More than a Football Game: Women at the forefront of Grambling State University Band’s 2021 Bayou Classic Performance

Jalien Edwards, GSU Band photographer
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Photos courtesy of Jalien Edwards, GSU Band photographer

 Two women making history are at the forefront of Grambling State University’s World-Famed Tiger Marching Band’s Bayou Classic performance this year. Dr. Nikole Roebuck, who made history in 2019 as the first female Band Director and Candace Hawthorne, who made history in August 2021 as the first female Drum Major in 70 years, are leading the band as they prepare for two shows this weekend at the Bayou Classic, which many refer to as the “HBCU Superbowl”.

The highly anticipated match-up between Louisiana rivalry schools Grambling State University and Southern University and A&M College at the Bayou Classic football game isn’t the only reason thousands of people will be traveling to the Caesars Superdome this weekend. Many people are looking forward to watching the Grambling State University World-Famed Tiger Marching Band take over the field.

This will be the band’s first Bayou Classic performance since 2019. The band will perform in the Caesars Superdome at the Battle of the Bands event on November 26 and during the football game at halftime on November 27.

Hawthorne and the band watch the football game with the GSU Orchesis dancers.

Living up to the Legacy

The World-Famed Tiger Marching Band has been preparing since June for its performance at the Bayou Classic. The 2020 Bayou Classic was held in Independence Stadium in Shreveport, Louisiana due to protocols in New Orleans amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

GSU Band Director Dr. Roebuck played clarinet in the band while she was a student at GSU. Roebuck performed at each Bayou Classic when she was a student. However, she said that this year’s Classic has a different level of pressure because this is the band’s first Bayou Classic performance since 2019.

“We’ve been preparing for the classic before the semester began, starting with band camp in the summer,” Roebuck said.” “The pandemic really affected us because we couldn’t perform for a year and a half. “There is a lot of pressure because many people are wondering how we are going to perform at the Classic.”

Roebuck looks into the field while the band takes a break from playing at the football game.

Candace Hawthorne, a senior at GSU, who is one of the three Drum Majors, said that the band has been practicing endlessly to prepare for the Bayou Classic performance.

“We practice every weekday and sometimes on the weekends for several hours,” Hawthorne said. “We practice in the cold, rain or shine because we want to perfect our performance. We are known as ‘World-Famed’ for a reason and we have to uphold our band’s legacy.”

Hawthorne teaches the band new formations at a late night practice.

The World-Famed Tiger Marching Band is known as ‘World-Famed’ because they have performed in cities across the World, at multiple NFL Super Bowls, at four United States Presidential Inaugurations and for celebrities like Beyonce.

Overcoming tragedy

Last month the band suffered the unexpected loss of one of its integral members, Jamarcea Washington. Washington, who was a senior at GSU, played the drums and joined the band in 2017.

Washington had the chance to meet and perform for Beyonce while filming GSU’s Adidas commercial.

This would have been Washington’s last Bayou Classic performance. Hawthorne said that the band will honor Washington during the Bayou Classic performance by wearing a red ribbon.

“It really hurt losing him,” Hawthorne said.” I remember we had just practiced with him and the next day he was gone. We are wearing red ribbons in honor of him because he was the heartbeat of the band, he played the bass drum. We’re going to be wearing the ribbons over our hearts because he is still within us.”

Grambling women leading the way

Roebuck said that becoming the first female Band Director was a surreal moment for her because the position is typically dominated by men. Roebuck said that in this position she hopes to pave the way for women to come.

“Because it was a male dominated position, I knew one day it would happen I just didn’t know when,” Roebuck said. “I worked hard and dreamed big. I still have to pinch myself and say ‘is this real?’ I encourage women to never give up on their dreams. Don’t ever let anyone discourage you because a position is typically dominated by a man. Women can do it too.”

Hawthorne said that she is “very excited” to lead the band as this will be her first Bayou Classic as Drum Major.

“I’ve performed in the Bayou Classic every year but I’m usually in the back,” she said. “This will be my first time out in the front leading the band so it is a lot of pressure. It’s such an exciting moment when stepping on the field and seeing thousands of people cheering for us in the stands and all of the lights flashing.”

Hawthorne conducts the band as they play at one of the football games.

To see The Grambling State University World-Famed Tiger Marching Band perform click here.

How to Watch the 2021 Bayou Classic:

The Bayou Classic airs Saturday, November 27th at 5 PM E.T. on NBCSN.

Author’s note: Jasmine Franklin is an award-winning journalist, Chicago-native, and senior studying Mass Communication at Grambling State University. Franklin made history in 2019, becoming the youngest Editor in Chief to serve The Gramblinite newspaper, as just a sophomore.  She is passionate about storytelling and aspires to become a news anchor. You can follow her on Instagram @Jazzxnicole

RELATED: 2021 Bayou Classic – Everything You Need to Know about the Matchup Between Grambling and Southern

Big Ten Football Week 4 Storylines: Ohio State, Michigan among teams facing first conference opponents

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In two weeks, the Big Ten has gone from having five ranked teams to three: Wisconsin fell out of the rankings after Week 2 and this week, Michigan State was dropped after a poor showing at Washington (39-28 final).

The three teams that remain in the top 25, though – (3) Ohio State, (4) Michigan, and (14) Penn State – looked great in Week 3 matchups that included Michigan’s 59-0 shutout against UConn and an impressive 41-12 win for Penn State on the road at Auburn.

Fortunately for Michigan State, their loss to a possibly-better-than-we-thought Washington team wasn’t the worst showing in the conference last Saturday; that accolade goes to Nebraska, whose loss to No. 6 Oklahoma wasn’t as close as the 49-14 score makes it sound.

Week 4 features eight Big Ten teams in their first conference matchups of the season, including Michigan and Ohio State, both playing at home.

 

Maryland’s trip to the Big House should be telling for No. 4 Michigan

The Michigan Wolverines (3-0) have won their first three games by a combined score of 166-17, and yet, it’s not clear how good the team is. Its all-home schedule against Colorado State, Hawaii, and UConn hasn’t put Michigan to the test so far – they’re blowing out teams that they should be blowing out, which doesn’t tell us much.

That isn’t to say Michigan is likely to lose to Maryland (3-0) on Saturday; Michigan is better on paper across the board and it’s unlikely they give this game away to the Terps, who are also undefeated (albeit less convincingly) through three non-conference games. But a team worthy of the No. 4 ranking will make a win look easy and shut down the Maryland offense (Michigan is allowing a third-best 194 yards per game), and a team not worthy of that ranking… won’t.

Head coach Jim Harbaugh didn’t give away much when asked about how Michigan has prepared for their first conference test, remarking only on the great work ethic and leadership he’s seen from his players. But he did note that they have their guard up after winning the conference last season: “There’s a big target [on our backs]. Whenever you’re a defending champion, it’s gonna be there.”

Maryland coach Mike Locksley put the Terrapins’ mental approach simply on Tuesday when he said, “We have nothing to lose.” He noted that Michigan has been more disciplined than his team through three games, citing penalty numbers: Michigan is third-best in the FBS in penalty yards given away this season (65); Maryland is third-worst (271). “We always talk about trying to close the gap on teams like that,” Locksley told reporters on Tuesday. “This affords us an opportunity to see how and where we fit.”

“[We’ll] try to play to the best of our ability and keep the game really tight and get it to the fourth quarter. And you never know what can happen.”

 

No. 3 Ohio State puts offense to first big test against Wisconsin

Third-ranked Ohio State (3-0) faces its first conference test in hosting Wisconsin (2-1), which was ranked 19th before losing in a Week 2 upset to Washington State. Ohio State opened with a big win at home against Notre Dame, a win that lost some of its luster after Notre Dame lost to Marshall in Week 2.

That said, the Buckeyes are the best offensive team in the nation through three weeks with an average 565.3 yards per game, and Wisconsin is expected to be the best defense the team has faced so far. After OSU put 77 points on Toledo in Week 3, offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said, “As good as the offense might look, the offense is not good until the end of the year and you can see how tough and how consistent it is.”

“Wisconsin epitomizes Big Ten football,” OSU coach Ryan Day said on Thursday, noting the Badgers’ physical style of play and calling Wisconsin QB Graham Mertz and RB Braelon Allen “the best we’ve seen” at both positions.

The Badgers rebounded in Week 3 with a 66-7 win over New Mexico State, but that hasn’t changed their underdog status going into Saturday at The Shoe, where Wisconsin hasn’t won since 2004.

Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst complimented the formidable Buckeyes offense, calling C.J. Stroud “a heck of a quarterback” and remarking on the challenge his defense will face in OSU: “They do a great job of threatening and using the whole field.”

Ohio State will don blackout uniforms for the primetime matchup, which is the team’s fourth straight home game.

 

Michigan State looks for rebound against Minnesota team with momentum

Of all the Big Ten contests in Week 4, this one figures to be the most intriguing. Michigan State (2-1) is unranked for the first time this season after the Spartans struggled to compete at Washington last week, which could make the home game against Minnesota (3-0) a revenge game or a letdown spot.

Head coach Mel Tucker called the Washington result “very disappointing” after the Spartans’ secondary got chewed up by the Huskies, led by QB Michael Penix Jr. Tucker listed the major issues as poor communication and missed assignments rather than schematic problems, and said he took the failures personally: “I’m a horse—t football coach right now.”

“We’re going to be defined by how we respond,” Tucker said. “We have to raise our level of intensity in what we’re doing…You have to learn from adversity.”

Minnesota has earned three solid wins in non-conference play so far, showing balance with great numbers on both sides of the ball: the Golden Gophers are second in the FBS in offensive yards per game (554.7) and second in yards allowed per game (170.3).

“We know it’s going to be a hostile environment… They’re a dangerous football team,” Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck said this week, specifically noting the strength of the Michigan State defensive front, which gave up only 30 rush yards to Washington last Saturday.

Minnesota will need some productivity on the ground, especially after wide receiver Chris Autman-Bell suffered a season-ending leg injury in Week 3 against Colorado, for which he underwent surgery on Wednesday. Autman-Bell was leading the Gophers with 11 receptions and 214 receiving yards.

The Gophers are averaging a second-in-FBS 312.7 rush yards per game so far, but the Spartans present the first big defensive challenge of their season.

As Michigan State adjusts its defensive approach and Minnesota tweaks its offense, this game is expected to be a close one: Minnesota is a slight road favorite entering the weekend.

 

Iowa heads to Rutgers for Defensive Clash

The Iowa Hawkeyes (2-1) and Rutgers Scarlet Knights (3-0) face off Saturday night with Rutgers at home, looking to start the season 4-0 for the first time in a decade (2012).

It won’t be an easy path for the Scarlet Knights, whose quarterback situation leaves plenty to be desired – Evan Simon and Gavin Wimsatt combined for 59 pass yards against Temple in Week 3 – and who likely won’t catch a break against an Iowa defense that’s allowed 13 points across three games this season.

Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said there are “several” offensive things he wants to fix, and also said injured QB Noah Vedral’s status will be a game-time decision on Saturday. The recent passing numbers for the team make a Vedral return all the more appealing to the Rutgers faithful.

Opposite Iowa’s renowned defense, Rutgers boasts strong defensive stats as well – the team is second in FBS in rush yards allowed (less than 33 per game) and Iowa has scored three of its lowly four touchdowns this season on the ground.

Iowa is coming off an easy but long 27-0 win over Nevada in Week 3: with nearly four hours of weather delays, the game lasted almost seven hours.

Head coach Kirk Ferentz acknowledged the parallels between his team and Schiano’s, noting the defense but also the strong punters both teams will bring to the game.

“They don’t do dumb things,” Ferentz said of the Knights. “They make you earn anything you get.”

Looking back on a celebratory weekend as Howard bests Morehouse in HBCU NY Classic

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Howard University gained their first win of the season, a 31-0 victory over Morehouse College, at MetLife Stadium this past weekend at the HBCU NY Classic. As over 35,000 fans packed the stands, sharp sounds from Howard’s Showtime Marching Band and Morehouse’s House of Funk serenaded the crowd.

“It felt really really good to play in the NYC classic,” said Greg Coleman, a member of the Showtime Marching Band. “The crowd had a lot of energy and I’m so happy that Howard students were able to make the trip and support the band.”

RELATED: 2022 HBCU NY Classic: Morehouse and Howard’s Long-Awaited Reunion

Though the game was scoreless through the first half, fans’ enthusiasm and excitement at MetLife remained high, punctuated by Aaron Bickert scoring a field goal for Howard. Wide receiver Antoine Murray took it from there, securing a win for the Bison with 116 receiving yards and two touchdown catches. 

This year, the Howard University Student Association began bussing students to various games in hopes of improving the team’s performance. So far, they’ve traveled to Atlanta for the MEAC/SWAC challenge and managed to bring 150 students to the HBCU NYC Classic.

“During campaign season I made it a priority to go and develop a relationship with Coach [Larry] Scott,” said Jordyn Allen, Howard’s Student Body President. “I just wanted to create an experience for students that makes them want to go and support our sports teams.”

Coach Scott and Allen both rallied around the idea of creating a larger community for student athletes. 

“The whole concept is that we’re all one, one Howard and the more that we can pull together on that end of the rope the stronger we all are on and off the field,” said Scott. “In any endeavor that Howard puts its name on it should be synonymous with eliteness, with greatness across the board and the only way to do that is to make sure we’re all one.”

RELATED: Things We Learned: Notre Dame OL’s second-half surge against Cal a step forward despite ‘a long way to go’

Students and alumni bonded over fond memories and food provided at a tailgate sponsored by the Jordan Brand before kickoff, while royal court representatives from Howard and Spelman College, the sister school for Morehouse College, united on the field. 

What a great weekend to be a Bison! From meeting new friends from Spelman College and Morehouse College, to bonding with my beautiful Sister Queens, in the midst of celebrating HBCUs with Nordstrom, to winning Saturday’s game, I am so full of joy,” said Cecily Davis, the 84th Miss Howard University. 

Prior to the Inaugural HBCU NYC Classic, Nordstrom hosted a pop-up shop with the goal of creating a more equitable shelf by honoring Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The company sponsored Mister and Miss Howard University with shoes from Christian Louboutin, in addition to offering Tahir Murray, a Howard alumnus and owner of the Legacy, History, Pride Brand the opportunity to feature his merchandise. Murray also created the gameday shirts for Google, with the help of Morehouse graduate Grant Bennett

RELATED: Underclassmen Maroon Tiger Players Embrace Challenge and HBCU Culture in Howard U Showdown

Spelman, Morehouse, and Howard took over the city for an action packed weekend,” Murray said. “Working with Nordstrom and Google during the weekend of a historical HBCU football classic was nothing short of a dream come true. Both companies serve as prime examples of the endless collaborative opportunities there are to create impact through fashion. LHP is all about building products with a purpose and we are excited to continue building upon the Legacy, History, and Pride of HBCUs with the worlds’ most innovative minds.”

“Working with Tahir and his brand Legacy History Pride was a full circle moment for me,” Bennett added. “Tahir and I have been trying to collaborate on a project for a while now but we wanted to make sure it was a project that was authentic and impactful. For us to connect on curating merchandise for Google in a game featuring our alma maters was truly special.”

Author’s note: Ashleigh Fields is a well-established writer, award-winning journalist and two-time self-published author who previously served as the Editor-in-Chief for The Hilltop, Howard University’s campus newspaper. She is an avid speaker with an interest in education and public policy. You can read more of her work here.