The Kansas University Band Day parade in downtown Lawrence is a great tradition, but tradition just doesn’t get the respect it once did.
KU officials announced last week that there would be no parade for Band Day on Sept. 26. There just won’t be time for the 25 bands to march down Massachusetts Street and make it to a game with an 11 a.m. kickoff.
Why so early? Well, that’s when Fox Sports Net says the game will start. They’re the people with the money, so that’s when the game will start.
Actually, KU officials probably are counting themselves lucky that they know the specific starting time for the Sept. 26 game more than a month in advance. Times have only been set for the first four games in the Jayhawks 12-game schedule. That includes three of the Jayhawks seven “home” games (if you include the Missouri game at Arrowhead Stadium). All the rest of the times will be set when television schedules are set, and all the public and alumni activities that go along with a KU football game will just have to adjust accordingly.
The good news, of course, is that the Jayhawks are gaining enough prominence to attract television network interest. The bad news is that, because of the money involved, the television people end up calling most of the shots. The KU Alumni Association and other campus groups are getting used to the inconvenience and do a great job of planning events to work around last-minute game schedules, but it still has the feeling of the tail wagging the dog.
The annual KU Band Day parade attracted hundreds of thousands of people over the years. Many of these have been local residents and others in town to see the game, but many others also came from outside Lawrence with their friends and children just to watch the parade and hear the music. All those people in downtown Lawrence represented potential shoppers and sales tax receipts for Lawrence and the state.
Band Day, which once attracted 50 to 100 bands to Lawrence, also was a great recruiting opportunity for KU, bringing thousands of prospective students and many of their families to campus. Of course, many of those years, demand was pretty low for seats in Memorial Stadium and it wasn’t a problem to fill the northern bowl with students in colorful band uniforms. Could KU officials be intentionally scaling back the event so they’ll have more seats to sell?
We’ll still be looking forward to a great half-time performance by the KU Marching Jayhawks and a big group of high school musicians from across the state on Sept. 26, but it’s too bad about the parade.