Sports Law Blog
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Tuesday, January 06, 2004

College Bands Drowned out by Marketers: The Wall Street Journal (no link available) has a very interesting article today about the increasing influence of in-game marketing promotions and the resulting impact on college pep bands. Many bands, including the Louisville band profiled, have had their in-game playing time cut in half to make way for free throw contests, on-screen ads and other promotional gimmicks that can cost as much as $15,000 per spot. Now, when the home team is in the midst of a comeback or the crowd is fired up, a timeout will bring a commercial, not a song from the pep band designed to fuel the crowd's energy. "It's like throwing a wet blanket on the crowd," said the Louisville band director.

This represents just one more manner in which "revenue-producing" college sports (i.e. men's basketball and football) are becoming lesser pro leagues, complete with all of the annoyances of professional basketball and football games. Even at Cameron Indoor at Duke (where I went to school), the number of in-game promotions has increased, though it is (thankfully) tempered by the lack of a video screen. Is it any wonder that college athletes are pushing to be paid, or are desperate to leave early for a paycheck? The players are not dumb-- they see that they are merely pawns in the "minor" leagues of the NBA or NFL. Where as the college game used to be a different experience, complete with school spirit and inspiring bands and cheerleaders, it is fast becoming a lesser clone of the pro leagues. As a result of this, players see no reason to stick around in a "lesser" pro league and head instead for the real deal. To keep college players, universities must give them a reason to stay: namely, a unique college athletic experience that does not compete with, but rather stands out from professional sports.