Does mainstream media focus on HBCU bands take away from athletes?

HBCU Bands

When mainstream media does cover HBCUs, often the focus is more on the bands than the actual athletes.

NEW ORLEANS–The 44th Annual Bayou Classic will take place on Saturday when Grambling and Southern face off in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. There is a lot at stake, football-wise, as the winner of the game will win the right to face Alcorn State in the final SWAC Championship Game next week.

It’s the third time in a row that the outcome of the game will have bigger implications than just bragging rights. Still, for many people in and out of the HBCU football community, that is less important than the matchup between Southern’s Human Jukebox and Grambling’s World Famed Marching Tiger Band. And for some who really follow these teams throughout the year, that’s a problem.

ESPN raised that question on Saturday morning when it’s College Gameday Crew talked about the Bayou Classic during its show.

Pope, a sports reporter for the Durham Herald-Sun, took issue with the way the game was framed. As a member of the media and an HBCU alumnus, his critique is one that many have had.

An Elizabeth City State graduate, he’s also spent the last year-plus covering the North Carolina Central beat for his publication. It was announced earlier this week that he will be moved to the reporting beat but will cover “some NCCU.”

Back to the situation at hand, the band chatter from mainstream media often borders on a backhanded compliment tone. It’s even worse during the NCAA Tournament when the MEAC and SWAC representatives are pinned against a top-flight Power Five team that they have little chance of beating.

HBCU Sports Matter, Too

At HBCU Gameday, we have always recognized that the bands are an important part of the experience, hence the nod to them embedded in our name. I wanted it to be more than just sports, and bands elevate it to that level. But games allow bands a chance to showcase their skills on a regular basis as well.

Make no mistake about it, HBCU marching bands matter and do put butts in the seat. I wrote an editorial about how removing the battle of the bands from football games would kill HBCU culture, so I get it. Friday night I got to see the power of HBCU bands first hand again at the Bayou Classic Battle of the Bands for the second year in a row and it was amazing.

But for those of us who cover or care for the sport deeper than just sky level, the band praise from mainstream media often feels like a slap in the face to the student-athletes, coaches, and administrators who dedicate themselves to putting out the best product available.

Give us your thoughts in the comments.



  1. dan hawkins

    November 25, 2017 at 5:13 pm

    I am a big fan of HBCU bands; I attended 2 colleges that did not have football or marching bands! I like Hbcu football but on the web the bans are more accessible!

  2. Dennis W. Ellis

    November 25, 2017 at 6:20 pm

    In my very personal opinion, I become very disappointed and very burned up when some sportswriters take it upon themselves and sanctimonious ignorance to knock HBCU Marching Bands and refuse to give those very deserving Student-Musicians their just due! There is enough room to show and grow respect for both the Student-Athlete and the Student-Musicians, when it comes to bringing exposure and growth to all of our HBCUs via print and television media. Some sportswriters should slow their rolls and spread some love for the hard working Student Musicians who support our student Athletes and Fans from our HBCUs and Communities. Shame on some sportswriters! The unwarranted putdowns of HBCU Bands, from some of them are very disappointing. It is as if those student-musicians and fans should not be part of the total Football and Basketball Experiences for everyone. Please rethink your unneeded putdowns that seem to depict an undercurrent of a crab-in-the-barrow ignorant mentality and disrespect of HBCUs regarding their bands everywhere.

  3. Thomas

    November 25, 2017 at 11:20 pm

    Improve the quality of rhe teams and get sime real national recognition and people will respect the teams more….At where HBCU athletics is right now no of the teams really win outside of there confrences…

  4. Russell Jones

    November 26, 2017 at 1:09 am

    This entire article is way off base and the attacks on HBCU band programs honestly need to cease. Instead of making out of the way statements like this that could end up giving people a negative impression of band programs and their impact on HBCU football , you need to concentrate on asking questions that point towards finding long-term solutions to the problems that HBCU football programs and athletic programs, as a whole, suffer from. The main reason why I have a problem with these statements and opinions is because although they are just a source of momentary entertainment and excitement, for those of you who are on the outside looking in, many don’t have the first idea about what it takes to bring the presentations you see on Saturdays together or the hardships these ensembles often ensure in spite of how they might make you smile and cheer on gameday. The ugly truth of the matter is that many of these band programs are suffering just as much, if not more, than the athletic programs you claim they’re taking so much attention from. With all the funding that is being taken away from marching bands (and other instrumental music programs at these schools each year) the directors and students are constantly being put under pressure to recruit, provide scholarships, retain students, fix or purchase equipment, perform logistical functions, and maintain the entire program at an exceptional level on sub-par shoestring budgets unbenounced to all those who watch them bring it when the spotlight is finally shined in their direction as if everything is just fine. HBCU bands do indeed put buttstock not the seats and are often subjected to exposure to excess pressure when the sports teams and other entities around them aren’t pulling their weight financially. So as an HBCU alumnist and former bandsmen, I couldn’t see what was being written and not speak up for all those across the country who have ever picked up an instrument, flag, baton, or dancing shoes and put on a uniform to represent their schools to the best of their abilities, only to be sold short when there’s a problem to be solved and the gun is aimed at them unnecessarily to create a cheap solution. The HBCU gameday experience is unique and an institution unto itself which many of us treasure, although others don’t understand it and attempt to steal certain elements of it often. And in other instances, politics and changing times have taken their turns at destroying the magic that is present whenever an HBCU athletic event is taking place. Therefore, when initiating conversations about the solutions that will make our situation better, we have to be careful not to throw any of our crown jewels under the bus or speak without an understanding of what’s taking place in the whole of our atmosphere.

    • Russell Jones

      November 26, 2017 at 1:27 am

      *HBCU bands do indeed put butts in the seats
      (auto-correct got me).

  5. Kenney Millard

    November 26, 2017 at 1:19 am

    Its Bullshit…why? Pick a reason. But you would think coaches and athletes have enough on their plate putting out the best on Saturday…because thats what the bands do.

  6. Lauren Cohen

    November 26, 2017 at 2:24 pm


    1. Mainstream media doesn’t focus on HBCU sports in general, let alone the band. Any exposure of any aspect of an HBCU is good exposure, so let’s not get carried away here with this hateful rhetoric.

    2. When they do focus on HBCU’s, you’ll only see the band for a grand total of one minute.

    3. The exception is the Bayou Classic because it’s tradition to show The Human Jukebox and World-Famed halftime shows. The know good and well the band is part of HBCU culture, so they show them to get their ratings up.

    4. Maybe if we had more funding, we would have better athletes, practice facilities, coaching staff, etc. Don’t blame the band.

    5. You’re a hater.

  7. Lee Packnett

    November 26, 2017 at 3:42 pm

    I agree unless there is an elite athlete playing at a HBCU. When MVSU had Rice and Totten, it was all about the high power offense; when Steve McNair was setting records at Alcorn, the band was hardly mentioned. A good storyline for Grambling would be the number of FBS transfers playing key roles in their resurgence and how Coach Fobbs has “righted the ship.” In my opinion, it is lazy journalism.

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