During my time in both high school and college I remember hearing band members constantly debate who had the best marching band. It always seemed trivial, since in my opinion marching bands were there for in-game entertainment and not much more. However, as time went by, I began to attend more and more football games and soon became educated on the importance of a good, entertaining marching band.
Since that time I have attended many college football games, and have followed marching bands closely in my travels. I’ve attended practices and reviewed performances while in attendance at football games and local events. Honestly, as time has gone by I’ve become a big fan of loud, exciting, fun loving marching bands. It’s in these travels that I continue to hear discussion wondering "Who has the best college marching band in the nation?"
In light of his recent release of the 2007 Herbie Awards, Kirk Herbstreit made a point to rank the "best damn bands in the land." Like Kirk, I am from the Midwest. Also I remember when he was a mediocre QB at Ohio State, at the same time as I was a mediocre-at-best high school wide receiver. I love that Herbstreit has started a discussion on Marching Bands, they deserve some credit, but Kirk has a definite Big Ten bias, and that has been clear for years.
It is obvious from his rankings that Herbstreit knows little about Marching Bands. Really, the rankings leave me perplexed and give me the feeling that Kirk is too busy working the studio shows at halftime to notice the bands. Over the years Marching Bands have become something I know a lot about. It was this that led me to make my own list of the best college marching bands in the nation.
The following list has taken several factors into account. Ratings are based on marching tradition, reputation, excitement, fan support, intensity, exposure, marching style, musicality, and enthusiasm by band members & staff. Unlike Herbstreit, I am including more than just the big-name schools on my list. In my travels I’ve seen small schools with bands that are hundreds of times more polished than those of big schools. Just because their football teams aren’t on ABC, ESPN, or CBS each weekend doesn’t mean that they should be excluded from the list. So without further ado, my top college marching bands are...
#10 - Michigan Marching Band - Having seen the Michigan Marching Band in person on many occasions, I can tell you that this is a group which is rich in tradition with one of the most recognizable fight songs in the history of college athletics. Ironically, it was the MMB who performed the first "Script Ohio" which their rivals at Ohio State are well known for.
#9 - Southern University Human Jukebox - One of the most well-known marching bands in the nation, the Southern University Human Jukebox is featured on national TV in the annual Grambling vs. Southern football game.
#8 - Stanford University Marching Band - The Stanford University Marching Band is known as "The World's Largest Rock and Roll Band" and is a student-led "scatter band" that is known for controversial shows. From playing outside the OJ Simpson courthouse to making fun of nuns at Notre Dame. Personally I am not a fan of the antics, but you have to respect the creativity.
#7 - Jackson State University Marching Band - "The Sonic Boom of the South" features tremendous intensity and has performed at several big-name TV events. Known for their fast-paced "Tiger Run-On," this nearly 300 member marching band has an impressive reputation from their fans and rivals alike.
#6 - Tennessee Pride of the Southland Band -
The University of Tennessee Pride of the Southland Marching Band is one of the nation's oldest bands having formed in 1869. Like many bands on this list, the Pride of the Southland has benefited greatly from their football team's success, but "Rocky Top" and the "Power T" formation make up one of the most fabled traditions of any college marching band.
#5 - Fightin' Texas Aggie Band -
The largest military marching band in the world, the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band at Texas A&M has over 400 members. The Fightin' Texas Aggie Band has a very strong tradition with a rich history as the band members not only eat together but also lives together as a military unit.
#4 - Florida A&M Marching 100 - The FAMU Marching "100" is probably the most famed of all of the HBCU bands receiving numerous honors including having been referred to as "the most imitated band in America." Labeled "the best marching band in the nation" by Sports Illustrated in 1992, the Marching "100" also won the 1985 Sudler Marching Band Trophy.
#3 - USC Trojan Marching Band -
The Spirit of Troy also refers to themselves as "The Greatest Marching Band in the History of the Universe," but I disagree, though I do rank them very highly. Exposure and tradition are two of the strengths of the Trojan Marching Band as they have made several appearances on Jeopardy! and they have performed with countless celebrities.
#2 - Ohio State University Marching Band -
"The Best Damn Band in the Land" is indeed one of the top precision marching bands in the nation, if not the best. But while Ohio State always has a very good band, their Top 10 football program has handed them a lot of attention and publicity that other bands at schools like Florida A&M, Jackson State, and Southern haven’t been blessed with.
#1 - Ohio University Marching 110 -
"The Most Exciting Band in the Land!" is a perfect moniker for the Ohio University band that ranks as the best band in college football. With their physically demanding marching style, high-energy performances, halftime dances and strong support of a football team that, until 2006, was mediocre at best, it doesn’t get any better than Ohio University’s band. A fast-improving football program could help vault the Marching 110 into the spotlight in the future.