ESPN College GameDay was in Athens, Georgia last week, and while the Bulldogs ran all over Ole Miss, cast member Pat McAfee drew a personal foul penalty according to members of the Georgia Redcoat Band.
There’s no denying that Pat McAfee is entertaining. He’s a bombastic, at times over-the-top member of the cast on ESPN College GameDay. He’s drawn mixed reviews for his time on the show and has even hinted that he may not be back after this year.
That would probably be fine with the members and leadership of the Georgia Redcoat Marching Band, who took exception with McAfee during this week’s show.
The typical MO for the former NFL punter is several hours of sucking up to the fans of the host school, including leading cheers and other stunts that he feels will endear him to the fans and amp up the crowd in attendance.
In itself, there’s nothing wrong with that. This is college football and if McAfee wants to be the Drake of ESPN and transfer his fandom from week to week, then most fans would say have fun with it and do your thing.
However, whether it was McAfee himself or whoever prepares him for the show, there wasn’t enough research done on the Georgia Redcoat Band Chant, which McAfee inappropriately led on national television with changes to the words.
The Redcoat Band Chant is a tradition that is held sacred to those who work, sweat, and bleed as members of the University of Georgia Marching Band. The Redcoat Band was founded in 1905 and is known as one of the finest college marching bands in the nation.
In 1975, the Director of Bands at Georgia, Roger Dancz, hired Gary Teske, a graduate student from Syracuse University, to help expand and usher in a new era for the Redcoat Band. One of Teske’s creations was the Redcoat Band Chant, seen in its entirety below.
This chant has been part of the fabric of the Redcoat Band and its fans for decades. It’s a chant of pride for being able to endure the hard work and dedication it takes to become and remain a Redcoat.
It was the use of this chant on the show that has ruffled more than a few plumes among the Redcoat Band, including Georgia’s Director of Athletic Bands, Brett Bawcum.
Bawcum, and other current and former Redcoats, took exception to McAfee not only leading the cheer on national television (which is somewhat of a no-no for non-band members) but changing the words in the final stanza from “Than the Georgia Redcoat Marching Band” to “A drunk, obnoxious Georgia fan”
“Having probably made up more alternate versions of the chant than anyone in the world, I really don’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to criticizing fans. Things evolve,” Bawcum told me. “But Pat McAfee broadcast that version to the world, from our campus, on our media partner. That isn’t ok with me, and I don’t think it should be ok with anyone with skin in the game. There are things finer than a drunk obnoxious Georgia fan, 440 of them.”
Referring, of course, to the 440-strong members of the Georgia Redcoat Band.
“Rece Davis really did his homework on Clisby Clarke’s Let the Big Dawg Eat,” Bawcum continued. “For a son of Alabama to be that familiar with what I would consider to be an obscure portion of something that was already a deep cut in Georgia lore is really impressive, and is yet another example of what I love about the network.
“The professionals; Rece, Holly Rowe, Chris Fowler, and Kirk Herbstreit, it means so much to me when talent goes to the trouble — whether it’s them or an assistant — to make it matter and get it right.”
And getting it right is where Pat McAfee failed, in this case.
This isn’t jumping into the Tennessee River on a lark. This isn’t just boisterously leading a crowd yell like “Hook ’em!” or “Woo Pig Sooie!”. This is an engrained tradition that is part of one of the university’s institutions, and McAfee should have done his research before butchering it and slighting a group that has done much to support ESPN and the show over the years.
McAfee has said publicly, “I’m not right for some crowds”, and while that may or may not be true for the whole of college football fans in this country, clearly he needs to learn more about the traditions of a school before trying to snuggle up with the fans. That will go a long way to making him more “right” for the crowd.
In the end, this is all about entertainment, and McAfee is — at heart — an entertainer. But he also has a responsibility to get it right, just like the rest of his professional colleagues do on a weekly basis.