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Strike up the bands
By Jack Arute
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The start of bowl season means we will be smothered in Xs and Os, wideouts and corners, quarterbacks and linebackers. Bowl season also means that we will not see one of college football's most integral elements -- the marching band.

These guys and gals will be there musically supporting their team, but TV viewers will miss most of their performances due to halftime studio shows or bowl-originated extravaganzas.

Michigan Wolverines marching band
Break out the marching bands! These sports tunes are quite heavy on horns.
Still, college marching bands deserve some props -- and if I had my way -- some TV time. You would be hard pressed to convince me that most drum majors don't possess the athleticism to play on their gridiron squad.

Have you ever seen Penn State's drum major high step out to the center of the field to start the Nittany Lions' show? Ditto for the guy in the tall hat that brings out the Michigan Wolverines.

Have you ever taken a look at the behemoths that lug those giant sousaphones for the Texas Longhorn band or FSU's Marching Chiefs? I'm sure there are a couple of offensive line coaches that would like a crack at whipping some of those giants into pulling guards or right tackles.

If quarterbacks need precision to excel, then maybe they should study some of the complexities that it takes for their school band to spell out Ohio in cursive.

Maybe some wide receivers should study the moves that Florida's Gator flute section initiate to avoid colliding with the brass section. Purdue's secondary should watch the coordinated efforts that its band uses to wheel "Big Bertha"-- the world's largest drum -- around the field to hone their zone defense.

The Miami Hurricanes and the Washington Huskies could take a page from their respective bands to appreciate what it is like to toil with little respect. Band members are there for every home game and some will drive to away games on their own nickel just to support the football squad.

Some teams salute their fans and bands following a victory by serenading them at game's end. Others stand with their helmets in hand as their band plays the alma mater.

Unlike their football counterparts, most band members are anonymous. They get little recognition on campus. Instead, they perform collectively and when they hang up their exquisitely adorned and colorful uniforms, they blend into the campus population waiting for their next football Saturday.

There was a time when the college bands received a fair share of TV coverage. It was back before halftime studio shows decided that America's football fans wanted all the scores all the time.

ABC has tried to re-introduce a generation to the college marching bands with this season's custom of going to one commercial during halftime with some of the music from the band, but it's a shame that there isn't more.

A bowl trip is big for a football squad, but to my way of thinking, a bowl trip carries even more import for the marching band. They get to march in the bowl parade, appear at pep rallies and take home a lifetime of memories.

There is no NFL for band members. For most, their senior season means the end of a career that started in high school. No agents call, no endorsements, no big-time contracts. Instead, band members drift into normalcy and real jobs. Some move from marching band to prosperous professional music careers.

To each and every one of them, I offer my thanks and my congratulations. Enjoy your bowl experience and "Break a Leg."

Jack Arute writes a column every Monday for  

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