Main attraction in Georgia vs. Southern game might be halftime show

When it’s possible to have The Human Jukebox playing in your stadium, you might as while make sure it happens.

That was clearly Georgia’s intent when it signed a contract to host Southern University and its famed marching band for Saturday’s game at Sanford Stadium. UGA has three contracts committing to host nonconference opponents this season -- the others are Louisiana-Monroe and Georgia Southern -- but only one mentions the visiting team’s band.

Written into Georgia’s contract with Southern is language stipulating that “the band of the visiting team agrees to perform at halftime of the game,” and it is set up that way for good reason. Mark Richt’s team almost certainly will get the comfortable victory that comes with paying the lower-division visitor $650,000 to make the trip from Louisiana, and the icing on the cake will come at halftime.

“Normally a stipulation for visiting band attendance is not included in game contracts,” Georgia spokesman Claude Felton said. “However, the Southern University band is nationally known for its performing excellence and will provide a unique entertainment experience for our fans.”

That goes without saying. Marching bands are sources of enormous pride at many Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), with uniquely named groups such as Jackson State’s Sonic Boom of the South, Arkansas-Pine Bluff’s Marching Musical Machine of the Mid-South, North Carolina A&T’s Blue & Gold Marching Machine and Florida A&M’s Marching 100 (among many others) exciting their fans as much as what happens in the actual games.

The Human Jukebox ranks among the most famous of those groups, having performed at presidential inaugurations, Super Bowls and, as of this coming Saturday, an SEC football game.

The Baton Rouge-based HBCU has never played against the program located nine miles on the other side of town, LSU, nor any other team from the mighty SEC. The Jaguars have had a difficult time competing against the FBS teams they have faced in recent years -- losing 62-15 to Louisiana Tech earlier this month, 45-6 at Louisiana-Lafayette last season and 62-13 to Houston in 2013 -- but rarely does Southern's band lose the halftime show.

“Even though we’re known around the nation for being the best, I still think we’re probably the best-kept secret,” said Nathan Haymer, Southern’s director of bands. “I really don’t think Georgia understands what’s coming to them because they’re focused on the football game. I’m not going to be politically correct, it’s not going to be much of a game, but halftime is where the action is going to be.”

Georgia fans should expect one of the most unique halftime shows to hit the Sanford Stadium turf since the good ol' days in the 1970s when James Brown performed with the Redcoat Marching Band. For a small taste, check out this video of Southern’s halftime performance at Louisiana Tech earlier this season. The show, featuring Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ hit “Uptown Funk,” is simply a lot of fun to watch.

Fans at Sanford Stadium will see a brand-new show, Haymer said, featuring a variety of the latest popular hits and dance routines.

“Matter of fact, it’s going to be more exciting and it’s going to be better because Louisiana Tech limited us to six minutes,” Haymer said. “Georgia is giving us nine minutes, which is unheard of, so we’re going to take advantage of that.”

Saturday’s game also will represent a milestone of sorts at Georgia. The Bulldogs have never faced an HBCU program in more than a century playing football, so Saturday will be a brand-new experience on numerous fronts.

On one side, a football program that ranks among the biggest of the big-timers. On the other, one of the most renowned college bands in the land, playing in front of what should be its biggest crowd ever. It should make for a memorable afternoon between the hedges for all involved.

“Georgia’s fans can expect to see the halftime score, even though it’s not going to be in our favor, but they can expect to see it on the field,” Haymer chuckled. “We’re going to do some different things like that to just amaze the crowd, where they say, ‘How did they do that?’”