While football at any level is a great sport and a lot of fun, college football stands out as the most truly enjoyable version of the sport, at least in terms of the overall experience. While the NFL is better played and high school is somewhat more pure, the atmosphere of a college football game is unique and it is that atmosphere that elevates a college football gameday above all others. As Ohio State fans we are blessed with having one of the best gameday atmospheres in the country and a major reason for that is the Ohio State University Marching Band; you would be hard pressed to find an OSU fan who didn’t feel that Skull Session, the ramp entrance, ‘Script Ohio’, or the band’s halftime show weren’t vital parts of a football Saturday in Columbus. Buckeye fans and visitors to Columbus have long known just how good TBDBITL really is but some changes coming this fall will make even more people aware of the how impressive the band truly is.
OSU President Gordon Gee has said on numerous occasions how much he likes the marching band and how he feels they are important representatives of the university. That view of the band is now reflected in a new funding model that will begin this fall. Traditionally the OSUMB has been funded by the College of Arts and Sciences and the Athletic Department. Both of these groups will continue to provide funding but the band will also now receiving funding from the Development Office of the President. This will increase the band’s annual budget to $1 million, moving the OSUMB from ninth place in the Big Ten to first.
The increased funding will have several immediate benefits for the OSUMB and its members. The band will now be able to provide dry cleaning, spats, gloves, practice sweats, etc… for band members. TBDBITL’s high standard of excellence and attention to detail extends not only to their performance on the field but also to the appearance of each member. The band has a strict uniform standard which requires that uniforms, spats, and gloves be clean for each performance which normally necessitates getting the uniforms dry cleaned each week and purchasing new spats and gloves. Traditionally these expenses have come out of the pocket of the band members and while individually they are not much, they quickly add up over the course of the season and can represent a significant amount of money for a college student.
The extra funding will also allow the band to travel to more road games. In the past decade or two the band has traditionally gone to one away game each season plus the bowl game; occasionally special circumstances have allowed for a trip to a second road game. The major reason for this has been financial as it costs a lot of money for the 225 member band and its support staff to travel. Even a simple road trip to a Big Ten game requires chartering 6 busses, and often an equipment truck, and then paying for at least one night in a hotel plus meals for everyone. If the trip requires flying the costs escalate quickly. Fortunately the increased funding for the band will make more road game trips possible and it will start immediately as the OSUMB will be traveling to four road games this fall. That is right; four opposing fan bases will get to see in person why the band is known as TBDBITL.
The band hits the road early in the season as they will travel to California for the game against the Bears on September 14th; the trip will include a concert at Pixar studios. The band won’t travel again until the month of November but that is going to be a busy month as the band will be going to Purdue on November 2nd, Illinois on the 16th, and Michigan on the 30th. The OSUMB will also perform a concert in Van Wert, Ohio on November 7th and at the Kalahari Resort in Sandusky on November 29th. The busy travel schedule will challenge band members to keep up on school work but will be a lot of fun and I guarantee that no band member will complain about the chance to travel more in support of the team and university.
While the OSUMB’s tradition of excellence has long been recognized by the university, the change in the funding for the band was likely driven in part by the massive amount of publicity the band received for its shows last season, most notably the now famous video game show. The band has long been used to represent the university, being asked to perform at numerous special events, both sports related and non-sports related, and their talent, dedication, hard work, and high level of execution have made them great representatives of some of the best qualities of Ohio State and its students. With the band now able to go to more road games each season, they will be able to serve as good advertising for OSU to even more people.
The university wasn’t the only group impressed with the amount of attention the band received last year, the Big Ten network as has also taken notice; this may have something to do with the video game halftime show drawing a viewer total on Youtube that was three times the number of people who watched the football game. Because of the popularity of the band, BTN is now in talks with the OSUMB to provide live streaming of the band’s halftime shows this season. While these talks are still in the early stages and nothing is close to being finalized yet, it is good that BTN has realized that marching bands are an important part of the college football experience and are looking into making it easier for people to be able to watch the band. NBC has provided live, online streaming of Notre Dame halftime shows for a few years and it is nice that TBDBITL may get the chance to receive similar treatment, allowing OSU fans across the world the chance to see the band and get a bit more of the feeling of being at an OSU game even when separated by large distances.
Running a marching band, especially one the quality of TBDBITL, is expensive and even with this increased budget, the band cannot afford to just go buy everything they would like. To that end, the band has launched a campaign to raise $120,000 to buy iPads for each member of the band to use. Throughout its history, the OSUMB has prided itself on its innovation and the uses of iPads is just the latest cutting edge idea from the band and it is one that will improve the band and save money down the road. The primary use for the iPads would be for reading music and drill. Currently the band has to photocopy music and drill for each show for each band member and this costs the band approximately $20,000 per year which would be saved by the band members getting these things electronically. Additionally the band would be able to send rehearsal videos, drill animations, and other things to members, allowing them to better visualize how the show will come together and where improvements need to be made.
The OSUMB is hoping that they can get some corporate sponsors to help fund the purchase of the iPads and heavy duty cases to protect them from the elements. The band’s visibility makes them attractive to sponsors but don’t worry about seeing corporate logo formations on the field or the naming rights to ‘Script Ohio’ sold, the band will not sell out like that. In addition to the financial cost, all the photocopying of music and drill by the band has an environmental cost at is uses approximately one million pieces of paper each year. Recognizing the chance to save on paper, the Ohio State Sustainability Office has stepped up and pledged $25,000 for the project.
As a band alum I am very excited about these changes to the Ohio State Marching Band and the opportunities they present for both the band members and the fans. Members of the band will get to experience more road trips, which produced some of my best college memories, and they will have to bear a smaller financial burden for being in the band. Fans who live outside Ohio and who cannot make it to home games will have more opportunities to see band at road games and fans of other schools will get to see why the band is called TBDBITL. Finally the football team will get even more support on the road with the band in attendance, something that former coach Jim Tressel believed made a big difference in games.