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Column: HBCU Bands offer exposure that HBCU sports doesn’t need

(Erin Mizelle photo)

Forty or fifty years ago, Southern against Georgia might have been a good matchup on the football field. When the two teams enter Sanford Stadium on Saturday, there will be no contest on the field.

Georgia will be looking to get an easy win and keep its team healthy as it readies itself for SEC play. Southern will be looking to keep its key players from being hurt in a game it has no chance to win and cash the $650,000 check it is owed for its services.

Those services include a halftime performance by Southern’s Human Jukebox Marching Band that was built-in to the contract signed between the two schools.

“Normally a stipulation for visiting band attendance is not included in game contracts,” Georgia spokesman Claude Felton told ESPN. “However, the Southern University band is nationally known for its performing excellence and will provide a unique entertainment experience for our fans.”

This is what black college football has come to in the eyes of the world at large—a high-stepping marching band and a blowout loss to a major program.

“Even though we’re known around the nation for being the best, I still think we’re probably the best-kept secret,” Nathan Haymer, Southern’s director of bands, said. “I really don’t think Georgia understands what’s coming to them because they’re focused on the football game. I’m not going to be politically correct, it’s not going to be much of a game, but halftime is where the action is going to be.”

Make no mistake about it—these games are not restricted to Southern, the SWAC or HBCUs as a whole. Money Games, FBS vs. FCS games specifically, are a part of the landscape of college football. They have their purpose. They allow bigger programs to get an easy win, and they allow smaller programs to pay the price of maintaining their athletic departments.

The question is, are all Money Games equal? And the answer is, in the words of the Winans Brothers, “no, no, no, no, no…”

When HBCUs play these games against FBS schools, they not only have to deal with challenge of being faced with an overmatched opponent, they are also fighting an additional battle that FCS schools do not have worry about. They have to combat the perception that their schools either aren’t serious about athletics or even worse, cannot compete with PWI institutions as a whole. 

Many people within the schools that participate in those games will trump the “exposure” card. But what exactly are we exposing? The fact is, as FCS teams, HBCUs can only offer 63 scholarships, and compared to the 85 FBS teams can offer. And many of them aren’t even close to the max at that level.

Those structural differences make sense to those who know the business of college football. But to the student-athletes that we hope to recruit, they don’t mean much. All they see is a “black school” with black athletes losing to a bigger school with black athletes. Given a choice between the two programs, who do you think they are going to choose?

As Felton said, the stipulation for bringing a band for a visitor is out of the ordinary. The fact is, if folks knew Southern’s band wasn’t coming, a lot of them probably wouldn’t end up coming and it would lose out on ticket sales.

Do you think Ohio State would have paid FAMU almost a million dollars two years ago if they would have known that the famed Marching 100 wouldn’t be there? You’d have a hard time convincing me or anyone else, especially after the acknowledgement that bringing the band was a part of the deal.

Don’t believe me? Just try to get a six figure deal to come to an FBS school and tell them you are leaving your band at home. Let me know how that works out.

Look, I love our marching bands as much as anyone else. They are great brand ambassadors for our schools, but it has become painfully obvious that their value supremely outweighs the value of the black college football’s on-the-field product. For some, that’s fine, but for those who care about what actually happens on the field, it’s just a sad reality.

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Julius Coxswain

    September 23, 2015 at 7:25 pm

    HBCUs and other smaller schools need the money games to keep the athletic department afloat. The bands help HBCU athletic departments gain the money they need. If HBCUS elect to stop playing money games, what funds are going to replace the money lost from playing in money games. There are not enough “classics” in a season to make up that shortfall. A lot of Black folk complain about the money games. but offer no solutions to the financial crisis facing most HBCU athletic programs.

  2. New View

    September 24, 2015 at 4:05 am

    You don't “love” hbcu marching bands. This isn't the first article where you erroneously blame the marching bands for what's “wrong” with hbcu football. In fact, you often write as IF the STUDENTS in the marching band are the problem. So you also take issue with hbcu college attendance as WELL. But I don't subscribe to your blog and never will.

  3. Ruckus Askani

    September 24, 2015 at 8:45 am

    Ah, blame the.band huh? Thats an easy one isnt it? How about.putting the focus and blame where it probably truly belongs..on the AD's, Coaches and School Presidents

  4. Dennis W. Ellis

    September 24, 2015 at 9:26 am

    If one were to ask the question, how many Division I FCS Schools Won Games against any Division I (FBS) Schools, There would be very few in number. People forget that more PWC Division I (FCS) schools play those money games more often than HBCU Division I (FCS) do, including Basketball as well. Now, how many Division I (FCS) PWCs that you know of, complain about this type of NCAA Arrangement, regarding making a means to add additional monetary resources into their programs?

    Division I FCS Programs offer a maximum of 63 Athletics football scholarships as compared to 85 Athletics Scholarships for Division I (FBS) Football programs.

    So, what is the big deal? It is about making the Big Bucks to place back into one's Division I FCS Athletics Programs. (Anywhere on average from about $300,000 to about $600,000 per contracted game)

    Now, HBCU Division II Programs play HBCU Division I (FCS) Programs for the same reason, although the financial payout is nowhere near the same amounts. It is a chance to make some money for their programs as well. Division II Programs do not usually beat Division I (FCS) programs. The scholarship difference is 36 Scholarships for Division II and 63 Scholarships for Division I (FCS).

    HBCU Bands can play a very important part In the Contract negotiations value and signings of those games because Most Division I (FBS) PWCs very seldom get to see an outstanding HBCU Action-packed Marching Bands, that will attract and bring in extra fans for halftime entertainment.

    One would like to think that the HBCUs who sign those contracts, also share a little of the contract cash to help support the Band Program from that School. Plus, it helps to recruit additional students for the school and additional Band Members who would love to have a chance to play in an outstanding HBCU Band from an excellent academic school as well.

    So, what is the big deal? It is a chance for HBCUs to receive some very good athletics paydays for smaller programs, which is the way of the world in College Athletics.

    Now, which is the lesser of the two evils? Being broke with poor chances of making needed revenue for the athletics program and the Band, or going without and having a much poorer Division I (FCS) athletics program with a much poorer Band program with less national recruitment advertisement for your HBCU?

    Sometimes, we simply forget the forest for the trees and the simple bottom line of what College Athletics and Band is all about anyway. That bottom line is to recruit students for the continued operation of the school and perhaps make a few dollars, in doing so, for the athletics program along the way.

    Just My View.

    Take Care!

  5. Unknown

    September 24, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    This whole article is off base. Apparently you've never been to an FBS game, let alone a Georgia game. They don't “need” Southerns band to sell tickets. That stadium is sold out for years to come. Hard as hell to get season tickets. Those loyal UGA fans are gonna pack that stadium whether they are playing Auburn or some junior college team.

  6. smov23

    September 24, 2015 at 4:58 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. smov23

    September 24, 2015 at 4:59 pm

    PWIs just want to get an easy win on their record. Those game also, help PWIs become bowl eligible.

  8. Unknown

    September 27, 2015 at 9:39 pm

    As one commenter stated, the blame should be placed on the ADs, coaches, presidents, and board of trustees for the inferior sports programs. The bands are good, but if the mentioned parties are going to pimp the bands and use the athletes as sacrificial lambs, at least hustle for a bigger payout. I will say that if the ADs, presidents, coaches, and board are not going to hunt for bigger funding of sports programs through sponsorships, ads, etc., then eliminate the program. It is an insult to these athletes when they feel unappreciated with inadequate funding and inferior facilities. Overall, we need to hold the power-to-be responsible for this bad programs, not the bands.

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