Let the bands play on.
LSU is lifting a year-old policy that prohibited opposing marching bands from performing during halftime at Tiger Stadium, the school announced Wednesday — the end of a weeklong ordeal that riled up the national band community.
LSU’s new plan involves reconfiguring seating areas in the South end zone so that visiting bands may take a more direct route to the field, reducing the congestion and safety hazards created by the way they previously entered the field. And when visitors are scheduled to perform, the LSU band will play before them, allowing ample time for the visiting band to exit its seats and enter the field in a precise manner.
“There are serious safety issues to consider in adopting the proper plan for on-field performances by visiting bands,” LSU athletic director Joe Alleva said in a written statement. “When both our band and the visiting band are scheduled to perform, there’s the possibility of having over 600 additional people converging onto already crowded sidelines while the game is in progress. There are legitimate safety concerns that can affect our student-athletes, so we have developed a plan to ensure a more secure environment for everyone.”
Risk management officials had recommended the school prohibit opposing bands from playing at halftime, a policy enacted last season, something that seeped out publicly last week. The move prompted a backlash against the school from the band community and college football fans.
Steve Peterson, director of bands at Illinois and former president of the College Band Directors National Association, said earlier this week that “everybody in the college marching band world” was watching the LSU situation closely.
Other schools have policies similar to the one LSU had enacted, said Patrick Dunnigan, current president of the band directors group and Florida State’s band director for the past 25 years. None of them, though, has the football and marching band tradition of a place like LSU, he said.
Fans line the streets to watch the Golden Band from Tigerland march down Victory Hill and fill the stadium before kickoff for the annual pregame salute, a thunderous performance that’s known throughout the college football landscape.
At least one national band director feared LSU’s policy would result in a “slippery slope” that might spread throughout the Southeastern Conference.
Peterson had predicted that band directors would stop taking their full bands to Tiger Stadium, instead sending small pep bands.
Jacksonville State’s band director told a Montgomery TV station last week that he wouldn’t bring his band to the Sept. 10 meeting with the Tigers, LSU’s home opener. Alabama said it would no longer send its full band to LSU games either, according to a post on Facebook from the co-director for Alabama’s Million Dollar Band.
Eddie Nunez, deputy director of athletics at LSU, has estimated that “one to two” opposing bands performed each season before the school enacted the ban last year.
LSU’s small sideline space on the west side behind the home bench was forcing the issue.
To prepare for their halftime show, the 200 or so members of the opposing band would leave their seats in Tiger Stadium’s lower bowl about halfway through the second quarter and stand on the sideline. At the same time, LSU’s 300-plus member band, the football team, television cameras and equipment and the media were be on a sideline, which has shrunk over the years, Nunez explained.