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The first annual Historically Black College and University (HBCU) Band of the Year national championship will be held on Friday December 15, 2023, the day prior to the Cricket Celebration Bowl. The event will be hosted at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta Georgia.


The purpose is to establish a competitive platform for HBCU marching bands and crown a season long national champion of Division I and Division II bands. The combination of HBCU sports and music will be the most unique and innovative weekend during the college football season. Every Performance Counts Fans who follow HBCU football know that halftime marching band performances are an important aspect the football game day experience. With this format, the significance of each halftime show makes every performance count. As a result, bands will strive to deliver their best performance every game. It will drive fan engagement as they follow their favorite bands, and others throughout the season via the ranking system.

Band Finalists

A selection committee comprised of Band Directors and performance experts, will rank the bands based on weekly performances. Fans will also cast a vote in each ranking. The top two bands from Division I and top two bands from Division II earning the opportunity to compete for their respective division’s national championship on the eve of the Celebration Bowl in Atlanta. Bands will be evaluated ranked throughout the football season on musicality, drill and design, percussion, auxiliary corps, esprit de corps, drum majors, stands, and other identified factors.

Rankings will run weekly Band of the Year rankings on the college football section of as a weekly story page. Band of the Year committee will provide the weekly rankings to editorial. There’s also potential for these ranking to be promoted from a module on the right column on the desktop version of

Two Days

December will be Championship Weekend for HBCUs during the Cricket Celebration Bowl week showcasing the elite HBCU bands and football teams on consecutive days live on an ESPN national broadcast platform. There has never been a bowl game that highlighted both the football teams and bands in two different events as a part of an NCAA sanctioned bowl game week.

One Goal

The format will identify the Division I and Division II best bands for the entire football season and build anticipation for the Band of the Year and Cricket Celebration Bowl weekend. The format will also drive fan interest, and create an increased interest in music studies

Who Qualifies

Each participating band has equal access to qualify for the Band of the Year based on its weekly performance. No band automatically qualifies. Each band must meet the musical and evaluation criteria set by the selection committee in order to be considered as a finalist for Band of the Year.

Selection Committee

ESPN Events will conduct a national search for a talented group of high-integrity individuals with experience as band directors, band alumni, retired band directors, administrators and ABC/ESPN staff. Band Directors from the SWAC, MEAC, SIAC, CIAA will also have a regular vote in the ranking process.

Selection Committee Responsibilities

  • Rank the Preseason Top 10 bands (Division I and Division II band directors will comprise 100% of the vote).
  • Rank top bands of the football season (Committee Votes). The first poll (ranking) will not be posted until each band has had at least one
    home or other specified game in order to submit.
  • Post a bi-weekly Top 10 Bands Poll, via, based on the evaluation of the selection committee.
  • Assign 8 Bands (4 Division I and 4 Division II) to semi-finals by early in November (Committee Votes)
  • Select Final 4 Bands of the Year (2 Division I and 2 Division II) prior to the Cricket Celebration Bowl (Committee Votes)
  • Competition of the Bands of the Year (day before Cricket Celebration Bowl)
  • Selection of the final champions for the Band of the Year (Committee Votes)
  • Champion will be announced, and Trophy presented during the 3rd quarter of the Cricket Celebration Bowl. (TBD)


Don P. Roberts is a veteran in the band director community and serves as the President of MBDNA. Mr. Roberts served as the Executive band Consultant for the Twentieth Century Fox hit movie, “Drumline.” He was responsible for training the actors, writing the precision drills, rehearsing the band, etc. As the chief band consultant, he played a vital role in the making of “Drumline” and its success. Mr. Roberts was also appointed as the Executive Band Consultant for the VH-1 and Fox Television Studios movie, “Drumline: A New Beat,’ which was the long-awaited sequel to “Drumline.”