The real behind-the-scenes juggling act is coordinating the travel plans.
Roy King has to get 325 members of the LSU Tiger Marching Band to the Music City Bowl in Nashville on Saturday. That’s not even counting staff members and their families.
King is director of athletic bands at LSU. And before this, he was the Tiger Band’s assistant director at a time when there were no special computer databases to organize travel plans.
“Linda and I would spread everything out on a table in the band room, then go down the list,” King says.
He refers to office coordinator Linda Saucier, who helped King with the check list. Since 1996, the LSU Athletic Department has been allotting each band member a certain amount of cash to compensate the amount of mileage they have to travel to the band room for a bowl game.
This system is still in place as the band prepares to travel to Nashville for LSU’s Tuesday football game against the University of Notre Dame in the Music City Bowl. The bulk of the band will leave campus Saturday on buses, which will drive straight to Nashville, for three activity-packed days.
The most important activity, of course, is the Tigers’ 2 p.m. battle against the Fighting Irish on Tuesday.
“We’re looking forward to the game,” King says. “And I know we’re going to win.”
But before the band can cheer the Tigers to a victory, it first has to get to Nashville, which was complicated this year by the NCAA’s new college football playoff system.
“We used to know who would be going to what bowls about a week ahead of this,” King says.
He was speaking during the week after Thanksgiving, meaning there was only a little more than three weeks until the Music City Bowl at that point.
“So, we used to have more time,” King says. “When I last met with the kids, we didn’t know where we were going to be at bowl time, so we asked them to fill out information about where they were going to be around this time.”
He turns to the computer screen on his desk for an easy view. Each band member — which includes Golden Girls and Colorguard — is listed alphabetically, their names followed by their hometowns. Mileage is calculated from their homes to the band room.
“If flying to Nashville is cheaper than the mileage, then a flight is booked for the student,” King says.
“After they (the students) confirm it, the athletic department purchases the tickets, and they meet us in Nashville,” King says. “We have them coming in from Las Vegas; Littlefield, New York; Washington, D.C.; Virginia Beach; Omaha, Nebraska; Toledo, Ohio; Carson City, Nevada; and Okemos, Michigan.”
Meanwhile, students driving to the band room are compensated for their mileage from and to home.
This is all logistics, one of the behind-the-scenes Tiger Band happenings not seen by most people. But they do see the band when it marches in a never-ending line of gold to the stadium, and they cheer when the band plays “Pregame” outside the stadium.
This is only a precursor to the actual pregame show inside the stadium.
And if the fans want to see these things, then King and his staff has to do the math in the band office so the band can participate in a Battle of the Bands with Notre Dame’s Band of the Fighting Irish on the corner of Nashville’s First and Broadway streets. The band also will participate in a pep rally at 10:15 the morning of the game.
A few Tiger Band-only activities also are scheduled, including the annual band banquet.
“We’ve been having our banquet during the bowl trips in the last few years, and this year we’re made arrangements to have it at the Wild Horse Saloon in Nashville,” King says. “We’ll be doing the same things we’ve done in the past like giving out awards and recognizing the students who have been there a long time.”
But this year’s banquet will be spiced by something extra.
“The banquet is going to be followed up by the Wild Horse Saloon’s traditional entertainment, and they’re going to teach the band members how to line dance,” King says. “The band is going to be the only people there that night, and the owner said we could stay there as long as we want.”
The halftime show will be a repeat of a show the band performed earlier in the season, featuring music by Journey, Bruno Mars and the musical, “West Side Story.”
“And we’re also going to have a surprise ending,” King says. “But it won’t come as a surprise to LSU fans who have attended the Tigers’ bowl games in recent years. They’re come to expect what we will be performing at the end.”
The Tiger Band will leave Nashville immediately following the game.
“We don’t have much time in Nashville, but we’ll be busy while we’re there,” King says.
And band members will be traveling from all parts of the nation to cheer the Tigers to a victory.