DU’s Next AD Needs to Solve the Glaring Pep Band Dilemma

Taking a brief look at the job boards and Indeed.com shows 422 Fan Experience Managers. The University of Maryland is looking for a Director of Marketing and Fan Experience. The NFL has several open roles. In Colorado, the University of Northern Colorado is looking for a Director of Marketing and Fan Engagement. But these are just a few of the hundreds of such available jobs.

While there have always been marketing positions that were accountable to the ‘fan experience’, there is more and more emphasis on the gameday experience for fans as teams battle for the ever more valuable entertainment dollar. Shortening fan attention spans, due to the rigors of everyday life, social media, and limitless entertainment options, has left institutions struggling with options to keep fans engaged, create an exceptional game day experience, and build brand loyalty.

Nothing creates the atmosphere of a collegiate fan experience more than a marching band at football games or a pep band at other indoor events. Despite the size of many athletic programs and schools, a college pep band is a staple at most colleges and universities to support a college game day experience that links the fans to the teams and schools. The clip below is from a DU pep band practice in 2010, perhaps at the height of support for the pep band on DU’s campus.

Supporting a collegiate pep band is no small endeavor. It requires a high level of commitment by both the participants and the sponsoring universities. For example, if DU men’s and women’s basketball had a band in attendance for all their home games, that would be 30 games per year plus another 16-18 home hockey games, and men’s and women’s lacrosse could benefit from the band for three key matches each, that would be 6 more games. Add 4 soccer games split between the men’s and women’s teams for rivalry and playoff games and 3 band appearances at volleyball for rivalry matches. That is 60 events, not including the postseason before you include any other special on-campus events.

The answer is clear. If there is going to be a real commitment to improving the gameday experience for fans, they need to make a real commitment to the pep band. As such, the next athletic director needs to make it a priority to offer partial scholarships and academic credit to all band members to expect the kind of commitment to participate in creating an exceptional fan experience. Even if DU cut the number of appearances in half, 30 dates for conference matchups only and the postseason, the demands are still too much to expect band members to commit at such a high-level without some reasonable level of compensation.

One past band member reported musicians were paid $15 per game and music majors received academic credit. Frankly, that’s not even close to enough to generate a quality pep band and allow the band to be properly staffed to support school events.

If the department refuses to make that kind of commitment for some reason, a downsized option may be one that the Colorado Avalanche and Denver Nuggets have successfully put in place for their games – create a 6-10 member drum corps for all or some of the games. This is a lower headcount option and could be used as an alternative for some or all athletic events. Either way, the only way to solve one often discussed game-day issue of pep band attendance is scholarships rather than game-by-game stipends.

The message is loud and clear from the Student Athletic Advisory Council (SAAC) and fans that a pep band is a central feature of the athletic events and the fan experience. Hopefully, the new DU AD, whoever it may be, creates and endorses a new position of Fan Experience Manager as well as develop a sustainable plan to field a quality pep band at Denver athletic events in the future.

How important is the pep band to you in creating a positive gameday experience? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

7 thoughts on “DU’s Next AD Needs to Solve the Glaring Pep Band Dilemma”

  1. Couldn’t agree more. DU has always prioritized the product (the team, coaches and support element), and while that’s vital for a winning program, it’s the game-day experience that surrounds the ice, field and court product that engages the spectators, builds affinity and brand, makes memories, connects people emotionally and creates long term loyalty/value.

    Both the product and the game day experience require investment.

  2. Agree 100%. Having a pep band is one of the elements that makes collegiate sports special and sets those events apart from the tiresome, dull, and loud background noise so prevalent at pro sporting events. DU needs to figure this out and get the pep band back in the building and commit to making it an integral part of the fan experience.

  3. Will take a lot of resources to do as much as you propose. Department of athletics and rec lost rec to the mountain campus and therefore presumably lost most revenue ( to mountain campus). Things will be quite interesting for new “AD” on many fronts

  4. Neither academic credits nor partial scholarships go against department budgets or expenses. It would be a different case if the athletic department writes checks per game.

    1. I get that, but point is, athletics revenue is taking a a big hit, so lots to deal with.
      You also can’t throw too many credits around and the AD had no say in that at all. So need scholarship money. Absent a specific gift, that just comes from other students .

      I like the idea, but it’s not so simple to ramp up in the manner you propose

  5. I, personally, did not find it embarrassing to be without cheerleaders and pep band in Boston. I was too focused on hockey, and wouldn’t have really noticed them much if they were there. Does create an extra level of visibility for a university to have those things present, but I don’t think it was a huge deal.

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