The Boston College and Wake Forest football teams were not the only ones battling in Alumni Stadium last Friday night. The BC “Screaming Eagles” marching band and the athletic department’s audio system were also struggling-over airtime.
“There were multiple points during the game in which recorded audio was played over the PA system while the marching band was performing with the Superfans in the stands,” said Marching Band Director David Healey in an email. “This had never happened before in Alumni Stadium, so it came as a surprise to our students and the Superfans.”
During a normal game, the marching band waits until all announcements are over before beginning to play. On Friday, however, recorded audio-including songs like Icona Pop’s “I Love It,” Macklemore’s “Can’t Hold Us,” and The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army”-started immediately after each announcement. The Wake Forest game was broadcast live over ESPN. At one point, Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” was played uncensored.
When the band began playing “Seven Nation Army,” the audio booth broadcast “I Love It” over the PA system for four of the five iterations.
Recorded versions of songs that the marching band normally plays were broadcast over the audio system as well. Usually recorded songs are limited to Dropkick Murphys’ “Shipping Up to Boston” and BC’s fight song, “For Boston,” and are played when the band is not in the stands.
“As the situation unfolded on Friday evening, we worked directly with the Associate Athletic Director for External Relations [Jamie DiLoreto] to address the challenges,” Healey said. “He was immediately sympathetic and responsive to the needs of the students. I’m confident he did everything possible to try to stop the recorded audio from being played over the band. In subsequent conversations, we emphasized the philosophical and pedagogical importance of ensuring that students in the band retain their role as the sound of game day in Alumni Stadium.”
Members of the marching band participate voluntarily and are not compensated either financially or with academic credit. The band members, who number at over 180, report 10 days prior to the start of classes for preseason camp and commit over 200 hours of time during one semester. They stay for the duration of games, reporting four hours beforehand and staying one hour afterward.
“The students in the band were disappointed by the situation,” Healey said. “Our goal is always to create a distinctive, authentic, and high quality college game day experience in Alumni Stadium, and we simply cannot achieve that when recorded music is played over the PA. Students, alumni, and family members who attend a Boston College football game deserve better than that.”
At one point during the game, Superfans started singing Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend.” The band had been preparing to play Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing,” but adjusted in order to play along with the fans-the audio system broadcast Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive” simultaneously.
“It seems inconceivable that a professional member of our own interactive media staff would deliberately attempt to embarrass so many BC students on national television,” Healey said. “I know many of our colleagues in the media booth are working diligently to ensure that it never happens again. We haven’t had any other problems like this in the past, and I don’t anticipate having any more in the future.”
Director of Athletics Brad Bates acknowledged that the audio situation on Friday was not optimal. “We were playing at the same time the band was, and that’s the antithesis of what we’re trying to do,” Bates said. “Whenever we have an athletic event, we want to showcase our students, both on and off the field. The number one priority is to make sure that we’re bringing the spotlight on our student performers, whether it’s the marching band, whether it’s student a cappella groups signing the national anthem, whether it’s the football team on the field. That always takes priority whenever we script the game.”
During football games, associate director for Sports Marketing & Licensing of External Operations Brad Truman coordinates with all in-game promotional entities-he coordinates with the person in the control booth who operates the scoreboard, plays any public address announcements that may be slated, and coordinates media timeouts and any in-game sponsored promotions. Bates stated that someone with whom Truman was communicating was ultimately responsible for playing over the game, but declined to provide specific names.
“There was clearly a miscommunication that was going on during the game,” Bates said. “I know our staff tried to correct it immediately, but obviously that didn’t take place, and the result was we were overplaying on the band.”
Bates has been in communication with Healey and visited the marching band’s practice on Tuesday night.
“In our debriefing meetings with interactive media personnel, we pledged to create a contract between Athletics and the marching band to ensure that the students in the marching band retain their position as the primary source of music on game day at BC,” Healey said. “As we seek to refine our game day offerings to support a new era in Boston College athletics, it’s critically important that we retain the unique relationship that has been forged between the marching band and the Superfans over the past 15 years.”
When asked how audio would be handled in the future, Bates stated that Friday’s game was an anomaly. “[In the future] it’ll be what we’ve done historically, and that is try to showcase our students in the marching band, particularly during media timeouts or when there are opportunities to energize the crowd,” Bates said. “So it’ll be carefully scripted to make sure we’re not overplaying when the band does, and featuring them as much as we possibly can, depending on how the games unfold.”