Friday, October 11, 2013

How far are we from Tennessee's game of musical chairs?

Yesterday, Tyler pointed out the strife between Univ. of Tennessee Athletics and the "Pride of the Southland Band". Although there are many details involved, the basics of the argument center on how much the actual band is used as opposed to a more modern NFL type approach of using prepared, "canned" music blasted through their PA system. It's worth keeping an eye on how this plays out because it could have an impact on decisions UGA makes in the future.

And I'm not painting our own gameday experience into an orange checkerboard endzone here. But having experienced the difference recently, and having read the details at the heart of this disagreement, I can see the potential for a similar controversy at Sanford one day.

Because it all comes down to money. Always. Well, money and a splash of tradition and another splash of emotion. Once the emotions die down in Knoxville I would suspect a decision on the gameday music selection to center on the traditions that they have in place and the money they have on hand. Tennessee used a very generous portion of piped in music and noise last Saturday. As we sat in the sun and the water supply literally ran dry, the speakers positioned directly across the stadium continuously blasted unrelenting noise and harsh non-traditional music into our ears. It became more than obnoxious and very difficult to bear. A lot like Columbia actually, but less dying chicken noises.

And before you say to yourself, "Good, that's the way visitors to Sanford should feel while watching their team play our Dawgs!", understand that there were a lot more Tennessee fans enduring the same conditions than Georgia fans. Which is why we should pay such close attention to the side the Vol alumni take in this rift between the marching band and the athletic department.

It's also worth pointing out that the financial situation is much different at Tennessee, something Tyler alludes to. While new AD Dave Hart is struggling to overcome the poor financial and personnel decisions made by his predecessor, Georgia enjoys operating in the black. Well into the point that alumni and fans have actively wondered why more money isn't being spent on facilities and coaching contracts. But as Tyler also points out, more and more athletic directors are going to be looking at how many empty seats there are each Saturday and what changes can be made to the overall experience to get people past the gates. Sometimes that can be seen as the new Sanford Stadium refillable stadium cups and updated menu options at concession stands. Other times it might be showing highlights of other games on the videoboard instead of more sponsored messages followed by listed scores from around the nation. In short, as close to your own living room experience as possible.

Having the Redcoats there to play the music my ears have grown accustomed to the last couple decades is something that I have taken for granted. I'll go ahead and admit that. Now that I can see change swirling in the air I feel even older, more stuck in my ways. If Tennessee decides it's cost effective to reduce the amount of live music and performances in favor of cued canned music at the touch of a button...well, it won't impact me until my next trip to Knoxville.

But meanwhile in Athens there is a watchful eye to what is going on around the rest of the nation and more specifically the SEC. The Redcoats are given an operating budget each year and have to make decisions based on costs of producing their end of the gameday experience (from the Dawg Walk to pregame to halftime to the post game celebrating), how many nights are spent at away games, how many members can attend each road game and which ones will have a fully functional band playing Glory, Glory. Make no mistake, I want the band to be heard loud and clear on the road, something I missed greatly last weekend in Knoxville as we only took the smallest of representative Redcoats. But I also want a well defined and stated presence at home, where we've spent years cultivating a deep rooted, tradition rich experience that I think resonates with alumni, students and fans of all ages.

I mean, don't get me wrong. I'm glad Mr. Sisk was honored at halftime in Neyland for his $16 million donation to fight tooth decay in eastern Tennessee. That's a noble cause. But of course I would've rather heard the Redcoats play while I sat there miserably hot and dying of thirst. But at what cost could we have expanded to a larger version of the Redcoats? The entire band? As an alumni at a certain cutoff point in the Hartman Fund, are you willing to give up your seat and try your luck at market value for your away tickets? These are all decisions that we entrust our Athletic Director and band directors to make. I hope they can continue to work in unison, with great respect to what the vast majority of fans want both on the road and especially in Sanford Stadium.

Make no mistake that this eventual decision that UT faces will take place within its own athletic department. But I'll be ready to voice my opinion here in Georgia when the day of opportunity arises. After all, I already have a record for exercising my rights and announcing my distaste for mimicking amateurish North Avenue traditions in my beloved Sanford Stadium.

Glory, Glory to ol' Georgia!