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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
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