As college football takes steps toward normalcy, Louisiana State University's marching band is feeling the lingering effects of COVID-19 — if only a little bit.
LSU's Golden Band, which typically sends a third of its ranks on the road for away games, will remain homebound when the Tigers travel to play UCLA at the Rose Bowl on Sept. 5, the result of the athletic department's pandemic-induced $80 million budget deficit.
"The kids were hoping to go to the Rose Bowl when the schedule first came out with us at UCLA," band director Kelvin Jones said, as reported by the Lafayette Daily Advertiser. "But we were told about a month ago we would not be going because of COVID budget cuts. There are no hard feelings. We understand it is a residual effect from COVID last year."
LSU's band did not make any road trips last season, as away stadiums on its schedule were allowed just 25 percent capacity because of COVID-19. UCLA announced last month that the Rose Bowl would be at its full capacity of 92,542 for LSU, which will be making its first appearance in venerated stadium and playing UCLA for the first time, the Daily Advertiser reported.
In normal years, LSU typically brings 110 band members to road games and all 325 to bowl games, national championship games and home games. LSU, though, has brought just 50 band members on extended road trips, such as Washington in 2009 and Syracuse in 2015. LSU brought 100 band members to the game against Wisconsin at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin, in 2016.
"So many unknowns," Jones said, as reported by The Advocate of Baton Rouge. "And then you factor in — as you do with any kind of endeavor — travel, hotels, tickets... But, you know, with COVID everything's just constantly changing and just so many unknown variables on top of budget concerns as well."
Jones said he expects LSU to be sending 110 band members to its road games this season at Mississippi State, Kentucky, Ole Miss and Alabama and possibly a full band to any postseason game or games.
Band members are maintaining proper perspective on the situation, Jones said, according to The Advocate.
"They all understood, and we’re just looking forward to being back to some kind of normalcy," he said. "Rose Bowl and all those things are really cool. But after last year, we’re just happy to get back into some kind of normal routine. If it were to happen, cool, but there’s no hard feelings or ill will on this side. We’re just happy to get back rolling.”