One of the unique aspects of college football that separates it from the NFL is the pageantry that surrounds a college game. The student sections, cheerleaders and of course, the bands (although some NFL teams do have bands, like Baltimore's Marching Ravens and the Redskins Marching Band). On Saturday, when Maryland takes on West Virginia at M&T Band Stadium in Baltimore, The Pride of West Virginia will be making the trip, but they won't be performing on the field during halftime.
While the game isn't being played at Byrd Stadium, it is still a home game for the Terps. The game was originally scheduled to be played in College Park before the school decided to move the game offsite to Baltimore. As a result, Maryland calls the shots for things like opposing team's bands performing on the field during halftime. And while the bands of visiting teams have definitely performed at Byrd Stadium in the past, the Athletic Department seems to have somewhat recently adopted a policy that prohibits visiting bands from performing during halftime. This didn't go over well with the West Virginia Band, who said the following on their facebook page on Monday:
"We regretfully announce that the University of Maryland will not allow the WVU Band to perform on the field at the WVU vs. Maryland game in Baltimore on Saturday. Members of the WVU Band will still travel to the game to play in the stands to enthusiastically support the Mountaineer Football team. Thank you for your support!"
The post was shared over 800 times and received over 600 likes and 300 comments, including some from Maryland fans who showed their support for allowing WVU's band to perform.
When asked about WVU's band being denied the ability to perform at halftime Saturday, Maryland's Athletic Department issued the following statement:
"It is our practice at Maryland to only have the Maryland Band perform on the field during our home football games. While the visiting team bands do not perform on the field, we are always pleased to set aside a section of seats within the visiting team section for them and we encourage the visiting team band to attend and perform from their seats for the enjoyment of their team and fans."
"We are following our standard practice with the West Virginia Band on Saturday and we have set aside seats for them near the field. We communicated this information to the band representatives at West Virginia last June in order to allow them plenty of time for appropriate planning."
It appears that Maryland gave WVU a heads up about this a while ago, probably when they made the decision to move the game to Baltimore, so it shouldn't come as a surprise to them. But maintaining this policy into the future, as Maryland transitions into the Big Ten, could prove troublesome when teams such as Ohio State and Michigan visit College Park for the first time, most likely with their bands in tow. Ohio State recently announced that they'll be sending their band to all but one of OSU's road games this season, thanks in part to increased funding from the school that pushed the band's budget to $1 million dollars. With that kind of investment in their bands, you'd think that those schools will push hard to get them on the field at Maryland, although there doesn't appear to be a formal Big Ten policy that mandates schools to allow visiting team's bands to perform.
While college games can include some fierce rivalries, the bands involved are often very kind and appreciative of each other. There is a mutual respect between most bands that transcends any hatred and disdain that can accompany the most bitter rivalries. That normally holds true for opposing teams' fans as well, who often appreciate a visiting band's performance. I can remember traveling to Florida State one season and performing at Doak Campbell Stadium and having their fans stay and applaud our halftime show. A blanket policy prohibiting visiting bands from taking the field goes against that mutual respect and admiration for music and marching that college bands share.
For now, only the Mighty Sound of Maryland will be taking the field Saturday in Baltimore, adding another wrinkle into the Border Battle rivalry game.