This one is probably going to be a little bias. The reasoning will become clear as you read on. Saturday morning at most American Universities start about the same. With a party. Not at the typical fraternities or sororities, but in places referred to as the Junction (Mississippi State), the Moshofsky Center, (Oregon), Howard’s Rock (Clemson), but none is more famous and possibly infamous than the Grove at Ole Miss. Ranked the number one tailgating college spot in a 2015 “Bleacher Report” the crowds continues to grow. During the http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2465743-ranking-top-25-college-football-tailgating-schools-for-2015#slide0
Leading the charge into battle and the pep rally is the Pride of the South. The Ole Miss ( University of Mississippi) marching band.These members arrive on campus two weeks before classes start and remain after classes every afternoon to practice. While there are some band stipends available, it isn’t the windfall received for being an athlete, mostly covering the equivalent of books. So many members just play for the love of it, receiving no stipend. There are some benefits such as traveling to other stadiums, but that too is exhausting. With this year’s NCAA sanctions including bowl ineligibility, even that is limited.
During this past Saturday’s unrelenting 62-7 beat down of Ole Miss by Alabama, one thing was clear, the band never gave up. Many fans left the stands early. So many, in fact that others witching the game on ESPN began posting photos from the television of the band in the stands. Some even scolding fans for leaving them in a situation so desolate it looked like a ghost town. When the team wins, the band is there, when the team loses, the band is there. This isn’t a recreation. For many, it is a passion.
This devotion to what some sports casters and even coaches consider unnecessary, is unwavering, but are they right? I would argue that marching band is as much a part of college football than any other tradition. No more so than in the SEC, but it hasn’t been met without its share of controversy. The most recent and largest has been the elimination of a song from the Ole Miss repertoire which may have made them the first marching band to be featured in Sports Illustrated https://www.si.com/college-football/2016/08/19/ole-miss-rebels-marching-band-will-not-perform-dixie
Opinions regarding the song became polarizing at best, but it seems to have settled down in the two years since the announcement. You can view the final performance here : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zUhm22m2Dq4&t=424s On occasion a drunken frat boy or fan in the grove will inevitably yell a string of epithets about the choice, and as band members they can take no action or even verbally retaliate. Similarly, at away games the atmosphere is also hostile, and I have great respect for their restraint. The more recent pre game is posted here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SH7JSpZq26Y&t=325s
You may also watch additional footage of all the band’s performances here. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmGLqfDq9iIN7hddift3bkw They include some of the best marching and interesting music routines being performed. These include a last minute tribute to Prince upon his passing. They have also performed Metallica, AC/DC, Katy Perry, and most recently Justin Timberlake.
View the Justin Timberlake show here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3C_OLRiCwoI
Next time you are attending a game, instead of slipping off to the concession stand at half time, spend ten minutes watching these extremely hard working young people. In my opinion the band always wins on Saturday!
Photos and story by: Belinda Glass Reedy