When the final whistle blows to end Miami’s game against Florida A&M, Hurricanes coach Randy Shannon will hurry off the field.
And then he’ll hurry right back out.
For many in the stands Saturday night, the matchup between No. 11 Miami (3-1) and Florida A&M (4-0) will serve only as a warm-up act. The best show may very well come from FAMU’s fabled “Marching 100” band, which will perform for seven minutes at halftime, then hit the turf again for another 15-minute set postgame.
The beat of the drums, the blasts from the horns, synched with dance moves … Shannon simply can’t wait.
“I’ll be watching it,” said Shannon, who helped hatch the idea for the postgame festivities. “It’s very rare that you get an opportunity to play a team like Florida A&M. And then you get a band to perform that everybody knows about. After enjoying a game and coaching in a game like that, you can’t miss out on enjoying that band.”
His players don’t want to miss out, either.
As soon as word spread that FAMU’s band was playing postgame — it’ll be a tribute to Michael Jackson — much of the Hurricanes’ locker room starting buzzing.
“They make the average band look so subpar,” said Miami cornerback Ryan Hill, a native of Tallahassee, where Florida A&M is based.
The band’s name is a misnomer: There are more than 400 members.
The group was founded in 1892 and over the years, members of the Marching 100 have played at Super Bowls, the Olympics, the Grammy Awards, and inaugurations — including President Barack Obama last January. The band even served as the official representatives of the United States at the bicentennial celebration of Bastille Day in Paris 20 years ago.
If it’s a big deal, the Marching 100 has probably been there.
And even Miami’s band is eagerly awaiting FAMU’s show.
“That is better than anything I could imagine for a college football game,” said Andy Zweibel, a trumpet section leader and captain for Miami’s band.
Florida A&M is one of the nation’s historically Black colleges, starting classes in 1887 with 15 students and two instructors. It’s faced a slew of problems in recent years and nearly lost its accreditation over financial woes, so severe that some students missed aid payments, hundreds of employees didn’t receive paychecks on time and some coaches were told there was no money to go recruiting.
Problems persist today: Just last week, Florida A&M’s athletic director resigned, two assistant ADs were fired effective in December, and the athletic department is facing a multimillion-dollar deficit.
Through it all, the band plays on.
“To march on the turf as their guest really is an honor, because we have so much respect for the University of Miami and their great school of music,” said Dr. Julian E. White, FAMU’s director of bands and professor of music. “It’s a thrill for us. And I can assure the fans that they are going to get 15 minutes of music and marching entertainment.”
Shannon’s memories of the Marching 100 go back more than 30 years.
He still recalls being in elementary school and watching parades that would bring huge sections of Miami to a complete halt before Florida A&M games at the Orange Bowl. Shannon saw countless people lining a long stretch of Seventh Avenue, and those living around that route often would sit atop their roofs to watch the bands go past.
“Then you’d go down to the Orange Bowl, you’d get your ticket for $3 or $5 or something like that, see them play Tennessee State or Grambling or something like that,” Shannon said. “They’d play the halftime show, it’d take an hour and it’d be great. Everyone loved it.”
Apparently, everyone still does. That’s why Miami, which has picked up the bill in past years for the band to play when the Hurricanes face the Rattlers, arranged for the postgame event.
“They have, what, 400 people and 44 tubas, something like that?” Hill said. “Every school has something that stands out. At FAMU, it’s that band. They set the standard for every other marching band in the country.”