BANGOR, Maine — The pep band is an important element of the fan experience at the University of Maine’s basketball games at the Cross Insurance Center.
Director Chris White’s talented musicians entertain, and often energize, Black Bear fans before, during and after home contests.
However, fans (and media) got more than they bargained for — or wanted — on Saturday afternoon during the UMaine women’s game against Bryant.
Last summer, the well-intentioned folks at the NCAA decided that this season they would allow the band to play — or permit music to be played over the public address system — during any dead-ball period.
The rationale was to improve the overall fan experience.
Previously, music could only be played during timeouts and at halftime, in addition to before and after games. Now, anytime an official blows the whistle, the door is open for the Black Bear band to begin blaring.
I like music as much as anyone. I was a member of the band in high school and I know the value of having a good music ensemble to enhance the atmosphere.
But limitations should be imposed as to when or if the UMaine band is allowed to play.
On Saturday, there were numerous instances when the whistle blew and the band immediately broke into its next little ditty. The problem is, whenever that happened when a foul was called, PA announcer Sean Stackhouse was unable to do his job.
He couldn’t inform the crowd who had been charged with the personal foul, because the band was so loud fans would have been unable to hear him anyway. Thus, he sat in silence.
Admittedly, a lot of fans probably are observant enough, in many cases, to pick out who fouled. Others aren’t. And sometimes it’s impossible to tell.
The setup at the Cross Insurance Center complicates that dynamic, because the venue does not have a convenient and easy-to-read scoreboard that lists player fouls. A strip board located high on the wall shows the jersey number, total points and total fouls for each player on the court.
But you’d have to be looking directly at the correct player number as the foul is being posted in order to ascertain the offending party.
There were a few other times when UMaine head coach Richard Barron, standing on the sideline at the far end of the floor, was yelling instructions to his players, but could not be heard because of the band.
After the game, Barron nonetheless voiced his support of having the band play during dead-ball situations. He believes it helps keep fans engaged and enthused and can play a factor in UMaine’s home-court advantage, which has helped produce 10 straight victories in Bangor.
Still, there has to be a happy medium. The PA announcer must be allowed to make the usual promotional announcements, paid for by advertisers, and fans have a right to hear pertinent information about fouls and other items.
That courtesy to Black Bear fans should outweigh the desire of UMaine or its band director to fill every second between the time the whistle blows and the ball is put back into play with a musical interlude.