If football season is cancelled, where does that put marching bands?

As the NCAA has canceled all spring sports, the MLB postponing their season, and a return to the NBA season looking more unlikely by the COVID-19 case, the biggest question surrounding sports is, will there be a college football season? Even if there is one, will it be played with fans, who undoubtedly drive the entertainment factor of the sport?

An aspect of college football that the average person wouldn’t think about is marching bands. If there’s no college football, or if games are played without fans, where does that leave marching band programs? It’ll put the same strain financially on programs across the country.

As for scholarships and extra years of eligibility, a retired Oklahoma high school band director stated that it would be ideal for directors across the country to traverse through this situation, just like the NCAA and universities have by honoring the kid’s scholarships, and possibly granting them an extra year of eligibility.

2019 State Fair Classic Halftime Show:

While at predominately white colleges, marching bands often come secondary to the football program, it’s the opposite at most historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Marching bands are at the forefront of the show, while the football game is, at times, an afterthought. This is evident at universities like Grambling State University and Prarie View A&M, who have an annual heated rivalry game at Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas, TX, usually a week before the Red River Rivalry. It’s called the State Fair Classic.

While Grambling State – Prairie View A&M feature respectable football programs, the truth is, fans leave this rivalry game after halftime. Why? Because the real draw is the rivalry between the marching bands. That’s what people pay for.

Langston Homecoming Halftime Show:

The same goes for Langston’s marching band in Oklahoma. They don’t have a storybook “rivalry game,” other than their long-time rivalry against Lincoln University in Lincoln, NE, but their football homecoming is what funds a large portion of the school year. Even in Langston’s case, the marching band is the biggest draw. Just like State Fair Classic, the fans stay for the halftime show, and oftentimes, regardless of the score, leave after the show. This is even more uncharacteristic because Langston’s football team has been very good over the last three seasons.

All this talk about college football and college marching bands, and we’re not taking into consideration the high school marching bands, full of kids that are working for a college scholarship. For incoming seniors that don’t have scholarship offers after their junior year, what happens this fall if the high school football season is canceled, or significantly altered? Concert band season in the spring is still an option for scholarships, but some thrive more in a marching band setting. The OSSAA can’t grant another year of eligibility for high school students like the NCAA can for their student-athletes.

Nothing will be solved today, but this is something to ponder on moving forward and hopefully, colleges, universities, and high schools are thinking about the stars of the show that sometimes, take a backseat role to the athletes.

Addam M. Francisco

Founder & Editor-in-Chief. National Association of Black Journalists. University of Central Oklahoma.

2 thoughts on “If football season is cancelled, where does that put marching bands?

  1. I certainly had thought about “it,” & quite a bit…it is a tragedy 4 so many now disillusioned kids. The repercussions of this nightmare scenario from which we have yet 2 awake r far reaching & will 4ever change the landscape of our nation. I don’t c how that is not a distinct, inevitable result. The overriding hysteria & pandemonium will prevail until some sort of partial remedy perhaps is attained, in lieu of a supposed “cure.” The last vaccine that was approved 4 anything of this nature took 5 years 2 be manufactured & approved. Our country will not be recognizable next year, if we 4 still waiting patiently or impatiently perhaps for that 2 happen. We have NO known vaccine 4 cancer, despite decades & tons or research & tens of millions of dollars; AIDS research over the past 35 yrs has produced NO vaccine that is said 2 be a “cure” 4 that disease, despite some advances in treatment, which have led 2 successful remissions 4 many thousands so I have read. Hang on, Sloopy! I don’t think we’ve quite seen the very worst of what may still lie ahead…just being realistic, while also in the dark as 2 complete knowledge & understanding.

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