Usually the placement of the visiting band aligns with unpopular seats. graphic by Emma Palmer

Where does the visiting band sit?

TU marching band member Hannah Robbins explains where the visiting band sits during a sporting event and why that is.

The University of Texas made headlines this month when they put Louisiana State University’s marching band somewhere most fans won’t even purchase tickets in: the nosebleed section. This gave LSU’s band a view worse than most fans and suppressed the Louisiana State University Tiger Marching Band’s sound so that it could barely be heard on the field, while the Texas Longhorn Marching Band sat right behind the end zone.

Not exactly fair, right? I decided to take a look at where away team marching bands sit at different games, pulling from my experience in the Sound of the Golden Hurricane Marching Band to see if this is normally the case, or if the University of Texas really wanted to prevent its away team marching bands from being heard.

First off, let’s talk about my experiences with the Sound. In the last four seasons with the Sound, we have been to two away games, OSU and University of Arkansas. With OSU, we were on the second story of the stadium in the corner closest to the exit, right behind where the few Tulsa fans in attendance were sitting. It took about five minutes to get down to the field to march our halftime show. On the other hand, when we were at the University of Arkansas, we were within spitting distance of the field and right across the way from the Razorback Marching Band. At our own Chapman Stadium, away marching bands sit a section above where the Sound sat in previous years, aka as far up as we could put them on the visitor side.
Then I turned to other stadiums and other conferences. As I looked for information on different stadium’s placements of away bands, I found several patterns. The first strategy with away band placement was simple: put the band in the corner. These bands were still in the front, but nowhere near the center of the game; their sound could still be heard, but not as well as the home band. This was most common when the home band sat somewhere like the end zone. Bands that followed this strategy include the Air Force and Rice University.

The second strategy I saw was putting bands in higher levels of the stadium. This happened not as frequently, but the schools that did it tended to be bigger names, like OSU, UT and ECU. This obviously suppressed the visiting bands’ sound levels, but also could prevent television crews from micing the away band or hearing them in the background of ESPN/ESPN2 games, which is another interesting strategy.

Why the difference? The home team’s confidence, courtesy for the other team’s band and of course money plays a role in the band’s location. First off, some of the schools that moved the away band further back were schools that have notoriously strong fan culture. This means that these universities usually have very loud bands that are pretty well known. However, it also speaks to the courtesy between different bands; as a marching band member, I know what it’s like at other universities, and you always respect the work they put on the field. Seating a band closer to the front can be a way to show that.

Honestly though, I think it comes down to money. Every band seat is a ticket that the stadium doesn’t sell, and some of the places bands sit can be in demand for tickets. Since they can sell those tickets at a higher rate right near the field (Arkansas) than nosebleeds (Texas), maybe it’s all about making a quick buck. Maybe the universities seating the away bands closer aren’t worried about selling tickets.

Post Author: Hannah Robbins