.

The home team fell to Citadel, as they had in the previous seven attempts. Time expired just as the sun set over Lexington; excellent timing, as it was getting cold. The Citadel team would take home the Silver Shako once again.

A few of the sights and sounds of the day:

Band on the Road Game of the Week: 2014 Championship Week

It's championship week, and that typically means some high level band on the road matchups, as both bands will typically attend the championship game. This year, the Big Ten presents a clash of different interpretations of the same style. Ohio State represents the a fairly traditional interpretation of traditional style marching, while Wisconsin's high energy chair step - which I've heard referred to as dressage by one observer - will always turn heads. Wisconsin will hope to roll out the barrel in the 5th quarter, and Ohio State will assuredly dot the i in the most electrifying 40 counts in all of college football.


Ohio State

Monday, November 24, 2014

...But That's None of My Business

When Ohio State rose to recent internet fame with their expertly animated drill, there were claims of swaggerjacking from some in the HBCU band community. While I continue to assert that that style of drill is in TBDBITL's DNA, FAMU's Marching 100 stepped up to remind the internet that they are the Osiris of this.

In fact, their reminder to the internet came straight from the internet. Anyone who's been online in the past year has certainly seen Kermit the Frog casually sipping tea, calling someone out on incongruent behavior, and quipping "...but that's none of my business." This past week, at the Florida Classic, Kermit sipped the tea on the field as FAMU took on Bethune Cookman.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Band on the Road Game of the Week 2014 Week 13

There are plenty of beautiful sights in college football. One is the annual rivalry between USC and UCLA whn they go color on color uniforms. Another is Rose Bowl Stadium itself, where this year's matchup will be played. Butthis isn't afternoon on New Years Day; rather this game will kick off at 5 p.m. In Pasadena, shortly after the sun has retired behind the western stands. Thebright scarlet of USC and brilliant blue of UCLA will be complemented by the same colors in the Spirit of Troy and the Solid Gold Sound.

(Note: I'm completing this post from the road in Lexington. The videos below, added at home, aren't showing up on my phone, so I hope they're there.)


Sunday, November 16, 2014

High Notes, 2014 Week 12

So first of all, it's been a guys' weekend of sorts: My wife and daughter are up in MD for a birthday party, so it's just been me and my 10 month old son. We're doing guy stuff, like... napping. And bottles.

But in all seriousness, I did get to take in more football this weekend than I typically do, and while said napping it taking place on one of our parts (I'll let you guess which one) I'm getting high notes up in a far more timely fashion.

Back when I demystified High Notes, I mentioned FSU by name as one who does a poor job meeting the Variety criterion. Still, the Marching Chiefs were omnipresent in last night's victory over Miami. The Hurricanes tend to put them in the rafters of SunLife Stadium, and despite that - or perhaps because of it - they were nearly all you heard, despite the Band of the Hour having plenty of opportunity, as Miami led for most of the game. Despite Variations on a War Chant Theme, this week's high notes citation goes unequivocally to the Marching Chiefs

Battle of Lexington

For the first time, College GameDay is headed to the Army-Navy game this year. Not to be outdone, I'm taking in a military showdown myself. It looks like last month's trip to Clemson won't be the last Random Act of Football for the season for me. Next weekend, I'll be headed north to Lexington, VA for the Military Classic of the South.

The annual showdown between The Citadel and VMI pits two of the nation's six senior military colleges against one another in the biggest military matchup outside of the service academies. With VMI's recent realignment, the two are once again conference foes in the Southern Conference. It's no secret I'm a fan of pageantry, and this game will have it in spades, from the corps of cadets, to the VMI Regimental Band (no word yet of Citadel's going band on the road in this one) and all that goes with it. Hell, the two battle for a Silver Shako.

Because I'm seldom one to visit a new place and simply get in and get out, I may be taking in a bit of history while I'm in town. Lexington has its share of Civil War history - much of it Confederate - including the burial place of Stonewall Jackson and his former house. It's worth noting that both institutions played a significant role in the Civil War. There's also a marker commemorating the Lexington Triad, the three national social fraternities (Alpha Tau Omega, Kappa Alpha Order, and Sigma Nu) founded in Lexington (or, in the case of ATO, elsewhere by VMI students), and my own honor society, Omicron Delta Kappa, was founded at Washington and Lee, also in Lexington.

I look forward to what promises to be a different tailgating and pregame experience. Alcohol is prohibited on post; there's parking throughout Lexington as well, and I'm unsure of that is where, culturally, the tailgates with alcohol take place. I may forego it anyway, however, both because I'm traveling solo and because there's plenty to catch on post in the form of gameday parades. There's no telling what may add to the atmosphere with Citadel in town as well, so I intend to keep my options open. On the back end, there's a good chance I make my way to Blue Lab Brewing, not far from VMI.

As always, while I'm up there, feel free to keep an eye on this space, or, for more real time information, follow on FacebookTwitter, or Fancred.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

BOTR Game of the Week, 2014 Week 12

First, I could use a bit of feedback. I didn't drop a High Notes this week, so while I aim to give y'all at least a little something, I'm by no means 100% on any given season. Is that bothersome? Can't promise I'll change, but it's nice to know if you care.

That said, let's get into week 12 action. The Deep South's Oldest Rivalry will play out between the hedges, and while it no longer necessarily has playoff implications, it always means something when these two get together. For such a southern matchup, both bands sure love the Union army's Battle Hymn of the Republic, though...



November to Remember

You never forget your first time.

This November (ok, technically the first poll dropped in late October) major college football is engaging, for the first time, in a run up to a playoff.  Some critics claimed that adding a playoff, even a barely-a-playoff playoff like the current four team configuration, would cheapen the regular season, but at least so far, the opposite seems to be true: Teams that would have been counted out in previous season have legitimate reason to believe that if things break the right way, they may find themselves in the final four.

Part of this is through the use of the committee, which no one's certainly figured out yet, and we may never since human subjectivity injects randomness. While no poll matters until the final one in early December, each rendition provides more insight into what the committee values. And moreso than with two final teams, folks pay particular attention to the "if the season ended today" top four.

There was some consternation when the first poll came out with three SEC West teams among the top four, but that would, of course, work itself out, as it may completely when Mississippi State plays Alabama. This past week, a bone of contention was that an undefeated FSU dropped to third behind a one loss Oregon team, which rose to #2. The order of these two, if the season ended today (ITSET needs to become a common shorthand) would change absolutely nothing but jersey color - and we've seen FSU go color-on-color in last year's ACC title game - as the two would still meet in a "neutral" site game on the west coast in the Rose Bowl. In fact one could argue FSU may fare better at #4 - while the Sugar Bowl would also be closer to home for Mississippi State, it's also a far more manageable trip from Tallahassee.

Another sticking point is TCU vs. Baylor. If the two win out, both will be Big 12 co-champions. Baylor owns the head-to-head over TCU following an overtime victory over the Frogs, and yet at least at present, TCU has the edge in the polls. It seems the committee sets out to reward strength of schedule, and TCU's is stronger, though the variance really hinges upon one game. Both play nine conference games in the Big 12, and both met SMU - which, schedule strength aside, ought to continue, as it's a logical in state (in metro for TCU) and former Southwest Conference game for each. Once you discount each school's FCS opponent, the difference lies in TCU playing Minnesota as Baylor played Buffalo. This puts two criteria at odds with one another: All things being equal, which carries more weight, schedule strength or head-to-head?

We'll keep learning more as the season marches on. Speaking of marching on, any word yet on if the playoff games and the national championship will feature a proper halftime?

Friday, November 7, 2014

BOTR Game of the Week: 2014 Week 11

I neglected last week; it was Homecoming at my employer, and while in the past I've given high notes to someone in our parade, it was, sadly, cancelled this year due to weather.

This week, I was almost inclined to give you a triple header of games that have both playoff implications and marching band interest. When I first compiled Band on the Road this year, K-State mentioned a trip to TCU as a "possible". The Pride of Wildcatland hasn't updated this, so finding no evidence to confirm their trip, I won't be including this purple Big 12 showdown.

In a game that's often had title implications, LSU is more relegated to the role of spoiler as the Crimson Tide and Million Dollar Band come to town for a night game in Death Valley. Somehow, I don't think that'll make the Tiger faithful any less enthusiastic.



Lest I be accused of SEC bias, there's interest a good deal further north as Ohio State and Michigan State revisit last year's Big Ten title game. That was the first and last time the two will play for the title, as they're now both aligned in the East, but this could very well be the knockout game for both schools' Big Ten championship game and playoff hopes.

Ohio State:

Michigan State:

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Take the Field

The field for the 2015 Honda Battle of the Bands is set. If it feels like it's stacked, it's because it is.

With all respect due to the CIAA, SIAC, and lower level independents, by and large the MEAC and SWAC, the two HBCU conferences that play Division I ball, also host the heavier hitters in the marching band world. As with last year, both of the big conferences boast three participants; the SWAC will feature Alabama State, Jackson State, and Southern, while the MEAC will have Honda perennial Bethune Cookman, newcomer Howard, and reigning champion North Carolina A&T in the lineup. Tennessee State, a Division I participant in the Ohio Valley Conference, will also join the field, giving the Honda an unprecedented seven DI programs in the lineup. Talladega College, from the NAIA ranks with a marching band in only its third year of existence, rounds out the top 8. And while one could see this as a "bless their hearts" pick, I hear they've been turning heads at 'Dega.

Worth noting: The rules in terms of conference participation have changed over the course of Honda's 13 year existence. From its second year in 2004 until 2009, Honda invited two bands from each of the aforementioned HBCU conferences and two independents. In 2010, when they started including eight bands instead of ten,  they switched to one band per conference with the remainder being at-large selections. For the first time since Honda's inception, not all four conferences are represented; in fact, both the CIAA and SIAC are completely left out of this year's competition. Time will tell if clamoring from participants in those conferences keeps this from happening again.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Telltale Tuesday

Tuesday represents two grand unveilings from both sides of the 80 Minutes fence. The first, the field for the 2015 Honda Battle of the Bands, will be a done deal for the late January battle. The second, the inaugural release of the College Football Playoff standings, is but a draft; even still, it's as anticipated a version as any. Because the Playoff committee has no hard and fast criteria from which to derive their rankings, this first look may give us a bit of insight into what the committee values and will reward going forth. While we will all anxiously await the early December release of the final rankings that will set the playoff field and place teams into the other major bowls, this will give us a first taste of what we've got to chew on from here on out.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Missing the Beat

While a sizable portion of the bandosphere is in front of television sets - some in spite of themselves -  this Monday night watching Drumline 2, I won't be. I'll miss viewing live for two reasons: The first is that it's Homecoming at my employer, so I've got a work obligation; the second is that I no longer have cable, so I wouldn't be able to see it even if I were home.

I realize the fact that I'm missing a made-for-TV movie is a non-story. and yet somehow I feel a duty. Not just a duty to you, dear reader, but to my history with the first Drumline movie, having been an early adopter in all of its forms, going to bat for the film against corps style kids and continuing to believe that while it may not have been the best movie (though I love it), it was undoubtedly an important movie for marching/athletic music. It is a duty I may feel stronger than the film's own producers, or else we may be a stronger showing than a straight-to-TV sequel a dozen years later.

I'll see it in due time; hopefully sooner rather than later, depending on its availability on Hulu Plus. And when I do, expect a full report.

Friday, October 24, 2014

BOTR Game of the Week: 2014 Week 9

There are a few band trips worth noting, including rivalries like UNC-UVA - sure to gather a bit more attention in light of news in Chapel Hill - Alabama and Tennessee's Third Saturday in October (playing out, naturally, on the fourth Saturday in October), and Alabama vs. Alabama A&M in the Magic City Classic in Birmingham. I'm headed out west, however, for one of just two matchups this weekend between top 25 teams: USC at Utah in a crucial Pac-12 South showdown.



High Notes 2014 Week 8

This past weekend I was hanging out with the kids while my wife was out of town, so while I caught a bit of football, it was far from the primary focus of the day. I was pleasantly surprised by a previously undocumented trip by Virginia's Cavalier Marching Band down to Duke in the noon time slot, and of course the big game of the night with the Band of the Fighting Irish making the trip down to Tallahassee was notable for many reasons.

Still, since we live in the internet age, there are a few viral hits that I was able to catch this weekend. Continuing to prove that Amazing Happens Every Saturday, both Ohio State and Florida State put in some work this weekend.

TBDBITL's Classic Rock show:

Marching Chiefs' Beyonce show:
Halftime Show, FSU vs. Notre Dame from Marching Chiefs on Vimeo.

Friday, October 17, 2014

BOTR Game of the Week 2014 Week 8

No live game for me this week (possibly, sadly, for the rest of the season?) so I"m back to my old tricks again.

This week's matchup has a decidedly '90s feel to it, but with Notre Dame's scheduling deal with the ACC, they'll be seeing a whole lot more of Florida State. Both teams enter this matchup in the top 5, and the Band of the Fighting Irish is headed to Tallahassee for a matchup that'll also feature College Gameday's second trip to FSU this season.

The most recent time the two met was during the 2011 Champs Sports Bowl. Here it is:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Orange is the new...

Some mornings, it's easy to get up; usually, it's because there's something on the other end that makes it all worth it. So when my alarm clock rang on a Saturday morning at a time typically reserved for work days, I had no problem throwing back the covers, getting ready, and hitting I-85 southbound en route to a day of tailgating, football, and marching band in the Southland. I had packed the grill, cooler, and other such sundries in the minivan (yes, that's how I'm rolling these days) and was ready to go.

To say I lack focus on gameday is an understatement. More often than not these days, I'm attending a game and visiting a campus for the first time. So as much as I love marching band, I also love tailgating, gameday traditions, and getting a look at campus while I'm there. Thankfully, my buddy Brian was able to rein me in, and we made the plan to settle for beers-and-a-bumper and local eats instead of breaking out the grill, and check out Tiger Walk, which he and his son had not yet seen, as well as the Tiger Band's pregame concert, which takes place 90 minutes before kickoff. It seemed sound to me, but the best laid plans...

Gameday traffic was a killer, and summarily squashed those plans. Even arriving in town a solid three hours before game time, it took us forever to make our way to our ultimate parking spot, Campus Beach, which still required a shuttle to get over to the stadium. We noticed immediately that the Louisville fans had traveled quite well to this game. This was no surprise; the fanbase tends to travel anyway, and this was their first trip to Clemson as ACC conferencemates. We consumed a few before heading over to the shuttle line and ultimately the stadium, figuring we'd grab a bite to eat inside and at least catch all of the in-stadium traditions. Brian, a Kentucky native, UK fan, and fellow USF alumnus, knows (and dislikes) the Cardinals quite well, but there was plenty to strike up conversation about with the Cards faithful in line for the shuttle. We even ended up chatting Pitino, in the context of trying to recall a Conference USA game where Louisville traveled to USF and their fans may have outnumbered us in the Sun Dome.

Never have I claimed to be a Clemson fan, but they are one of the major college football programs that's been on my radar the longest, having gone to school with a couple of multi-generation Clemson families. Having been a Tiger - yes, like half of the rest of America - the Tiger Rag holds a special place in my heard, so I didn't mind hearing it, or some derivative, a thousand times during the game. I also realized that this was the largest stadium I've been in rooting with the home team - most other ACC trips have been in support of Florida State, and for last year's North Carolina-South Carolina tilt in Columbia I was rooting - albeit lukewarmly - for my current home state. This past weekend, I was part of the sea of orange.

Gamewise, Clemson would prevail without scoring a single offensive touchdown. Quarterback Deshaun Watson left the game early on with an injury to his throwing hands, leaving the offense in the hands of Cole Stoudt. Still the other phases were firing just fine for the Tigers in their 23-17 victory. Each team had an end of half gaffe that lost them an opportunity at points, and in Louisville's case, possibly the game. The Tigers couldn't get lined up quickly enough for a field goal attempt at the end of the first half, and a decision to spike the ball by the Cardinals left them with one last shot from the 3 yard line instead of two as the game came to an end. Had I not heard the announcement to wait until the final cannon to gather on the field, I might have thought the Clemson faithful saw fit to rush the field after a victory over an unranked opponent. Apparently, gathering at the paw at center field is a game tradition. This isn't the first place I've heard of such; I've also attended Wake Forest games where the crowd was invited down to the playing surface. Still, such a proposition seems far more tenable at Wake Forest, where a stadium of just better than 30,000 serves a student body of fewer than 5,000 undergraduates, than at Clemson, where more than 80,000 seats serve an undergraduate population of nearly 17,000. All the same, the goalposts were lowered and the fans joined their team down on the field.

As for the Band that Shakes the Southland, it was great to see them in action, and my top deck north vantage point gave me a great view all game. I was fortunate that they performed their classic rock halftime show to the north stands for this game, giving me perfect seats as they treated us to Stairway to Heaven, Black Magic Woman, and Freebird. In the stands, they were consistent, if not repetitive, but again, Tiger Rag never hurt my feelings. I could grouse that they were miked, but some things are just concessions you have to make in a stadium that large with a fanbase that passionate. They delivered the goods all game long and helped orchestrate an electric gameday atmosphere. And, of course, their pregame leads into what's been deemed the most exciting 25 seconds in college football as the team rubs Howard's Rock and runs down the hill.

I'd agree with what I've heard said: Clemson brings an SEC-like atmosphere, though from my standpoint I base this more on hype and hearsay than an actual SEC gameday experience. The one SEC home game I attended was elsewhere in the same state, and I'd give the nod to Clemson, though admittedly, the difference in the manner I experienced both games makes the two apples (garnets?) and oranges. The folks I encountered there were great, and despite not being affiliated with the host school, I found myself hoping that the Louisville fans found Clemson a gracious host as well. The trip to Clemson from Greensboro's not a bad one, and Brian will be down there for at least a couple more years as he completes his doctorate, so I'm confident this first trip won't be my last.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Clemson Review Preview

You can expect a full update form me from spending this past Saturday at Clemson. In the meantime, get a taste with this recap story, courtesy of Google Plus:

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Band (Nerd) On the Road

This week's Band on the Road Game of the Week is being pre-empted for my own travel. I'm hitting the road - in minutes, actually - and headed down to where I'm told the Blue Ridge yawns its greatness - Clemson.

Expect a full update when I return, but if you want to keep up in real(er) time, follow on Twitter, Facebook, or FanCred.

Monday, October 6, 2014

High Notes 2014 Week 6

And oh, what a week 6 it was. Eleven top 25 teams took the fall, and the state of Mississippi had the best day since Reconstruction on the backs of wins by Ole Miss and Mississippi State over top 10 division rivals.

While I caught a bit of the day's action, my high note for the week was not football related as well. Just over four years ago, my wife and I lost our friend Karen to ovarian cancer. That same year was the inaugural Athena's Run, organized in no small part by Karen's partner Beth. Athena's Run benefits the Gynecological Cancer Fund and the Forsyth Medical Center Foundation, with the intent of fighting gynecological cancers. We were at the inaugural race, but were unable to make it back until this year, the fifth.

When returning to the team formed in her memory, Karen's Krusaders, we caught back up with a few folks we hadn't seen in some time, including Beth and some friends from my wife's grad school days. And not unlike when she was with us, Karen was again bringing us together, this time a few years older, with a few more kids in tow, and with my wife actually running the race this time through. it was a great opportunity to honor her memory and raise some funds for an important cause.

If you feel compelled to donate to the cause, you still can.

Friday, October 3, 2014

BOTR Game of the Week: 2014 Week 6

Sometimes, it's hard not to get caught up in the hype.

It's well documented that the SEC West owns the college football world at present. Six of the seven teams place in the top 25 - top 15, in fact - and they'd likely be seven for seven had Arkansas pulled it out against Texas A&M last weekend.

I've called out the state of Mississippi on their also-ranness in that division before. In addition to the division's football prowess, five of the seven schools in the division hold Sudler Trophies, with only the pair from the Magnolia State being without. Still, as the southern saying goes, the sun shines on a dog's ass some days, and it would seem that if Mississippi is the aforementioned canine posterior, today is that day.

Ole Miss' past (and present) racism noted, the Grove still remains the stuff of legend, at least as far as tailgating goes. For those who would love to show it off, the Rebels get their chance - for the first time, College Gameday is headed their way. Not to be outdone, there will be a lot of maroon down in Starkville as Texas A&M heads to town to take on the Bulldogs in another SEC West showdown between ranked teams. Still, I'm setting my sights on Oxford, even breaking a cardinal Band on the Road rule to do so, as only a pep band, not the entire Million Dollar Band, will travel from Tuscaloosa.


Ole Miss:

Monday, September 29, 2014

High Notes 2014 Week 5

If I were a conspiracy theorist, I'd postulate that the notoriously SEC-leaning ESPN protects their investment by miking SEC bands better than others. A lot of the time, though, they're just that damn good.

Still though, this week's high notes citation comes not from a college stadium in the deep south, but from a pro stadium just outside the Big Apple. Syracuse took on Notre Dame at Met Life Stadium, and the Pride of the Orange was putting in work, even as the gray-clad orange fell to the Fighting Irish. The Band of the Fighting Irish didn't make the trip to the first game of their ACC-adjacent slate, but Syracuse more than held it down.

In other orange news: I've been waiting for the announcement of gametime, and it's here. I'm headed to Louisville at Clemson Saturday after next, and it'll be a 3:30 game. This is exactly what I was hoping for - it gives me plenty of time to get down there from Greensboro and get back up the same night. Death Valley, here I come!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

BOTR Game of the Week 2014 Week 5

It's perhaps a bit imprudent to post the game of the week after a good chunk of the week's action has already begun, but I assure you there were enough possibilities to go around. One, in fact - a dual Sudler matchup - would be quite late, as the Goin' Band from Raiderland visited Oklahoma State in a Thursday night game. Elsewhere in the former Southwestern Conference, Arkansas and Texas A&M are kicking off as I type this in the home of Arkansas alumnus Jerry Jones in Arlington, but I've given the Aggies their fair share of burn in the past week or so.

Instead, I'm going to head to the midwest, where Cincinnati will leave Kentucky travel across the state to Ohio State in what may be the best chance of late for an in-state school to get the best of the flagship. It hasn't happened in 93 years, and though I left the "we all we got" mantra in the former Big East, it would be a great win for the American.


Ohio State:

Amazing Happens Every Saturday

Sometimes, things just get by you, and that's the case with the first Amazing Happens Every Saturday entry of 2014. It turns out that cool new uniforms weren't the only star-spangled addition in College Park as the state of Maryland and the nation celebrated the bicentennial of the National Anthem. The Mighty Sound of Maryland and the Pride of West Virginia joined forces (and yes, normally I hate mass bands) to reenact the bombardment of Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore, the battle that ultimately spawned the poem that would become the Star-Spangled Banner. Take a look:

The second has been well trumpeted throughout the past week, and while it's not actually marching/athletic music, it's a kindred sports-adjacent in the team that cares for Reveille, Texas A&M's mascot. As an SMU player came careening towards Reveille on the sideline, sophomore handler Ryan Kreider throws a block that could earn him a walk-on spot.

What it did earn him, however, was his senior boots bought by the Commandant of the Corps of Cadets. Not bad for doing your job, but that block's likely to be legendary in Aggie lore.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

High Notes - 2014 Week 4

After recruitment spoke for a few consecutive weekends, this past weekend was a bit closer to normal, at least in terms of getting to see a bit more football. 

This week's high notes citation goes to Georgia Tech, whose Yellow Jacket Marching Band made the trip with the team to Blacksburg. Back when I shed some light on High Notes, I mentioned that Victory was among the Vs that could lead to recognition, and the football team gave the band plenty of reason to strike up on the road. Georgia Tech has always impressed me anyway; they're not afraid to remind you that they're rooted in the A, and I've heard them break out Jeezy and Mykko Montana on separate occasion. This time, however, it was Up With the White and Gold and Ramblin' Wreck that got them (w)rec(k)ognized.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

BOTR Game of the Week: 2014 Week 4

Sorry I shorted you last week; busy-ness at work continued with IFC fraternity recruitment. Partially as makeup and partially because I became aware of one of these late, I've got two for you this week.

In the first, the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band heads to the Big D for an out-of-conference matchup against SMU's Mustang Band. SMU is sporting a shiny new band room and sure to bring their A game against one of the state's big boys.

Texas A&M:


I also just became aware that the UMass Minuteman Band is making the trip south to Happy Valley to take on Penn State's Blue Band. The Power and Class of New England's trip makes this a dual Sudler matchup, and it's also Band Day in Beaver Stadium, so it should be a good one.


Penn State:

Off the Dot

There were a few things that related to college marching band over the past nearly two weeks that I found worth noting. I had intended to include the first as an 8vb footnote to last week's high notes. Sunday before last, Bethune-Cookman's Marching Wildcats performed at halftime as the Carolina Panthers visited the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While I don't know what caused the timing issue, the band was ultimately on the field with only a few minutes remaining of halftime, a time typically reserved for kickers to take practice shots at the field goal. Panthers kicker Graham Gano was not deterred by the band on the field, going so far as to shove a trombone player out of the way to get position for a kick, which caused a sax player to move to avoid catching a football to the instrument.

In the time that followed, there was a good deal of "I wish a kicker would," particularly from HBCU bandsfolk. I applaud the Marching Wildcats for keeping their composure. I've stated before that I'm irked even when kickers "share" the field with a smaller band - I've seen this in action with Duke and Wake Forest's bands - but to kick from within the organization, much less to put your hands on a college student as a professional athlete, is unacceptable. Still, Gano did at least call the player in question, Marquel Ballard, and apologize, even offering tickets and sideline passes as the Panthers play the division rival Falcons, Ballard's team.

As for the second: At some point or another, I'm sure most folks with an affinity for marching bands have wished, silently or aloud, for more coverage. I'll note that when requesting such to whomever in your cosmic sphere, one must realize that it doesn't mean the people talking about it will be the most knowledgeable. This past weekend was alumni band day at Ohio State, and despite not typically being band friendly, ESPN has always loved to showcase the Script Ohio. With alumni in the house, they executed a quad Script Ohio. Matt Millen was on the call for the game, and referred to TBDBITL as "the most athletic band in all of college football".

Wait, what?

Understand that no shade is mean to Ohio State, but I'm not sure I'd give them that distinction in their own state or their own conference. While athleticism may be difficult to objectively quantify, range of motion is a good place to start. And while the traditional step and the ramp entrance at 180 put them at least above a good deal of corps style units (sorry not sorry), I think Ohio University's Marching 110 and Wisconsin's Badger Band out-athlete them handily, and those are just two that came immediately to mind. Continue the conversation with HBCUs and Millen's statement very easily becomes a clown one. That's not to say that they're not amazing at what they do, but his quote had no basis in logic.

I know I shorted y'all on a Game of the Week this past week; this time through it was recruitment for the men of the InterFraternity Council. I hope to get back on track shortly!

Friday, September 12, 2014

High Notes - 2014 Week 2

As I'm sure I've mentioned before, I work professionally in fraternity and sorority life. This past week was Panhellenic sorority recruitment, making my high note of the week Bid Day. As a corollary, I didn't watch a whole lot of football this past weekend. This weekend I find myself in a similar situation, with IFC fraternity recruitment; that event wraps up on Saturday, but after that is some much-needed family time, so I may or may not find myself in front of a TV at all this Saturday.

That said, there's some good stuff out there. It's likely you've caught Ohio State's TV Land show form this past weekend, which impressed amidst a losing effort from the football team, and there's a good deal else out there as well. With each passing week and year, there are folks who are more on point about sharing what marching/athletic music has to offer, and for someone who isn't in a stadium nearly as often as I'd like, I certainly appreciate it.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Defence Of

This isn't the first time I've been in the corner of UnderArmour and the University of Maryland, College Park on a uniform, and it probably won't be the last. But the "1812" uniform that will be worn this weekend as the Terps take on WVU may be instant one for the ages.

This coming college football weekend - the one that sits closest to September 11 - has for years been one that has invoked patriotic-inspired uniforms in teams. UnderArmour has often been the supplier, and at times the culprit of ill-advised uniforms. Here, they went a slightly different route with their flagship program, and the result is nothing short of amazing. This weekend also commemorates the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Baltimore during the War of 1812; it is this battle that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem "Defence of Fort McHenry," which would ultimately become the Star Spangled Banner, our national anthem. The uniform features the text of the poem on its sleeves, helmet, and cleats. Players will wear a red belt reminiscent of those worn by American military officers of the day, and the helmet logo is a star-spangled outline of Fort McHentry, which conveniently resembles a turtle. UnderArmour took what had become an old meme in uniforms and gave it a refresh that's positively Maryland, and I love it.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

BOTR Game of the Week 2014 Week 2

Week 2 of the college football season is always the subito piano to week 1's sforzando. After some high caliber band and football matchups, not to mention five straight days of the stuff. If week 1's a loaded buffet, week 2's a meager salad bar. And on the Band on the Road front, there are only two confirmed FBS trips this week.

One answer would be easy. I'm steeped in east coast bias, and have a strong proclivity for traditional style marching and Sudler Trophy winners. Add the history of the final consecutive running of the rivalry and the rare night game beneath Touchdown Jesus, and Michigan-Notre Dame's the obvious choice. Except that I remembered, correctly, that they occupied this spot last year.

Perhaps it's just a step above "by default", but I'm instead taking it out west, where the Spirit of Troy will travel to take on the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band as USC clashes with Stanford in one of this weekend's matchups of ranked teams.



Friday, September 5, 2014

High Notes 2014 Week 1

Really, is there any higher note than the return of football itself? I'd offer that there isn't.

I'm in a different situation this year as it relates to college football viewing. My wife and I got rid of cable about a year and a half ago, so I'm now entering my second football season without it. That said, until recently I had a *ahem* situation that at least allowed me access to ESPN content. This since has dried up, leaving me access to only those games that are televised on the major networks. It's not a horrible deal; I get the big game on ABC, SEC on CBS, home Notre Dame on NBC, and whatever Fox shows, plus typically ACC action on local TV here in NC. I can also still watch the internet/WatchESPN-based ESPN3, which boded well for me this weekend as USF's game was on it.

On the marching side of the equation, I'm fortunate that, above and beyond what I can glean from stands performances while watching games, more and more spaces online are sharing great marching content in near-real time. NBC Sports was quick to highlight the Band of the Fighting Irish, and Southern's Band on the Road performance at Louisiana was available quickly as well. Outlets like Eight to Five Entertainment improve their offerings year to year and week by week, and College Marching is, like myself, amplifying whatever is out there.

For Week 1's High Notes citation I head down to Brighthouse Networks Stadium in Orlando, FL. While the home team was off in Ireland, the cable box played host to the MEAC/SWAC Challenge, typically held in the Citrus Bowl which is currently under renovation. Being in Greensboro, I'm used to A&T's particular brand of excellence, but I don't get nearly the same look at SWAC schools on a regular basis, and the Marching Maroon and White came to play as well. The folks over at Eight to Five were all over the coverage there, so I got to see both bands show up and show out.

Quick note for the coming weekend of action: For my day job - you know, the one that pays me - I work in fraternity and sorority life, and this week is Panhellenic recruitment on my campus. As such, I don't know how much I'll have to contribute this coming weekend, since I know I won't get much viewing in. Thanksfully, sources like those pointed out above make it a bit easier to see what's going on, even if it's not live.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

BOTR Game of the Week 2014 Week 1

It's back! Another college football season is upon us, and with it, another go-round of the Band on the Road Game of the Week. As is typical for week 1, there are quite a few marquee matchups both during gametime and during halftime. Gameday's in the Metroplex for FSU-Oklahoma State at Jerry World, but the defending champs are only sending a pep band. If this were the tailgate game of the week, I'd be VERY interested in the Wisconsin-LSU matchup in Houston. But with all due respect to the neutral site games, I'm bringing it to campus, as the Band that Shakes the Southland travels down between the hedges as Clemson takes on Georgia and the intersectional rivals prepare to fight like, well, cats and dogs.



Monday, August 25, 2014

Band on the Road 2014

There are a few surefire signs that college football is fast approaching. The annual college football magazines come out. Players return to campus to begin fall practice. Your favorite college football media increase in frequency. More recently, as a celebration immediately preceding the first college football Saturday, College Colors Day urges fans to get into the spirit with their favorite team gear.

And then there's 8/25.

Three years ago, to commemorate their 25th anniversary, marching shoe brand Dinkles declared 8/25 (Eight T[w]o Five, for the marching aficionados) International Dinkles Day. I've since seen fit to seize it as a commemoration of all things marching. The date play on words notwithstanding,  it also tends to fall in the week leading up to the return of college football and marching.

For the second year, 8/25 also mark the release of the Band on the Road Project.

Now in its fourth year, Band on the Road chronicles road trips taken by college marching bands. While the groundwork has been laid by research, Band on the Road is a fully editable spreadsheet, allowing all users to contribute with knowledge they have of band travel. The database is for band fans and football fans alike; after all, when traveling to an away game of your favorite team, it's great to know if there will be a little slice of home there with you.

New for 2014
As much as it hurt my heart as an alumnus of the American Athletic Conference's USF Bulls, the original inclusion of BCS conferences translated to simply including the Power Five conferences as the new iteration of college football's elite. As I said when debuting the series, sticking to those conferences is by scope, not slight; narrowing in this manner allows for a manageable load when inputting the original data. However, because the document is fully editable, anyone with a passion for the other conferences - or even FCS, Division II, or Division III schools - can certainly add them.

I also changed the manner that I include historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Because their passion for college marching is unparalleled, I couldn't create such a list without including HBCUs in some format. Previously, I stuck with the MEAC and SWAC, the two Division I (FCS) HBCU conferences, again for the sake of scope. This year's change involves some give and take: I included all of the classics, which omits the week-to-week for MEAC/SWAC schools but includes classics between Division II programs.

Even with one conference down (though to be fair, the American only contributed four confirmed travel games) bands traveling this year slightly out pace last year's road games, 106-102. New columns denote the number of trips per conference, as well as the number of non-conference visiting bands, though the latter is decidedly slim because the only bands from outside the power conferences included are those noted by the host band's site. And while one of my working documents - a highlighted version of's helmet schedules - notated speculations of road bands, the numbers here nearly exclusively include travel that was confirmed in some way by band schedule. In a few cases, bands indicate that at least a pep band attends all road conference games; in those instances, such games are included in the schedule. The small amounts of speculation included here are major rivalry games where travel is a foregone conclusion, though neither band explicitly stated it.

All in all, this document gets more robust with each passing year, both as my research improves and more bands make calendars available. Again, any omissions or mistakes you may see are editable, and I empower all users to make those changes as they see fit. Moreover, I will be updating during the course of the season as I notice road bands when watching football, and invite you to do the same.

Happy football/marching season!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Before the Clock Starts: SEC

Before the Clock Starts is back for a third year, and this time, we're doing full conferences.

As with last year, we'll take a look at what college bands do before the clock starts: The pregame show. Designed to set the tone for the football game to follow, pregame shows are, by design, high-energy, crowd-focused, and school-centric. On the final Saturday before football rejoins our lives, we conclude with the SEC.

With all conferences, I look for the most recent representation I could find, and in many cases, those came from this past season. With a few schools, I had to look further back, and with just a handful, there was no true video at all. I'd love to see these schools step up and give us something to appreciate!

Getting antsy and want to see all schools? Here's the master playlist.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Before the Clock Starts: Pac-12

Before the Clock Starts is back for a third year, and this time, we're doing full conferences.

 As with last year, we'll take a look at what college bands do before the clock starts: The pregame show. Designed to set the tone for the football game to follow, pregame shows are, by design, high-energy, crowd-focused, and school-centric. At two weeks until the start of the new season, we continue with the Pac-12.

With all conferences, I look for the most recent representation I could find, and in many cases, those came from this past season. With a few schools, I had to look further back, and with just a handful, there was no true video at all. I'd love to see these schools step up and give us something to appreciate!

Getting antsy and want to see all schools? Here's the master playlist.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Can't Stop the Beat

My wife and I have never been the sort to let the grass grow under our feet when traveling, so when I brought the Street Beat 5K going on as part of the championship festivities to her attention, she said "why not?" True enough, despite being paired with the marching arts, it wasn't my sort of 5K, but I knew she'd love to run it, even though it meant getting down to downtown Indy at about 7 that morning. The run was at Indy's Canal Walk, a cool part of the city we'd return to later in the day. The run was sponsored in part by the Boston Crusaders. A corps from Boston sponsoring a run? Why not? The race seemed to draw folks from the area with no affiliation with drum corps as well; the female winner was a student at IUPUI who now has a drum among her race trophies.

We headed back over to the city center for breakfast at Panera, but because of the early race time, it would be a bit before the museums we intended to hit would open. We headed back to the car for a recharge - of selves and phones - we headed back out to catch Drumline Battle, one of DCI's new, more accessible initiatives.

I'm not sure how the average DCI fan takes to Drumline Battle - we know how many feel about Drumline - but seeing the concept for the first time, I really liked it. The two lines facing off against one another take turns stepping into the square and throwing down. A coin flip determines the order; the winner can elect to receive or defer. After a ground level vantage point was blocked by photographers and other official type folks, we went up into the adjacent parking garage for a high angle view.

Following the battle - we caught a few individual battles, and a few more corps in the warmup zone, we headed to the Rhythm Discovery Center. Unsurprisingly, I'm sure, I was like a kid in a candy story at the Percussive Arts Society's de facto showroom, a drum-based museum with plenty of hands-on opportunity. The feature exhibit was the history of the drumset, and in addition to a cool history lesson about the way the set has evolved, they had a few classic example's including sets from Neil Peart and Ringo Starr. And while those weren't playable, many more instruments were.

If there would have been another musical opportunity to cap the way with - we headed back uptown to my brother in law's before any corps warmups started - I could have considered the next activity a sports halftime in a day of marching/athletic music. As it stands, though, the NCAA Hall of Champions was our final visit of the day. As long as you acknowledge up front that it's a mouthpiece for the Association, the museum is enjoyable, featuring interactive exhibits, information on every NCAA championship at every level (including the two UMBC has from the D-II days) and a touch screen with every NCAA program in the country. It was actually a busy time there adjacent to NCAA HQ; just days after the O'Bannon verdict and the day after the Power 5 conferences' autonomy was granted. Coincidentally, their exhibit spoke of the 40 years that had passed since Divisions II and III came into existence.

I'm not saying we'll necessarily be back next year, but I'd love to, and on at least a few occasions, we spoke as though we would be. Getting to go see Chris was great, and being able to pair that with Championships - especially if I can get some of my pep band buddies to come along - makes for a great trip. Whether next year or later, you haven't seen the last of us, Indy.
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