Spirit squads aim to recreate home-field advantage at Gasparilla Bowl

The FIU Marching Band provided the soundtrack to many memorable moments this football season.

By Joel Delgado ’12, MS ’17

While most of the attention regarding the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl is focused on the football team, tonight’s televised game will also shine a light on FIU’s spirit squads.

The FIU marching band, color guard, cheerleaders and Golden Dazzlers are in St. Petersburg, Florida, for the bowl and all the festivities leading up to the big game.

“The opportunity to come to a bowl game after a long season is the reward. It’s the payoff for us,” FIU Marching Band Director Barry Bernhardt said. “This is big time college football, and this is what it’s all about. This is why you join the marching band.”

On Tuesday, Dec. 19, the bowl hosted a “Battle at the Beach” event at Treasure Island, pitting the marching bands of FIU and Temple against each other in a friendly battle of the bands – including a spirited showdown between each school’s drum lines.

The afternoon continued with a series of other fun competitions and games, including a tug-of-war between the opposing dance squads and even a brief mascot dance off (Spoiler Alert: Roary won).

Thursday’s game will give all of FIU’s spirit squads an unforgettable opportunity to perform on the national stage – both before the game and during the halftime show.

“We’re excited to be part of the team. We want to be part of the fabric of FIU, to inspire our fans to go and cheer on the team, and to inspire the team to play their hearts out,” Bernhardt said.

The marching band and the spirit squads have raised the energy level and provided the soundtrack for FIU football home games this season, playing a pivotal role in the Panthers’ success at Riccardo Silva Stadium.

FIU’s drum line battled against Temple at the “Battle at the Beach” on Dec. 19, one of many of the bowl week events leading up to the Gasparilla Bowl.

They want to bring those same sights and sounds to St. Petersburg and recreate that home-field atmosphere in Tropicana Field.

“We want to back up our football team. We’re here for them, just like the cheerleaders and Dazzlers are,” said Rebbeca Sloat, a junior who plays clarinet in the band.

The opportunity to travel to a bowl game could also help attract new members to the marching band and spirit groups. The marching band currently stands at 185 members, many of them freshmen; the goal is to reach 300 in the next few years.

“As the football team has grown, so has the band,” said David Orozco, a criminal justice major on the marching band’s drum line. “It’s great to see FIU on the national stage, and it reflects how far we’ve come as a university. We want to establish ourselves as one of the best bands in the country and to show that we are proud to be Panthers.”

FIU takes on the Temple Owls tonight at 8 p.m.  The game will be televised on ESPN. If you can’t make it to St. Pete, there are still plenty of watch parties to attend