Sunday, April 11, 2021

What is March Madness without a band?

INDIANAPOLIS – In a normal year, when a player sinks a buzzer-beating shot into one NCAA Tournament Thousands of fans exploded at the games, festivities.

This year will prove to be a bit quiet even if the venue is large.

The men’s Final Four tournament will take place at Lucas Oil Stadium, a 70,000-seat arena in the NFL’s Indianapolis belt. The crowd would be capped at 25 percent capacity, with fans sitting in socially perverted pods of two, four or six. And the reserved area for each 29-member band will be empty.

“I understand the NCAA decision,” 22-year-old Jake Tedchi, a senior tenor saxophone player at the University of Illinois basketball basketball band’s No. 1 seed, said in an interview Thursday. “But man, I wish I were there. I hope they reconsider for the last four.”

But now, even that dream has collapsed.

After previously only excluding the band through the Elite Eight, Christopher Redford, an NCAA associate director of communications, said in an email Friday that no band was allowed in any sport in the men’s or women’s NCAA basketball tournament this year will be given.

The decision, he said, was based on health and safety protocols developed with local health officials due to “a reduction in the size of official travel teams and limits on overall capacity in locations.”

Six Indiana venues, hosting this year’s games, will still play School Fight Songs and Anthem. They will cheer video performances, and other bands will be in music rotation.

But the Peps Band’s respectable tubes and energy-building improvisations are what attract many fans of college sports – they are opposed to the NBA’s dependence on canned noise to shut down big blocks and thundering stings. And that Barry L. in the NCAA tournament. Howser, Barry L., director of the marching and athletic bands of Illinois for the past 10 years. Houser also has a more important role.

“There is nothing like live music to enliven the stadium or the grounds,” he said in an interview on Thursday. “After playing a wonderful game for the team followed by a great song or going to a hot time, a fight song game to really elevate the crowd.”

University of Illinois band member Tedchi believes that a band can “absolutely” change a game.

“We scream a lot,” he said. “And, especially late in the game, we try our best to distract the other team’s players.”

But PEP band players are not just passionate about school fight songs or “Sweet Caroline” – they are some of the biggest basketball fans of the arena and the spark that ignited most student classes.

“One of the big reasons I travel with the team and be their number one supporter is the athletic band,” said Tedchi. “It takes time away from my other research, especially when we’re traveling more, but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make. It’s near and dear to my heart.”

He said seniors like Tedchi would never get a chance to play in the NCAA tournament game — a big part of which he joined in his freshman year after joining the Peps band. (Illini did not make the men’s or women’s NCAA tournament in its first two years, and the epidemic overtook previous games.)

He understands the NCAA’s decision to ban the band in the first two rounds, but thinks they could be allowed to play later in the tournament. “The bracket is smaller, and bands from lesser teams will appear,” he said. “It would mean fewer other fans, but for seniors, this is the only chance we have. Mid-major teams don’t make it every year.”

Michael Martin, a 21-year-old senior at Ohio State who plays snare and bass drums in a pep band, has never been in any of the NCAA tournaments. And he has now missed his chance.

“I prepared myself for this,” he said. “But I’m still really disappointed. I wanted to play ‘Bakke Swag’ for everyone. “

The University of Illinois band director, Houser, feels terrible for his seniors – especially in a year that the men’s team is the No. 1 seed.

“The teams went through a lot of challenges and now they are doing so well,” he said. “I want our students to have the opportunity to please them in this situation.”

But without live music reinforcing itself to the reality of a tournament, band directors look on with optimism for the coming year.

Christopher Hotch, who is in his fourth year as Ohio State University’s director of marching and athletic bands, also maintains absent opportunities to play in sports with his athletic band class.

“I felt that it is important for the students to continue to have the opportunity to play, even though they were not necessarily performing at the events,” he said.

Now, Hotch is preparing his students for the halftime show they usually do in the spring football game. “We like being there to support the team and the university,” he said. “And I hope we will be able to do so soon.”

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