Rent A Band

Yesterday, the University of Arizona Wildcats football team notched a victory over Boston College in the Advocare V100 (formerly Independence) Bowl in Shreveport, LA in front of their fans, Boston College fans, and likely folks from the community who saw fit to attend the game. But one entity was conspicuously absent: The Pride of Arizona Marching Band. Where they would have sat, the Northwestern State University Demon Band, clad in Arizona's blue and red, took their place, the band-for-hire that day.

To be honest, my kneejerk reaction was vitriol towards the University of Arizona for not valuing their band enough to send them, but I realize it's not necessarily that simple. Arizona was filling a spot in this bowl, so while it's possible they made every possible consideration for Pac-12 bowls, this simply came outside of what they had planned for. Shreveport is farther from Tucson the nearly every Pac-12 bowl, and its airport is smaller than any of their tie-ins, both of which add considerable expense. Arizona's basketball team is #1 in the nation, potentially diverting resources from the athletic department and/or the football program. It's even possible that a bowl game was not a prerequisite for band participation and they simply wouldn't have enough members to travel. So while it's likely a black mark on the Arizona's athletic program, that's not necessarily so.

That said, it does seem to be a harbinger of what could become a more prevalent problem. Consider this: With the impending playoff, schools could be responsible for sending their band - not a cheap endeavor, mind you - to a conference championship game, a semifinal, and hopefully, a national championship game. Let's use as an example the 2014 Big Ten champion. That school would travel first to Indianapolis, then to either Pasadena or  New Orleans, depending on seeding, and finally to Arlington. Mind you, there would be a week and a half turnaround between the semifinal and final games. ACC Champ is looking at Charlotte-Pasadena/NO-Arlington; and Heaven forbid a smaller conference school somehow crack the top four. It makes for a daunting task for athletic departments. At least those in the playoff are less likely to face a losing proposition for their bowl tickets, but it still doesn't come cheap.  What's more, the decreased emphasis on non-playoff bowls, especially for those who just miss the playoff, may make them a harder sell for fans and more of a financial burden on athletic departments.

I don't think it's unreasonable to predict more "rent-a-band" situations, and I don't like it. While it's nice that some bands that would never otherwise get a bowl game experience - Northwestern State competes at the FCS level -  the point isn't to have a band present, it's to have your band present. While I'm confident the Demon Marching Band performed admirably, it simply isn't the same as having your band, a slice of your gameday experience, there. Students in the band of the competing school lose out on a great road trip opportunity, and I'd wager even the stand-in band doesn't get all of the benefits of bowl game participation. It sends an incomplete unit into competition and cheapens the experience for the team and fans, no matter how good the stand-in band is. I know there are many moving parts at play as college football's landscape continues to evolve, but I hope this is one that was considered.