05-25-2024  8:20 am   •   PDX and SEA Weather
by BOTWC Staff
Published: 02 August 2023

ESPN has signed on as a partner!

This weekend during the Cricket Challenge and Celebration Bowl press conference, executive director John T. Grant announced a new addition to the power packed weekend, the first ever HBCU Marching Band National Championship, Sports Illustrated HBCU Legends reports. Hosted annually by the Mid-Eastern and Southwestern Athletic Conferences, the Celebration Bowl normally attracts huge fanfare from those looking to partake in the HBCU football festivities. Now with the band element added, the weekend is expected to be that much more spectacular, ESPN already signing on as a broadcast partner. 

“How do we enhance the fan experience? How do we create content that our fans are excited to consume and that they will, in turn, regurgitate after the experiences are over? Hence, the announcement of the band of the year. We know that in the HBCU culture is a three-legged stool. One is football, which includes tailgating, socialization, homecomings, and everything around that. The other are Greek organizations and the role that they have. And we just added the final layer. This is going to be a nuclear weekend,” said Grant. 

Battle of the Bands

HBCU Marching Bands have for long been the heart and soul of these historically Black institutions. Notable bands like Alabama State’s “Mighty Marching Hornets,” Southern University’s “Human Jukebox,” and Jackson State’s “Sonic Boom of the South,” have forever been imitated but never duplicated, fans showing up for the band performances with the same excitement that they show up for the game. The new championships will allow bands from Division I and Division II to compete through the season for a chance to compete in Atlanta at the Celebration Bowl and take home the title of “Band of the Year.” 

Evaluation and ranking will begin during the regular season, each band getting a weekly ranking of their performances. Rankings will be released twice a month via ESPN with four-final bands heading to the national championship, two from each division. 

“We’re going to be looking at things like precision, musicality, originality, your drumline, drum majors, and dance lines, and points will be assigned by the judges,” Grant explained. 

Division 1 and Division 2 band directors will be responsible for judging both division teams. Don Roberts, former Florida A&M “Marching 100” drum major and longtime Southwest DeKalb High band director, will spearhead the judging process. Roberts has previously served as band consultant for Beyonce’s HBCU-themed 2018 Coachella performance and as executive band consultant for the hit movie “Drumline,” and its sequel “Drumline: A New Beat.” 

“There’s never been a competition for college HBCU bands on an annual basis, so this is cutting edge,” said Roberts. 

While teams will be competing for the coveted national title, the exposure through the ESPN Events partnerships is what’s really groundbreaking. By showcasing the talent of HBCU bands on a national platform, it elevates the collegiate band programs, organizers hoping that it will also have an impact on middle and high school band programs. The Celebration Bowl is set to take place this December with two HBCU bands fighting to the finish!

We want our tickets NOW!

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