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Saturday, December 31, 2016

B4: College Football Playoff National Championship - Alabama vs. Clemson

Here we go again! The two top seeds advance to give us a rematch of last year's championship. After last year's thriller, the Tigers get another crack at the Crimson Tide with a title once again on the line. Clemson carries forth the Yamaha mantle in a field full of Pearl drumlines.



Thursday, December 29, 2016

80 Minutes, 80 Bands - 2016-17 Big Band Bowl Battle

Eighty bands from the football bowl subdivision - well, minus one notable absence - will head to 41 bowl games this year, with two bands participating in the Celebration Bowl, and another two emerging from the FCS playoffs to compete in the championship game. In the sixth year of the Big Band Bowl Battle, a few notes:

  • After last year, with a record number of dual Sudler matchups, the 2016 postseason boasts just three, with the possibility of a fourth should both Alabama and Ohio State win their playoff games. (And as always, the Sudler caveat)
  • Conversely, the possibility exists for the first 
  • No fewer than six bowls match former conferencemates. 
  • The College Football Playoff games return to New Year's Eve, but at least this time they'll find some college football familiarity falling on a Saturday.
  • Unfortunately, the corollary is the complete dearth of college football or major televised American parades on New Year's Day.
  • My favorite byproduct of the playoff persists: Elimination of the ain't-shit bowls (Looking at you, GoDaddy) from the new year. We do, however, have a "New Year's Six" bowl taking place way back on 12/30.
Every single game is listed below, except for the CFB Playoff National Championship, which will post as soon as the matchup is finalized. You can also follow on Facebook or Twitter, where each new bowl will post prior to its start. If you've grown accustomed to following #B4 on Twitter, they'll still be there, but I pivoted to a more unique hashtag midstream, so you can get used to #BowlBands for the future.

Happy bowl season, everyone!

B4: 2017 FCS Championship

The FCS Championship will feature a Sudler Trophy for the first time since... well, since the Marching Royal Dukes were last there in 2004. Youngstown State's plucky Penguins are helmed by former Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini.

Youngstown State:

James Madison

B4: 2017 Allstate Sugar Bowl

The Sugar Bowl gives us one of this season's few Dual Sudler matchups between two programs who have competed for national championships in the not-so-distant past.



B4: 2017 Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual

While it happens, on average, every seven years, a January 2 Rose Bowl just seems odd. While Penn State had late season hopes at a grander prize, far be it for any program - especially one in the Big Ten or Pac-12 - to consider a march down Colorado Blvd. a consolation prize.


Penn State:

B4: 2017 Outback Bowl

It feels like this is an Outback Bowl that's played out several times, and I found out why: I saw the Pride of the Sunshine and the Hawkeye Marching Band parade through Ybor on the eve of 2004, and the two programs returned the year after I left Tampa.


B4: 2017 Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic

Living in the Big Ten footprint, the Broncos have at least one B1G program on the schedule each year, but their trip to DFW to face Wisconsin will be a payday of another kind for one of this season's only two undefeated teams.

Western Michigan:


B4: 2016 CFB Playoff Semifinal: Playstation Fiesta Bowl

Should both Clemson and Washington - both underdogs, per Vegas - win the semifinal games, we could see a Sudler-less national championship game for the first time since Florida State-Virginia Tech at the end of the 1999 season. With a dual-Sudler semifinal game every other year, this hasn't so much as been a possibility in the playoff era.

Ohio State:


B4: 2016 CFB Playoff Semifinal: Chick Fil-A Peach Bowl

Yea Alabama already memorializes a victory over the Washington Huskies in the 1926 Rose Bowl ("Remember the Rose Bowl, we'll win then"). Meanwhile, Bow Down to Washington will sound familiar to at least one person on the Alabama sideline: Former Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian, now the offensive coordinator for the Tide.



B4: 2016 Taxslayer Bowl

While Georgia Tech-Kentucky is one of this bowl season's many matchups of former conferencemates, it's been a long time since the Yellowjackets called the SEC home - and just as long since these two programs have met.

Georgia Tech:


B4: 2016 Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl

Both Louisiana and Louisville owe their names to France's King Louis, though Louis XIV is Louisiana's namesake, while Louisville draws its name from Louis XVI. The dynasty that calls both kings kin The house of Bourbon, which will no doubt be in abundance with these two fanbases.



Wednesday, December 28, 2016

B4: 2016 Capital One Orange Bowl

Despite an extensive bowl history, Michigan has made a scant few trips to south Florida for the Orange Bowl. Both the Michigan Marching Band and Marching Chiefs will miss performing at halftime as the Orange Bowl's tradition will give that honor to a recording artist, this time Joe Jonas vehicle DNCE.


Florida State:

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

B4: 2016 Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl

Nebraska vs. Tennessee plays like a late '90s changing of the guard: Nebraska won the last Coaches Poll national championship of the pre-BCS era, while Tennessee hoisted the first crystal football of the BCS.



B4: 2016 Hyundai Sun Bowl

Much has been made of the fact that Stanford's Heisman finalist running back Christian McCaffrey will sit out the Sun Bowl, but the Cardinal will be without another piece: The Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band, which was suspended for 18 months and will miss this game and all of next season. El Paso's Horizon High School Scorpion Marching Band will fill their shoes, including learning the Stanford fight song and standing in for the LSJUMB.

Horizon High School:

North Carolina:

B4: 2016 AutoZone Liberty Bowl

It'll be Rah Rah or Glory Glory as the Redcoat Band and the Horned Frog Marching Band meet roughly in the middle in Memphis.



B4: 2016 NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl

It's not often you see our own Air Force go to battle with the USA, but the possibility has existed since South Alabama started football and moved to FBS a few short years ago.

South Alabama:

Air Force:

B4: 2016 Valero Alamo Bowl

I'll admit to viewing the world through green and gold glasses, but when I see this matchup, my first thought is Lee Roy Selmon's alma mater vs. Jim Leavitt's school until he was hired away by Willie Taggart and Oregon.

Oklahoma State:


B4: 2016 Belk Bowl

If North Carolina's HB2 hadn't chased various sporting events from town, Virginia Tech would have just played in Charlotte for the ACC Championship game.


Virginia Tech:

B4: 2016 Birmingham Bowl

The Carolina Band's recent renaissance came during the watch of a USF alumna, Dr. Rebecca Phillips. South Carolina still plays Bulls on Parade to this day. Ten years ago, the Herd of Thunder marched into its second ever bowl game in this very contest, then the Bowl.


South Carolina:

B4: 2016 AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl

One of the season's few dual Sudler matchups, Texas A&M used to be conferencemates in a Big 12 that is preparing to get one trophy heavier.

Texas A&M:

Kansas State:

B4: 2016 Foster Farms Bowl

Kevin Wilson got the Hoosiers to their second bowl game on his watch, but he won't be around to coach them, after having unexpectedly resigned amid controversy at the beginning of the month.



B4: 2016 Russell Athletic Bowl

It feels like the Big East all over again. Miami exited the conference for the ACC in the first wave back in 2005, while West Virginia hung around until its 2012 departure for the Big 12.

West Virginia:


B4: 2016 New Era Pinstripe Bowl

Pitt's Varsity Marching Band, which routinely marches in the stadium with the most Super Bowl banners, will now march into the stadium with the most World Series banners. Northwestern, who recently played in Wrigley Field, can now add Yankee Stadium to its list.



B4: 2016 National Funding Holiday Bowl

If things had gone differently a few days ago, I might have been writing about Northern Illinois' Huskie Marching Band here, as the Minnesota football team threatened a boycott and NIU was next up. Golden Gopher and Cougar fans may do a double take hearing each other's bands: "Fight Fight Fight for Washington State" sound eerily similar to "Minnesota Hats Off to Thee" in their respective fight songs.


Washington State:

B4: 2016 Motel 6 Cactus Bowl

Boise State has been known to get it done in the desert against a Big 12 squad, so the Bears may want to beware. Then again, with Baylor's recent troubles, they may just be ready to turn the page to a new season, coach, and era.

Boise State:


B4: 2016 Military Bowl Presented by Northrup Grumman

This one's close to home for me in more ways than one: The closest FBS program to where I grew up plays the closest FBS program to where I live now, in the bowl game closest to where I'll spend the holidays. Temple was just in this stadium for the American championship game, and let's hope no one's leaked SOTOGAB's drill sheets.


Wake Forest:

B4: 2016 Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl

UNT's Green Brigade won't have far to travel to the "Zombie Cotton Bowl". While they've gotten a little more rest, Army was just in action December 10 in Baltimore for the Army-Navy Game.


North Texas:

B4: 2016 Camping World Independence Bowl

It's a capital city showdown along I-40, as the Power Sound of the South from Raleigh and the Spirit of Gold from Nashville take a detour to Shreveport for the Independence Bowl.

NC State:


B4: 2016 Quick Lane Bowl

Sure, my dear alma mater's undefeated football team won't be there, but there's something about seeing "University of Maryland" and "BC" next to one another that feels right. The Mighty Sound of Maryland may have come accustomed to the midwest given their current conference affiliation, but this is an old ACC matchup.


Boston College:

B4: 2016 St. Petersburg Bowl

Playing in St. Pete, the Miami University Marching Band would be remiss if they didn't remind you that they were a school before Florida was a state. Meanwhile, Tropicana Field may revert to the Thunderdome with all of Mississippi State's cowbells.


Mississippi State:

B4: 2016 Hawai'i Bowl

Poor Hawaii. Even when bowl eligible, they rarely get to travel to the mainland to play. It's a good thing the pineapple is the international symbol for hospitality, because they've had to show more than their fair share to visitors.


Middle Tennessee:

B4: 2016 Dollar General Bowl

This might be my most anticipated marching matchup. The Sound of the South and the Marching 110 are two strong programs, and I think there'll be a lot of mutual respect seeing each other take the field.



Sunday, December 18, 2016

B4: 2016 Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl

Navy heads to the Armed Forces Bowl in the first year all three service academies will participate in bowl games since 2010.

Louisiana Tech:


B4: 2016 Popeyes Bahamas Bowl

ODU's Marching Monarchs will be making the trip due south (over the Atlantic Ocean) for the program's first ever bowl game.

Eastern Michigan:

Old Dominion:

B4: Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

Every bowl game Idaho has ever played in has been here, in state, on the smurf turf of their rival. The Vandals are currently ending their penultimate season in FBS, while Colorado State, along with many others, was hoping for the call up to the big leagues via the Big 12 earlier this year.


Colorado State:

B4: 2016 San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl

"I'd rather lose and live in Provo than win and live in Laramie," LaVell Edwards once famously said of BYU's former WAC and Mountain West conferencemate's hometown. I'd imagine neither the conditions or the animosity exist of sunny San Diego.

A bus carrying Wyoming band members was involved in an accident en route to the bowl; thankfully, no injuries were reported.



B4: 2016 Boca Raton Bowl

These two programs sit about four hours away through mostly-Tennessee, but they're taking the fight down to Boca.


Western Kentucky:

B4: 2016 Miami Beach Bowl

The only other time these two programs met was a home-and-home three decades ago, meaning there's a pretty good chance this will be the first time the Marching Chippewas and the Sound of the Golden Hurricane have met.

Central Michigan:


Saturday, December 17, 2016

B4: 2016 R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl

It's a mini-Magnolia bowl as border states face off in New Orleans. The Pride of Acadiana should just install a band room in the Mercedes Benz Superdome, where this will be their fifth appearance in six years.

Southern Miss:


B4: 2016 Raycom Media Camellia Bowl

Relative FBS newcomer Appalachian State returns to the scene of the crime - the only bowl they've ever known - to defend their undefeated (1-0) bowl record against the Rockets.

Appalachian State:


B4: 2016 Cure Bowl

The tunnels at Camping World Stadium (formerly the Citrus Bowl) should feel familiar to the Marching Knights' collective conscious - it was their home field until Bright House Networks Stadium opened a decade ago.

C. Florida:

Arkansas State:

B4: 2016 Las Vegas Bowl

Houston had their sights set a good deal higher this season. While the Spirit of Houston missed out on a conference championship game appearance, the Marching Aztecs got to see their team hoist the Mountain West championship.


San Diego State:

B4: 2016 Gildan New Mexico Bowl

The Spirit of New Mexico gets to stay home and play host to the Spirit of San Antonio, as the UTSA Roadrunners will be attending their first bowl game since starting football in 2011 and FBS as a full member 2014.

New Mexico:


B4: 2016 Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl

Grambling's World-Famed Tiger Band is no stranger to championships, having marched halftime in the first two Super Bowls. NC Central's Marching Sound Machine will represent the MEAC in the Celebration Bowl, having returned to the conference and Division I just six years ago.

NC Central:


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Champ is Here!

An event many have only dreamed of will soon become reality: A college marching band national championship.

That is the vision of the National Collegiate Marching Band Championships & Festival, which will debut in Columbia, SC December 1-3, 2017. The event is the brainchild of Bob Lane, a South Carolina Mighty Sound of the Southeast alumnus, and his team down in Columbia, who have partnered with the city and the Special Olympics, among others, to present the festival. While details are few at this point, we do know the dates, the location (Spirit Communications Park, the newly opened home of the minor league Columbia Fireflies), and the format: champions will be crowned for those who choose to compete in show band and two corps style categories (under and over 200 winds), and opportunities will exist for bands who wish to perform in exhibition. Bands have the opportunity now to apply to participate, and I can't wait to see who ends up coming to the inaugural event.

For those keeping score at home, I'm based in Greensboro, NC, about three hours north of Columbia. News of the event hit me with simultaneous excitement and pre-emptive FOMO (fear of missing out). After all, I know that that particular time frame is usually spoken for for me with an annual conference I attend, and having such an event be simultaneously within reach and unaccessible might drive me crazy. At it turns out, there is indeed overlap, but the conference will be in Atlanta in 2017, making catching at least some of the action in Columbia not just possible but actually rather convenient.

While I look forward to the event, I look just as forward to seeing how it catches on in the college band community. The chosen weekend may present a challenge for some bands: It is conference championships for all of the FBS leagues and the SWAC; FCS and Division II and III are already in the midst of playoffs, possibly causing some hesitance to commit from bands who expect their teams to be competitive in the upcoming season. With the location, participation may skew southeasterly; even bands who may participate in the SEC and ACC championships could be slated for Friday or Sunday and travel to/from Atlanta or Charlotte (hopefully) with ease. The amount of assistance available for band travel - or the value they place in the newly minted championship - may be a determining factor for those traveling from further. After all, an FBS band with conference championship aspirations will be adding this travel to a conference championship and a bowl game in December/early January; even more if they're playoff bound. A playoff program in either of the other divisions may be juggling it with even more expansive travel. Still, the allure of an event that truly brings together bands across divisions, styles, and institution types may make this too sweet a deal to pass up. There's already been some buzz from bands about dream matchups. Imagine the possibility:

What a time to be alive.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Willie Go/Strong Candidate

Earlier this week, the Willie Taggart era ended at USF, as Taggart departed form Tampa to become the head coach at the University of Oregon. While it wasn't unforeseeable, I had hoped against hope that his local ties and perhaps some unfinished business might keep him a Bull at least a year beyond what common sense would dictate. He's headed to Oregon in hopes of pursuing a lifelong dream - to become the first black head coach to win a national championship, a feat that is sadly nearly impossible at USF - and I wish him the best. It also becomes painfully evident that this is our lot in life: Every time USF tastes success, a school with more resources and a path to a national championship will be right there to snatch our coach up, and he'll likely go willingly; see the aforementioned more resources and path to a national championship.

Talk turned pretty quickly to who Taggart's successor would be. A few names surfaced, including one that would cause me to flip a table (Schiano) but at present, the bulk of the energy seems to be pointed towards Charlie Strong, who has flown to Tampa to interview for the position. While it's not yet a done deal, I will offer this humblebrag:

Prediction aside, Strong makes a lot of sense to me, and in my opinion, to both sides. For Strong, USF offers an opportunity to remain a head coach following his firing at Texas, rather than returning to the coordinator ranks as so many ousted coaches do. Hell, he won't even need to change his hand sign. Some will point to his recent failure and firing at Texas as reason enough not pursue him, but I'll counter that his most recent stop at a comparable level - Louisville, in a still-auto-qualifying Big East - was a success. While I don't wish to damn any future success for Strong, his Texas stop would be the Peter principle at work.

I've been trolling Twitter pretty thoroughly, and as of this posting, nothing's gone final. Keep an eye on the foremost Bulls source, The Daily Stampede, for news as it develops.

Saturday, December 10, 2016


As bowl season gets underway next week, there will be a notable absence. Whether that absence is lamented or celebrated depends entirely on your perspective.

Stanford's marching band, the court jester of the marching world, has been suspended for 18 months following violation of university policies. The band was found responsible for new violations that included alcohol abuse and unauthorized travel, and violating sanctions from a previous Organization Conduct Board ruling. The suspension will keep the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band from appearing in this season's Sun Bowl, and if the terms are not altered, will keep them out of the entire 2017 football season. Perhaps the most damning is the board's statement upon sanctioning that the band's recent violations are “incredibly troubling and indicative of a systemic cultural problem,” and that “[they] do not feel that the current leadership or membership is capable of creating the necessary cultural change”.

I can't help but wonder if this is the beginning of the end of the Stanford band as we know it.

Stanford has put a transition committee in place that will include a new music director and a new organizational framework. The LSJUMB is student-led by design, and is the last of the scramble bands remaining among Power 5 conferences. They've had a few high profile troubles recently, not the least of which was the last Rose Bowl, and it's possible the administration is fed up. In a statement, the university spokewoman affirmed that “Stanford treasures the band and its irreverence, its scatter-band tradition and the tree and the dollies [...] No one expects those elements to change.” but I think chances are good change is indeed on the horizon.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

#WinningSaturday to #GivingTuesday

I don't know how exactly a team can sneak to a double digit win season, but USF seems to have done it.

Win #10, the final win of the regular season, came over C. Florida in the long-dubbed, now-recognized (and trophied) War on I-4. I'll fully admit that my views on the rivalry have evolved. I don't like C. Florida. I-4 is a punk ass state route that calls itself an interstate, Orlando is in non-coastal Florida (so what's the point?), their mayor is a mouse, and while I don't follow MLS, I root against Orlando City just because. So yeah, it felt glad to beat them, raise the overall series leader to 6-2 (2-2 since becoming conferencemates) and put the newly minted trophy in the trophy case that Knights love to talk about.

But yeah, swag my Bulls out. SB Nation just did. Sure, at times our defense thinks we're still auditioning for the Big 12, but with the Gulf Coast Offense averaging nearly 40 points a game, we've almost always been able to afford it. The team finished 10-2, brought home a co-division championship (shut up, I'm counting it) and burst into the rankings in the two major polls (but no love from the CFB playoff committee). Yet it's somehow been reasonably quiet - which I don't mind one bit. Granted, I don't think that any search firm worth its salt will overlook Willie Taggart as a candidate for some high profile jobs - reportedly Oregon's already sizing him up - but my hope is that having finally come home to USF and the Tampa Bay area, combined with unfinished business and a talented QB/RB tandem that may be able to be convinced to stay, given USF's relative obscurity, he may give it another go.

*                    *                    *
This past Tuesday was culturally and commercially designated #GivingTuesday, and I took the opportunity to revive the Little Drummer Project, getting a pair of drumsticks and a practice pad to donate through Toys for Tots to a kid in need. This year, I actually get to combine my gift with my day job; our NPHC students are working with Toys for Tots to sponsor a family, and I'm donating my gift directly through them. 
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