ESPN’s The Undefeated Launches HBCU Band Rankings

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ESPN’s The Undefeated Launches HBCU Band Rankings

New Content Initiative Highlights Marching Band Culture at Historically Black Colleges and Universities

The Undefeated, ESPN’s content platform focusing on the intersections of sports race and culture, has launched The Undefeated HBCU Band Rankings – a new series that will rank the top 10 bands from Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC). The MEAC and SWAC conference football champions will play in the 2017 Celebration Bowl in Atlanta on Saturday, Dec. 16, kicking off ESPN’s college football bowl season.

A panel of nine top band directors associated with HBCUs will rate the bands based on musicality, drill and design, percussion, auxiliary corps, drum majors, and other identified factors. The top band selected after each ranking will be featured on ESPN performing the SportsCenter theme. The Undefeated will unveil four rankings this season (October through December).

“We are thrilled to highlight the marvel and majesty of HBCU bands, through our first-of-its-kind rankings and a suite of coverage on band culture and personalities, “ said Kevin Merida, Editor-in-Chief of The Undefeated. “We recognize at The Undefeated the special place bands occupy on HBCU campuses.”

In 2018, the rankings will expand to include all HBCUs and will be released weekly throughout the season. The initiative will culminate with the first “Band of the Year” recognition during the Celebration Bowl weekend in Atlanta in December 2018.

About HBCU Band Rankings:

At HBCUs, halftime band performances are an essential part of the football game experience. In some instances, they are a bigger draw than the game. While fans enjoy the excitement of halftime performances, little is known about the time, preparation, sweat and sacrifice that make every performance count. The bands strive to put on their best performance every game, just like the football team. Each week, judges will review video content uploaded to a secure website to make recommendations for rankings.

The Undefeated will feature companion content – photo essays, video profiles and more – about the bands and HBCU band culture. Content will be published on The Undefeated HBCU vertical. The four 2017 rankings will appear on on Oct. 13, Oct. 24, Nov. 7 and Dec. 5. (Check out a behind-the-scenes look at Howard University’s Showtime Marching Band featured in 5th Quarter, a companion content in this series)

The HBCU Band Ranking Judges:

  • Juliet Boykins, Band Director, Elizabeth City St. University
  • Tomisha Brock, Band Director, Clark Atlanta University
  • Ben Butler, Retired Band Director, Texas Southern University
  • Lawrence Jackson, Retired Band Director, Southern University
  • Jeff Kluball, Music Department Chair, Albany State University
  • Reginald McDonald, Band Director, Tennessee State University
  • Linda Moorehouse, President, American Band Directors National Association and former Head Band Director, Louisiana State University
  • Julian White, Retired Band Director, Florida A&M University

Don P. Roberts, a veteran band director who serves as the vice chair of the Minority Band Directors National Association (MBDNA) and president and CEO of DRUMLine Live Entertainment Group, will serve Executive Consultant for the ESPN/The Undefeated ranking committee. Roberts served as the executive band consultant for the movie Drumline and is the band consultant and coordinator for BET hit series The Quad.

Band Judging Criteria:

  • Drum Major: Conducting, baton carriage, utilization of space, marching technique, accuracy and definition, style, and discipline.
  • Drill and Design: Intervals and spacing; creativity; marching style; precision in timing, definition of patterns, showmanship, instrument carriage and showmanship.
  • Musicality: Tone, intonation, balance, technique, consistency of style, interpretation and musical effect.
  • Percussion: Rudimental excellence, general appearance, showmanship, technique/stick control, drill execution, style consistency and discipline.
  • Others: Dance/flag routine, baton/flag carriage, utilization of space, marching/strut technique, uniform, style and more.


Fans, HBCU alumni and students are encouraged to share their thoughts on the rankings via The Undefeated social media platforms:


The Undefeated is ESPN’s multiplatform content initiative exploring the intersections of sports, race and culture. The digital hub,, combines innovative long-form and short-form storytelling, investigation, original reporting and provocative commentary to enlighten and entertain.

In addition to its cutting-edge content, The Undefeated seeks to be a thought-leader on race, sports and culture in the country – convening insightful forums and other forms of engagement to discuss and debate topical issues affecting sports and race in America. showcases four main verticals – Sports, Culture, The Uplift and HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities).

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Mac Nwulu

I joined ESPN in 1998 and since then, it's been a great experience managing PR and communications for a range of ESPN initiatives and properties over the years. I am currently focused on soccer and The Undefeated, ESPN’s site focusing on sports, race and urban culture and how they intersect.
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