After a phone conversation with Howard’s athletics director Louis "Skip" Perkins, band director John E. Newson delivered the disappointing news to the Howard University Showtime Marching Band.
"We will not be traveling to Hampton," Newson told the band. "South Carolina State will be our last game."
The band received $75,000 for performances for the 2011-2012 school year, but it is one of the many activities and programs that were subjected to budget cuts -- including Homecoming and Academic faculty who lost more than 200 employees earlier this year.
As a result of the cuts, the band did not attend the game against Hampton, nor Delaware State at the end of the season. Band members were especially disappointed to miss out on the Hampton game, where the annual ritual of claiming bragging rights as the “real HU" is held.
The HU Department of Athletics and the Division of Student Affairs provides the band's budget, which covers travel, food, hotels and scholarships.
For each game that requires travel, boxed lunches and/or a stop at a restaurant are included. Depending on the distance, the band might stay overnight in a hotel. For the Hampton game, the band would have made a same-day trip to Virginia with boxed lunches. Normally, the alumni band members come together and aid the band financially, but the timing was too late and the cost too high.
Senior trumpet section leader Jon Neal said missing the game would break the support system that the band and football team have formed.
"It's not right that we aren't going," Neal said. "The football team and the band have been supporting each other all season. It is somewhat of a disrespect to not fund the band to go. The main issue is that this is a rivalry. The football team needs all the support they can get."
The "real HU" battle was born in 1984 when Hampton Institute became Hampton University . The friendly rivalry grew once Hampton entered the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in 1995. Since then, the Howard University Showtime Marching Band has performed on the field at halftime and in the stands during football games between the rival schools. This was the first time in 16 years that the band did not attend.
Stephan Naylor, who marched in the band as a sousaphone player from 2003 to 2008 and soon became its graduate assistant, said the football team would lose one form of school spirit and support if the band is not there.
"The big picture is that this is a rivalry game," Naylor said. "As far as the issue being financial reasons is an even bigger disappointment because we were funded to go to games farther than Hampton. Out of all games, the rivalry is the most important, and the band, students and fans should be present to show school spirit and support the team."
With the absence of the band, many cheers and songs that students hear and dance to will not be performed. Also a part of tradition, the football players run to the end zone, take off their helmets and hold them to the sky; and they stand in front of the band, as the alma mater is played. Win or lose, this act is always done at the end of every game.
Sophomore saxophone player Brandon Barnett predicted that Hampton would win the "real HU" battle this year with the absence of the band. Despite the band missing in action, Howard proved to be victorious with a 10 to 7 win.
Jenell Heggins writes for The Hilltop, the Howard University student newspaper, which originally published this article.