Post GameDay: What’s Next

Wow.  Last week was quite a week.  By now no one at JMU is a stranger to the fact that ESPN was here last week to broadcast their College GameDay presentation.  The quad turned into a sea of purple, gold, and orange from the Home Depot logo being everywhere you turned.  ESPN arrived on campus at the beginning of the week and proceeded to transform the quad into a studio.  Recording from Thursday through the end of the show on Saturday, there was no shortage of national exposure for the Dukes.  And on top of everything else, it was homecoming!  Every star that could have aligned, did.  The stadium on Saturday was a full house, and stayed full until the end of the game.  A total of 26,069 fans attended Saturday’s ballgame – that is a new stadium record!

The atmosphere at JMU is unbeatable, and while the game may not have ended up in our favor when the clock expired, this was hands down my favorite game I have attended.  I’ve been at every home contest since the beginning of the 2012 season, and one thing that I and many others have seen, is when JMU Nation wants to show up, they SHOW UP.  The problem we have faced over the past few years is that sometimes only a handful of people have made a big deal out of football.  When that happens, people leave halfway through the game and it becomes an excuse to tailgate.  Now, is JMU strictly a football school?  No, and it shouldn’t be.  We want to be well known for lots of things (the people, the world class education, et cetera), but athletics should be included in that list, because we have some great athletics teams – including football.

This year starts a season that simply can’t be compared to previous years.  JMU has been dominating the FCS, making school history on multiple occasions.  People have been saying that they want JMU Football to get serious for years.  That time is now, and it won’t happen without changing that mindset of the past.  ESPN GameDay did not just come to campus because they felt like it.  ESPN came here because it’s time to start turning this into the big deal that it is.  We owe it to the team to support them through to the end, even when ESPN isn’t here – then it is our job to make a big deal out of it.

So, what’s next?  This past week was a bad week for injuries.  JMU has three players out.  Some confirmed out for the season.  Vad Lee is out with a foot/ankle injury, John Miller with a head/neck/upper back injury, and Charles Tutt with a broken bone in his leg.  I’m not going to deny, that is a serious hit.  Vad brought great things to this program.  Even though he won’t be playing the rest of the season, I am glad he will be right there alongside his team.  On the CSNBBS Forums Vad posted saying he’s ready to “lead this team emotionally and spiritually”, I can’t think of a better role model to lead this team into playoffs on or off the field.

Notes to the players:

Vad – I would like to say thank you for everything you have done for JMU over the past 2 years.  You have brought so much to this school – not just in football, and I know I speak for myself and many others when I say that.  You are an inspiration to us all, both on and off the field.

Bryan – This is your time man.  I really enjoyed watching you play on Saturday – I was quite impressed.  You are going to do great things for this team, and I’m very excited to see what this and future seasons have in store for you.

John & Charles – John, I was so relieved to hear that you were doing well after Saturday.  I hope ya’ll are getting rested up and feeling better.

I wish you all the best – speedy recoveries for Vad, John, and Charles, and best of luck with the rest of the season Bryan.  Thank you all for everything you do, and God Bless!

Here is the takeaway.  Did we win on Saturday?  No.  Is that okay?  Yes.  Why?  While it would have been nice to win on Saturday, 7-1 is still nothing to shake your head at.  We are still top 10 in the FCS coaches poll and while it may have been a theme of past years, this is not a team OR a coaching staff that gives up without a fight.  So, What do we do?  We bring it anyway, and we keep making a big deal out of the success of the program.  Hiccups happen, injuries happen, and that is not an excuse to stop supporting the team.  Madison football is without a doubt the best it has ever been.  Saturday’s environment was without a doubt the best it has ever been.  Saturday proves that JMU has it in them to stay the whole game, support the team, and cheer through until the last play win or lose.  What we do is simple, support the team, bleed purple, and don’t stop!

See you at the next game.  Go Dukes!!

tl;dr version: Keep Rootin’

 

PS: There was talk of doing a flyover in Vad’s name.  Vad made a comment in his CSN post that rather than funding a flyover, he would appreciate those resources going to a scholarship fund that he helped start called “All In” at his former high school (Hillside High School in Durham, NC).  Keep it up, Vad!

trombone

The Day The Band Cut Down The Net

Since Friday we’ve been in Upper Marlboro, Maryland as the JMU Women’s Basketball team competed in the 2015 CAA Tournament. Today I am so proud to say that after three intense games, our Lady Dukes earned the 2015 CAA Championship along with an invitation to the 2015 NCAA Tournament! But something about the post-championship festivities out on the court was different today.

The pep band has had a great relationship with the team for quite a while. The team always greets us with a smile before every game and we always love doing everything we can to support the team from the moment they enter the Convo until the moment they leave. Today Head Coach Kenny Brooks took it to a new level. During his victory speech on the court he said “I don’t know if I can say this but I’m going to say it anyway. We’ve got the best damn band in the world.” But it didn’t stop there. The team cut pieces of the net, and traditionally the head coach cuts down the rest of the net once the players and assistant coaches cut their piece. Once it was Coach Brooks’ turn, he took the scissors and looked over at our director, Mr. Chad Reep. He pointed at Chad and waved at him to join him on the court. Chad walked over to Coach Brooks and then handed Chad the scissors and asked him to cut it down. Chad climbed the ladder, and loop by loop he cut down the net. Once the net was free he held it up for the arena to see and everyone erupted in cheers. It was a moment everyone savored and will remember for the rest of their lives. Chad climbed back down the ladder and tried to hand the net to Coach Brooks, but he refused to take it. He told Chad to keep it and that he and the band deserved it. We were all speechless in the best way possible.

I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to Coach Brooks and the Women’s Basketball team for making us a part of this experience. It truly has been an honor to play in the Convo with you all for the past 3 years. Whether it be a win or loss, an exhibition or a tournament – myself and the rest of the band consider ourselves lucky to play for such an incredible team, and an incredible team that makes us part of the experience. There isn’t another team out there that supports the band as much as the band supports the team. We love every second of the adventures we go on with all of you and we can’t wait to be dancing right next to y’all again in the NCAA Tournament this year! Thank you for a fantastic season, your incredible support, and here’s to an outstanding tournament run! GO DUKES!!

An Open Invitation to Mr. Jim Rome

Dear Mr. Rome,
Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Mark Adkins: I am a musician, a graphic designer, a writer, and a computer programmer. I would consider myself to be a textbook nerd, geek, dork, et cetera but I do not take offense to these words anymore.

I tried my hand at sports. My big thing was baseball. I couldn’t throw a ball to save my life and I was scared to swing the bat at first, but one day I found out that when I swung I could make the outfielders nervous. I never learned to throw very accurately and I realized that baseball was not what I was supposed to do with my life, so I stopped playing baseball in Middle school. But to this day I can still gamble with the fences in a game among friends down at the field. In middle school, I took up the trombone in my school’s band. I had played piano for a few years and music was a place I could escape reality and a place I could express myself. Middle school is when I got the label of “nerd” and it stuck until late high school when I finally said “enough”. This is when I grew up. I stopped caring about what the people who were bullying me said, and for this reason I became immune to such slander and insults. However, I do not wish for it to have happened any other way. I became a stronger person because of it, I was encouraged to be my own person, and I learned to embrace the person that I had become.

Unfortunately some people are not as immune to it as I. I know you recognize in hindsight that the actions you took on January 1st were inappropriate and at this point you may think this is just another accusation, but my intent is not to accuse anyone of anything. I appreciate your apology, and I accept it. I trust that it was genuine and you have learned from past mistakes. I invite you to continue reading because this is not an accusation. This is my story. It is just one story out of millions who participate and devote their lives to marching everyday. I joined the marching band at my high school my freshman year. It was something that I honestly did not want to do. My mom challenged me to give it one season and if I did not absolutely love it I would never have to do it again. Seven years later, here I am returning from Vatican City after marching for the Pope in the New Year’s Blessing. I would say this is the most incredible experience of my life.

The reason I am on that field for every home game during halftime is because I love what I do. I love the performances, I love supporting JMU Athletics, I love the crowds, I love the music, and I love the people. I am not alone in this. I am physically surrounded by 484 people on that field that love marching for the same reasons I do.

I am ready for the accusations and pointing of fingers to cease. I am tired of seeing rebuttals every time I login to Facebook or Twitter. And I am tired of people calling you names in return. I do challenge you to recognize that every person on that field has a story. Every person on that field has their own path of how they got there for halftime. And every person on that field has a reason for what they do, and why they do it. As for me, I am proud to call myself a member of the Marching Royal Dukes and all other band programs I have been a part of. I would not have it any other way. Mr. Rome, I also encourage you to share your own story. Allow people to get to know you and why you do what you do as a sportscaster.

What you see during halftime is only a minuscule portion of what we do. If you feel so inclined to see what we do to prepare for what you see at halftime, I would like to invite you to visit a practice next season. Whether it is the Marching Royal Dukes at JMU or another marching program, I think you will really appreciate the stories of the people who devote their lives to halftime and the dedication in every step taken. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing your own story.

Sincerely,

Mark Adkins
Drill Instructor
Marching Royal Dukes
James Madison University
[email protected]